Archive for the 'Surfing' Category

22
Jan
13

East Coast Surf Road Trip With Just An iPhone

Crescent Head beach panorama

Panorama taken with iPhone.

iPhones make it all too easy! In fact nowadays I hardly bother taking my pocket Canon digital camera with me, let alone my new Canon EOS 1D mark IV. So I thought I’d try posting a blog directly from my iPhone with photos from a recent roadtrip from Melbourne to the Gold Coast and edited using just the phone’s auto-enhance & panorama function as well as Instagram, Luminance and Pic Jointer apps.

And the result. Well, WordPress ain’t the easiest beast to tame on a 3 inch touch screen – I couldn’t work out how to change the order of the gallery photos, or caption them. So I think I’ll stick to computer blogging from now on…

12
Jan
11

Storm Surfing

It’s just an hour’s drive north to where Brisbane is in the middle of what is reportedly the worst ever natural disaster in Australia’s history. However, down here on the Gold Coast it has remained relatively rain-free, and all the major storms and floods have passed us by. The only reminder here that we can see of nature’s fury is just in the chocolate brown-tinted ocean, which has been filled with silt, dirt and debris from the runouts of all the rivermouths and creeks.

But all the junk in the water and lumpy, wind-blown swell isn’t enough to deter the avid Goldy shred-head. Yesterday there was only one small strip between Snapper Rocks and Greenmount that was breaking and rideable, and it was amazingly busy. The waves were wild and massive, with the whole of the rocks covered in a bubbling, shimmering foam of brown sand & seas-water scum. There was such a huge drag and no let-up in the smashing waves that some guys were waiting 10 minutes at the Keyhole to find a break to paddle out furiously to the take-off zone. Admittedly, it was well beyond my capabilities, and so I stood in the shallows by the rocks and snapped a few shots into the evening. I hope you like them.

11
Jan
11

Queensland: Beautiful one day…flooding the next!

It’s probably a good thing that Queensland recently changed the State promotional slogan to “Where Australia Shines”, because taking a look at the weather up here the old “Beautiful One Day, Perfect the Next” would get them in trouble with the ACCC for false advertising! It hasn’t been a typical Spring and Summer on the Gold Coast – sunny days, like the one above, have been fairly infrequent. It is the rainy season up here, as South East Queensland gets hit by the remnants of tropical summer storms and cyclones further up north, but I don’t think anyone would have predicted downpours and floods like this!

I saw some pretty decent flooding down in Victoria during winter and spring, but Queensland is sure getting hit harder. I flicked through Brisbane’s Courier Mail today, and it showed that rainfall was up to a foot within 24 hours in some locations across Queensland, and I just heard that Toowoomba received 170mm in one hour! Fortunately, the Gold Coast isn’t affected by floods because the nearby mountain range and numerous rivers flush out all the water into the sea. However, it does turn the waves a murky, dark green which takes a few days to clear up, especially around the rivermouths. Yet even in the rain and gloomy skies you can still find some colour and brightness. You have to be careful, though, as the  rainfall has brought all sorts of creepy-crawlies into urban areas.

But I can’t complain too much: the ocean temperature is 23 degrees celsius,  the waves have been pretty good, you can still find quiet little seaside towns to escape the GC holiday crowds just 25 minutes down the road, and even when it’s teeming down with tropical-style rain, the outside temperature still hovers around 25 degrees. Just don’t count on getting a tan if you come up here for a holiday anytime soon

(Note: WordPress seems to be uploading photos at a very low resolution for the previews, so if you like a photo, click on one of the thumbnails, then click it again on the next screen to see the original higher quality jpeg)

29
Oct
10

All that glitters on the goldy…

After the end of winter I flew up to the Gold Coast for a mighty Metallica concert up in Brisbane, and decided to stay here for a while at Casa El Rad with some work lined up from early November. It’s a good thing the the Bligh State Government changed the State slogan to “Queensland: Where Australia Shines” from “Beautiful One Day, Perfect the Next”, because we know that isn’t true. There are some amazing sub-tropical downpours up here, and long-range forecasts for more cyclones up north, which will be great for waves down here on the border. And at least after the storm comes the sun, and with it, rainbows over the waves.

I’ve taken my camera down to Coolangatta a couple of times, and last night snapped a few sunset shots after a fun surf session. There were dolphins out in the water bobbing lazily between paddling boarders, and not far off shore some huge whales splashed around. Unfortunately, by the time I had finished checking out the sunset it was too dark for the couple of shots I took of the whales to come out properly. But I hope you enjoy the Coolangatta photos below.

