It was Sept 2005 just four months after the earthquake that lifted the whole island out of the water by over a metre, leaving the reef dry even at high tide. I'd been there a few weeks until finally just before I was due to leave this epic swell came. This morning was perfect. I hired a fisherman to take me out in a dugout canoe so I could shoot from the channel. Phil Goodrich the surfer was and is probably still is the best surfer at Lagundri. Another good surfer, a Spaniard with a Mentawai charter boat told me he actually had priority for that wave. However he decided the wave looked a bit scary and he called Phil into it. It turned out to be the wave of the session. There were plenty of other big perfect waves but this one seemed to have something special. Plenty of people were saying afterwards after seeing the photo, that's a cover shot, and of course they turned out to be right with it appearing on two covers and several spreads and selling as a poster.
Pictured, Adam Crashy Benwell, an incredibly talented geezer with a mad capacity for putting himself in hectic oceanic situations and surviving. This is a standard Crash test attack on the west bowl at Chopes, during one of my favourite trips there in 2004. Three back-to-back 10ft swells in a month, no skis, vivid sunshine and happy days just swimming about.
La Graviere, France
This is the La Graviere high tide shorebreak - just how Kevin likes it - barrelling its nuts off. He's riding a 5'7" 1980s twin fin, not the type of board people normally ride here... Taken early in the morning with the light shining directly onto the wave I really love this shot. To the left you can see a small amount of spray which is his friend Mathias dropping in on him - they both ended up in a tangled mess of sand and bodies.
Ola Elogram, Jamie O'Brien, Reef Macintosh, Casey Brown, Parko tackle the first big swell at Pipe. Videographer Ryan Moss was our man on the ground for the Triple Crown, but as so often is the case, the real story from the North Shore season was the solid freesurf commitment from locals and travelling pros alike. This big swell arrived early in the season and had Ryan getting well aquainted with the reef on more than one occasion. View more footage from the season HERE.
North of Puerto, Mexico
This was shot just north of Puerto Escondido sometime around Easter 2006. It wasn't big enough for Puerto proper so we scoped out this lil-shorey that was picking up lots more swell. Location: empty, remote and somewhere that plenty of hold-ups at gunpoint and thefts have occurred at in the past, but hey, it was pumping. The crew on the trip were Colm Garret, Ian Battrick and Levy's finest pictured here - Dan 'Mole' Joel. I shot the pic with a Canon EOS5D and 15mm fisheye, the camera was brand new, first trip with it and the first time I'd used it.
Milliseconds after this pic was taken I got sucked over the falls - which is a price you pay for shooting near dry shorebreaks - and got a proper drubbing but it was one kind of fun. I popped up and checked the housing was okay because we'd both hit the bottom and it wasn't, there was some water in it and the port was scratched. As i stood in the knee deep water freaking I'd possibly just ruined my new camera a triple-lipped foamy beast was rearing up behind me. There was nowhere to go. The shorey just detonated on my head, blowing me up in the air and I came down with a crunch on the sand, cracking a rib in the process. After that I managed to crawl up the beach, the camera was wet but okay and I couldn't laugh for a month or two... On the plus-side the shot was a fold-out cover on the second issue of Slide magazine.
As a freelance photographer based in Hawaii you tend to spend a lot of your life hanging the wrong side of calamity. Six to eight foot Pipeline (Hawiian scale) will still intimidate you however many times you've swum there. Tucked in as deep as you can imagine is Mikey Bruneau from the Big Island. I shot this particular bomb with a fisheye lens - getting in the right place for a shot like this is hard, reasonably dangerous, but very rewarding.
Shipwrecks, Nusa Lembongan
A great mate of mine, Toby Atterbury, from Australia catching a good one at Shipwrecks, Nusa Lembongan. I was struggling shooting from one of the local fishermen's boat. It took a lot of sweet talking to persuade him getting close enough to the reef. He only had a 10 horse-power Yamaha, barely enough to escape a ripple in the bath and did an outstanding job.
The Bounce, California
The Bounce, just south of Rincon Point, California. Just perfectly slotted is Jeremy Berger now living in Los Angeles. At the time of this photo Jeremy had only been surfing for 2 years. He did make this wave and it barreled all the way down the line. When we first got into the water, the waves were small but clean. Originally planning on getting some air shots our plans changed when it just turned on. Perfect. Still to this day I have never seen this wave break like this again. Early morning sessions around here always have good light. Unfortunately back then my editing skills were not up to par. This photo was used on the cover of our local Central California surf magazine - at the time called Blue Edge.
I wasn't going to head down down to Aileens as I was working five hours away - but it looked too promising not to. By the time I got there a few barrels had already been had and everyone on the cliff top was just buzzing. Scrambling to get my camera together hoping not to miss any more action I nearly dropped the thing over the cliff. The day was grey with a bit of lite drizzle, every land photog's nightmare but hey, this is Ireland so you just have to work with it. Hardly a breath of wind stirred creating a perfect rifling super hollow barrel. I remember looking down and seeing a couple of ribs down there, shooting the AIB advert that's been on TV recently.