Over on Snowboarder Magazine’s website there are some shots of mine of Jeremy Burns from Falls Creek. It’s a nice little online profile, and I was glad that these shots from 2009 finally managed to see the light of day (see some of them below too). I’ve shot a couple times with Jez this last season, and there are sure to be some bangers of him in the mags next year. And we also have a fun little project in mind for overseas this coming winter. So stay tuned to Radman and Radical!

Changing topics, and getting back to one of my favourite issues, recently Coastalwatch ran an interview with a well-known surf and fashion photographer. Jason Reposar  started out in graphic design, didn’t like a surf photo he had to turn into an ad, so picked up a camera and some film and shot his own ad…and the rest, as they say, is history. Coastalwatch’s article is a shortened version of a longer interview in a new online magazine called 18 Seconds, and omits some of his colourful past…and even more colourful quotes. For example, when asked about his favourite (photographic) subjects he replies: “Pussy, music and surf. If I wasn’t a photographer I’d still be interested in those three things.” I hear ya, Jason!

Reposar has some interesting things to say about the state of surf photography, the switch from film to digital, and the influx of new photographers under-cutting the pros and deflating the industry:

”With digital cameras and the explosion of surf photography, it’s become harder and harder to make a living from just surf photography. You’ve got all these kids now whose parents bought them a camera and they’re swapping their shots for clothes and empty promises. The magazines and clothing companies are taking full advantage of this. It’s really killed a lot of careers because some of the older guys who have been doing this for years and have families, are suddenly taking huge cuts in salary. They’re having to work harder for a lot less money…

I think that some of these new guys are killing off careers and sending really talented surf photographers to other areas of photography to make a living. Most importantly, they’re killing any chance of a career they might have by underselling images and poaching other photographers…

Why would a company pay $3,500 for a great photo when they can get a good one for a few t-shirts and a pair of boardies?….It’s the companies that I would hold responsible for controlling the pay rates. You can’t really blame an uneducated 18-year-old with a 600mm for trading shots for product. Maybe after they’re brought up to speed on this game you could, but what kid wouldn’t be stoked to get a shot in print?”

So in a lot of ways it sounds like a similar situation to snow photography: when you are willing to take photos for the pure love of it, it makes it tough on the guys who are also trying to make a living out of it. Now I just wish snowboard companies were willing to pay $3500 for a photo for one of their ads! I’ve discussed the issue of what a photo is worth, about a surf photo of mine being published in a newspaper for free, and about how to try and protect your digital images from being used and abused by companies that should know better. If you are interested, take a look at the blog entries here, here and here.

But it’s not all doom and gloom. Reposar has some ideas about how to make it better for the pro photogs…and it’s quite similar to an idea a great Aussie snow photographer had a couple of years ago..a shame we couldn’t get it to take hold:

“It’s a dog-eat-dog world out there and it’s all fuelled by corporate greed. This is no surprise to me and I don’t think it should be any different. What should change is us… the photographers. We need to unify and create a union to provide security for ourselves. Make some guidelines for pricing, maybe some health insurance for the dangerous situations we have to put ourselves in. We should have some security for our families and most of all have some consequences which companies take up the arse when they get caught breaking the rules of the union.”

17
Sep
10

Ride the Written Wave

A few weeks ago I was called upon to write something about surfing. I’ve written lots and lots about snowboarding, but never from a first-person perspective – usually I’m writing some event report, travel trip-diary, or interviewing someone – so it was refreshing to try something new and different. What I wrote was a little outside the parameters of what was asked…but take a read if you have the time and let me know what you think:

Snapper Rocks heavy-hitters session, mid-June 2010:

A rustle of the leaves outside the window. Was that a change in the wind direction? Quick, get on the net, check the cams. Yep, looks like it’s pumping. Tide is right. Quickly, quickly, grab the board, wetsuit and towel, pack the car and race out the driveway. Engine revving, stomp on the pedal, race off at the lights – it will get you there faster, even if those Government TV ads would say you’re a tool. But why oh why are there so many red traffic lights on The Gold Coast Highway between Palm Beach and Coolangatta? Surely, this 15 minute trip must have been closer to 30…today of all days! Bloody Queensland drivers.

Finally, the Promised Land is in sight…but which wave to choose? It really is a wealth of riches on the Southern Gold Coast. Slow down for the pedestrian crossings on the Cooly esplanade. It’s OK, take you time to cross, old man…it just gives me more time to check out the line of peeling aqua barrels coming round Greenmount, a black speck balanced on each face, tucked into a crouch and coiled like a spring, while an arc of white spray flies off the crumbling lip and back towards the horizon.

Mount the rise into Rainbow Bay, slowing down the hill trying to simultaneously check the waves, the crowds, look for a parking spot, and dodge crazy bush turkeys and golden-haired rakes who flap across the road with their wetsuit arm-wings hanging at the waist with stickered-up DHD spears clutched tightly under bare brown arms. Is that a pair of red eyes glinting? Yep, a ute has just started up, reverse lights now on as well…and there you have it, a prime parking position where you can watch the hordes of upturned bare-feet and awkward footfalls on concrete as more and more rubber-clad bodies race away from you towards the pure white sand and blisteringly clear azure water.

Getting suited up seems to take an age. And don’t forget that spare key tucked into the wetty before you slam down the boot. Wow, for a mid-week, mid-winter, mid-June day, there sure are a lot of surfers in the water. Doesn’t anybody on the Goldie have work or school to go to? I guess this is the swell everyone was waiting for, when the days of southern slop finally turned easterly enough to wrap around the Tweed and charge along the crescent coast like soldiers in formation, wave after wave pounding the sand bars with perfect rhythm. It looks about 3 foot plus out there, perfect for someone who up until recently was more accustomed to measuring 3 foot of fresh pow on a mountainside in the morning.

Racing across the flat, hard sand to cut the rocky corner in front of the surf club, leg rope making that strange, hollow “slap, slap, slap” with every stride. Overtaking a black shape, round at the waist, glad that you’ve done enough cardio to keep running without too much panting, even when the wetsuit is already sticking to you back under the mid-afternoon sun. Big crowd off Snapper Rocks…and you can see why. It looks amazing.

It’s fairly sheltered from the south-westerly winds here by the high-rises and headlands, but there is enough of a breeze to hollow the wave faces, and when the reflected sets double-up to well over head-height it is a pure vision. A religious man might say that this is a true sign that God exists, and that he fashioned Man in his very image, just so that he may tame nature’s fury in such a way. Every wave a barrel, foamy to begin with then turning crystal clear and transparent…and every wave being slayed, constant movement of water and man, black bodies, white boards, blue-green water, white foam, and huge plumes of spray flying high into the sky while a thunderous cacophony fills the air.

A long line of shapes bobs in the ebb and flow from round the corner of Snapper, all the way round into Rainbow Bay and even on towards Greenmount, jockeying for position and trying to find their comfortable place in the pecking order. You’ll never be able to snaffle a wave from right off the rocks among the throng all searching for the ride of their life, but if you’re lucky you might just get one of those waves that heads wide from the crowd halfway towards the surf club.

Navigating the flailing legs, arms and floating boards all around me as I paddle out, just off to the right a figure is crouched lazily back into a wave, right foot facing me, front hand gripping the rail of the board near his toes as he smothers himself in the armchair embrace of the little barrel. It’s like an early 90’s Point Break flashback. Then he stands to gain speed, punches two powerful and stylish turns, and I see that it is, of course, Luke Egan.

It’s hard work out here – every wave is taken, and destroyed by all manner of man and craft. Even bloody boogie boarders are getting pitted! Every now and again someone falls off, or a smaller wave goes wide and the jackals around me pounce, darting inside to snatch their small chance at glory. C’mon Sean, you have to get more aggressive and paddle in closer or you’ll never snap up one of these rare vacant waves. Missed that one. Paddle back out. Catch the wild eye of the surfer bearing down on you. Duck-dive this rising mountain in front of you. Surface quickly, rain of slash-spray falls all around and slaps the water loudly. Look just right at the next wave. It’s a snarling, angry sandy coloured funnel, dark black and hollow right off the rock. There is a small puff of spray, like the last breath of a dying man, from out of the vortex of this head-high black hole…and then somehow a figure emerges from the darkness, as crouched and composed as a bronze statue. Then as he enters into the light he explodes, rising up the face and going over-vert to smash the lip in one glorious powerful snap, sending spray 15 feet high. Once again he is composed and coiled, gouging deep into a distinctive bottom turn laid over almost horizontal, and then as the wave passes you are slapped with the full force of a wake, smiling with the realisation of how much water a mere man and board can move. All around the surfers had stopped to watch this magnificence just like you, and two minutes later that broad shovel-headed face is looming up beside you as Parko laconically paddles out and around. You have to say something, but how do you not come across as a complete star-struck kook?