So many barrels were had that day, it was the most amazing day of surfing I have seen in Ireland, Tom Doidge-Harrison along with John McCarthy were by far the stand out surfers pulling deeper than everyone else. It was breaking long and fast, you really needed to take a high line like Tom here, with just the rail and inside fin keeping you from the beating of a lifetime. You really want to be sure you have the right surfboard and I think Tom's actually riding one of his own boards - that's confience for you! The light is so important for surfing shots, but it just shows you don't always need the sun out when the surfer pulls in like this, I was so stoked to just be there and watch all the madness go down.
Durban, South Africa
This was day three of a solid swell and it was lining up perfectly after some big tow-in sessions the day before. Those who still had energy left in their noodle arms were treated to a spectacular early morning session. Here John McCarthy lines up some tube time against a back-lit wall.
Mike van Heerden
North Narrabean, New South Wales
North Narrabeen one of Sydney's northern beaches doing its best Pipeline impression. The surfer is unknown but, yes, they made it. And what a swell it was, epic conditions and offshore for the entire day. This image was shot in the afternoon at about 3pm, hence the great light shining directly into this wave. North Narra pumps under so many conditions, but this was just about ideal. Almost every wave was identical for hours.
Thurso East, Scotland
The day was a classic at Thurso East, late February 2008. The evening before was a solid eight feet but by dawn it was four to six foot and glassy. There were plenty of barrels going down and I wanted to shoot some inside looking-out shots, this chap got a set wave, bottomed turned around me and pulled in. I never found out his name though, so if anyone knows drop me a line.
Secret, North Yorkshire
This shot was taken somewhere in North Yorkshire in August '07, on one of the hottest days of the year, being a bit of a bonus as pretty much every other time we've surfed the place it's been sub zero. Unfortunately the weather meant that although it was the warmest we'd seen it, the main peak was also the most crowded it ever gets. Nonetheless, the trip was salvaged by the fact that despite about 30 guys sat watching it 200m away, no one seamed to want anything to do with this slab, which for the willing, happened to be dishing out the best tubes of the day.
Kandui is a challenging, impossibly fast wave that requires a lot of courage and skill to ride, especially backside. This particular swell was one of the cleaner, sunnier, calm May days where everything lines up for half the day and every picture looks amazing. People usually comment how the wave in the back looks so much bigger and this guy will get caught inside but the reality is the angle the picture was taken tricks the eye and at the end of this ride this guy flicked off and made it to the channel no problem. A good photo like this makes you want to drop everything to go surf.
Off The Wall, Oahu
A good six foot day at Off the Walls on the North Shore of Oahu. Only three guys out and just plain beautiful. These guys were just taking turns getting shacked.
Playa Negra, Costa Rica
The surfer is a French expat named Manu who is one the best tube riders there at Playa Negra, Costa Rica. The wave there doesn't get hollow all that much but when it does, Manu seems to find that slot more that anybody else. When it barrels it does so with a thick feathering lip - perfect for photography. Manu rides up high in the tube which allows him to make sections most cannot, in fact he seems to make it out of most of the tubes he pulls into.
Pipeline tutorial, Oahu
I don't think I've ever felt 100% comfortable out at Pipe. I definitely feel more comfortable out there now than when I first started surfing in Hawaii. It's being comfortable in that environment when you're in the pack which is the most daunting thing. Now, after being here for so long and with my strategic plan to marry an Hawaiian paying off, I have a few more acquaintances than I had when I first started coming here. It's been a bit more calming to have a few friends among the boys, it's so tight out there, everyone wants waves and everyone's jostling for waves. It does get pretty intimidating and that's been the main hurdle. When it's good, it's perfect and if you can actually get a wave that's the hardest part out of the way!"
Text and audio by Luke Stedman
Images by Joli/WPS
This is at a fickle North Shore break called Insanities, between Rockpile and Off The Wall. It requires a few days of north swell to wash sand over the lava rock that normally litters the lineup. The surfer is Richie Sills, a fearless big waverider and sick tube rider from Durban, SA. He normally would be out charging Pipeline, but that needs a west swell so on this day this was the spot. We scored this for two days in a row, with only Richie and Royden Bryson riding it. It's a heavy wave and 50% of the waves clos eout, so it requires intense tube riding skills and a no-care attitude about getting punished. As for me, I had my work cut out because the north swell generally creates a very strong rip current down the beach. To stay in place during the lulls I would have to swim constantly, then swim even harder when the sets rolled through to make sure i would get close to the riders in the barrel and get the shot.
The wind stayed light for two days and the swell pumped. This was Richie's first wave on the morning of the second day. The first often gets forgotten through the course of a good days shooting but when I got this one back from the lab I knew it was a classic.