“That was a sick barrel you got there!”

 “Yeaaaah, it was fun little one, eh?” he whines back nasally as he smiles and paddles past.

Inspired, it’s time to move in closer. Wait, wait…the waiting and paddling in circles seems to take forever. Then finally, there it is, the opening you were looking for. Paddle hard, arms screaming to out-paddle that kid beside you, then you are taken, lifted up slightly from behind and propelled forward. Hands instantly push down, legs up and around, crouched down, eyes focussed down the line of the wave. Senses are heightened as you contort your body into a position of fluid tension ready to react to the changes underfoot. The sun catches the rising water beside and in front of you, refracting like a magnifying glass the crystal clear sand below. You feel the eyes of the world upon you, and other surfers paddle hard across the line of your wave to get out of the way.

You may not be able to gouge a turn, cut-back or hit the lip like Parko, but when you’re on the wave this is your own selfish moment to enjoy and be watched…and now, after this moment of pure joy you can truly understand why so many surfers crowd such a small section of water around the tip of Snapper Rocks day after day. They are all waiting for their chance at glory. And if you can only manage to get one wave out there with some of the best surfers in the world around you, make sure it’s the best wave of your life. It’s all worth it, and you’re sure to want to come back for more!

The photos of Rainbow Bay and Snapper above are from a day in June with smaller swell, plus there are some actions shots I took of Parko around the corner at Duranbah back in January. And here’s some footage of Parko and Egan at Snapper Rocks from a couple of months ago – it might just be the day I was out there with them…the crowds sure look about right!

And this is the footage of Parko getting his famous fin-chop to the foot out at Snapper in July – it has skuttled his chances this year, yet again, of winning the ASP championship. But take a look at the first barrel that he manages to make – it was pretty similar the snarling monster I saw him emerge from up close. Yeeewwww!

 

13
Jul
10

Get your Surf Shots for Free!

Back in the wintry folds of a cold and cloudy Melbourne it’s easy to reminisce about warmer times, and warmer waters…and so here’s a look back a few months to January when I went out one day to take some surf photos at Duranbah on the Gold Coast. The Jim Beam Surf Tag Queensland trials were on – a novel event where the little local boardrider clubs battled out in hour-long heats to find the overall state winner. Each team could have 5 surfers compete within the hour heat, out alongside 3 other teams, but only one team-member could be in the water at any one time. The surfer would score on 2 waves and then run up the beach to “tag” the next team member who would enter the water to get two more wave scores, and so on, for a combined overall score.

But it wasn’t this unique comp format that had me intrigued, but the fact that the newly crowned World Champion, Mick Fanning, would be competing for his old Kirra Boardriders against World Number 2 Joel Parkinson and his Snapper Rocks Team…not to mention ASP top-tenner, Dingo Morrison, and former champ, Occy, also competing for bragging rights round the bar of the Coolangatta Sands Hotel.

I had never really tried taking any surf photos before, but I thought this might be a good chance to watch the best in the business and see how I would go. I was just using my regular 70-200mm 2.8L lens which was a little under-powered in the zoom department (I wish I had the gear I would be using  just a few weeks later in Vancouver) . So while some pro looking photo dude with bikini girls hanging off his arm was comfortably high up on the sand, I had to wade out knee-deep into the water and then crop the final shots. But overall I was pretty happy with the shots, despite the ordinary waves. Shooting surf photography from the beach is not all that difficult I discovered, except for getting sharp focus (either on auto or manual) in lumpy, choppy waves that disrupt the foreground. And when there is a lull in the action out in the surf, there’s always something to look at on the sand. But it was awesome just being able to see the enormous slashes Mick could throw in small surf, and to see how he interacted like a true champion with all the grommets and fans on the beach. (And over the following months I’ve managed to be out surfing alongside Mick and Parko and seen their wave artistry up even closer). And watching all the action, I was struck by the pure aesthetic beauty of a good bottom turn.

I had met another Gold Coast-based surf photog, Simon Muirhead, a few days previously (see his shots from that day here) – he has a fair bit of stuff published on Swellnet and Coastalwatch – and from what he said, surf photography is even more competitive and under-valued than snowboard photography. I guess it is one of those things where the surf lifestyle is even more appealing than the snowboarding one, and there will always be someone out there willing to take surf photos for free, or a couple of logo t-shirts.

So I was a little surprised to hear from The Sunshine Coast Daily a couple of days later wanting to use one of my photos in their paper. Sticking to my business philosophy of no longer ever giving away a photo for free (which I’ve only done once in four years, and which came back to bite me in the arse recently…but that’s a story for another time) I tried to negotiate hard, even though the paper said they had no budget. I assumed it was some little weekly local rag, like the Moonee Valley Leader, and so was even willing to accept a nominal 50 bucks, equivalent to a web shot payment. But when the paper rep was about to hang up the phone and not run the shot, I relented to its free publication, thinking that at least I’ll have one published surf photo out there.

I was fairly happy just to hear that someone liked my shots…but was a little miffed when I discovered that in fact the Sunshine Coast Daily is in fact a major daily newspaper, much like the Geelong Advertiser or Gold Coast Bulletin. And to make matters worse, my shot was run on the back page as a thumbnail as well as quarter-page in the sport section, and on the website! Take a look at the pages, and check out the article and photo on the website here. Surely they could spring a budget to pay for the shots – it’s a legitimate journalistic story, not some local-scene colour piece like I thought it was going to be.

Oh well, at least it solidifies my resolve to never, ever give away a photo for free again…and at least now I can call myself a bona fide surf photographer!

So take a look at the shots I took that day.

30
Jun
10

Go Ride a Custom Craft!

Every man should own at least one fully tailored suit in his lifetime, but unless you get some dodgy polyester three-piece from a pushy Indian on Khao San Rd, you’re going to have to save some serious money to get a sartorial suit. Equally, hand-made custom Italian shoes, or even bespoke Australian hardwood furniture will set you back a pretty penny. However, if you want to stand out from the bland crowd and have your own custom fix, all is not lost. Instead of grabbing one of those boring white surf sticks off the rack, why not go to a local shaper and get a custom board?

With the international push for factory-manufactured surfboards, hand-shaping is certainly a dying art. And where it once was a burgeoning life progression for surf bums and failed pro-surfers, lately, small-time shapers have been struggling to even find grommets to come in and sweep away the shaping booth floors. It has become such an issue that lately the surf industry even consorted with Creepy Hitler (ie Tony Abbott) in a push for surf shaping to be regarded as a legitimate recognised trade that can then employ certified apprentices. See the article from Surfing World here.

The Gold Coast is littered with world-class surfboard shapers, with DHD and JS Industries creating boards for a huge proportion of the top surfers in the world. But as these boards are in high demand, the price and waiting list was a little longer than I wanted, and so after seeing how well El Rad rode a 6’1″ Stuart Surf FX1, I few weeks ago I ordered a 6’8″ version…and for just $100 more got an all-over orange spray and hand painted silver lightning bolt! And less than 3 weeks later I picked up my bespoke board, complete with my name along the stringer, handed directly to me by Stu himself. Oooh…how I love the smell of fiberglass in the morning!

There really is something satisfying about the whole process: checking out a bunch of different local shapers, chatting to them about your surfing ability and immediate aspirations, seeing the shaper work on similar boards in his shop, scoping his finished boards and lairy paint schemes, getting quotes and prices, ordering your custom stick, then picking it up and giving it that first careful test drive out in the surf…and strutting along the beach with your new colourful creation with a huge smile on your face afterwards. And as El Rad took advantage of a buy-two-at-0nce discount, we both got bespoke boards for a similar price to an off-the-shelf Studio Italia suit from Myer!

Surfing World Magazine recently had a whole issue focussing on hand-shaped and custom boards, and Base Surfboards (a co-op of DHD, Bourton, Simon (Anderson) and others) has a great page which outlines all the steps that go into making a board. Basically, cutting machines carve down a foam blank to within 70-85% of the finished board shape before the rest is sanded back by hand, then it’s fiber-glassed, artwork is painted, fins inserted and final glassing is done to the board.

And El Rad even went a step beyond the hand painted scheme that I ordered from Stuart’s collection – with modern advances in colour printing any image can be bonded to cloth which is then laminated under the fiberglass. And so taking influence from classic art, and willing to wait the extra week or more to finalise the printing that I wasn’t willing to wait, take a look at his “Liberty” HPX2 (a model which received a great review in ASL’s 2010 Surf Bible)! The half naked woman is in fact the central figure from Eugene Delacroix’s famous revolutionary painting, “Liberty Leading the People”. The board looks amazing, with a great painterly print effect – I’m jealous – it makes my orange bolt look tame, and puts the other boards in our collective quiver to shame. And not only is El Rad bringing some art to the sometimes shallow world of surf…and he gets to rub up against a beautiful topless woman every day out in the water…even if she is 180 years old!