Interview by Sharpy
Russ Ord is a name you’ll be familiar with if you’ve been reading Carve the last few years. He’s the West Australian water photographer that puts himself in situations in the salt that few would dare attempt. You’ll have seen him bobbing around shooting the mega session at The Right. Can’t even begin to imagine what it would be like to swim under these beasts the flesh … So we asked him.
So. After swimming under this thing can you confirm that you are actually still alive and in one piece?
Yes, I still have all my limbs in the correct place and everything is functioning as per normal or abnormal depending which side of the fence you sit on.
Which part of shallow/sharky/huge/heavy equation scares you most?
When we first arrive my whole concern is actually on the wave itself, the size, currents, direction of swell and basically all the conditions on the day. The night before when preparing for the predicted swell I was hoping it wouldn’t be too big so I could attempt to have a swim, sharks don’t come into my thought process, I have enough on my plate to let that bother me.
Can you even begin to describe what swimming under a set there is like?
Normally I’m out there for a good hour or so feeling out the conditions and trying to get some Dutch courage up to get in closer, I must have been a touch excited and just swam too deep (obviously) I could hear all the ski’s in the channel moving so I knew something was coming. It was good to get it out of the way in the early stages when I had a heap of energy, I actually enjoyed that wave, no real beating at all surprisingly.
How are the currents can it suck you too deep or is trying to push you off the shelf the whole time?
The previous times I’ve swum there the currents have pushed me away from the impact zone, that was my big mistake on this day because I only took a few stokes and found myself in the wrong position, it’s a great wake call and a good lesson for next time.
Do the surfers give you a funny look when you jump in the brine and start kicking when you could quite happily shoot from a ski?
I could shoot from the ski which I have done for years. Over time it’s become very unrewarding, every moment captured without having a real moment myself. If I could just get that one photo from the water I am extremely happy, besides there are so many photog’s now that just show up with no crew and shoot from the channel, I have my own peace out amongst the chaos.
How big do you think you can swim it?
That’s big enough for now! Until I start shooting wide-angle better there’s no point trying to go larger. I know wide-angle makes the wave look smaller etc, people and many photographers don’t appreciate or understand the efforts that go into just getting that type of shot, but like the surfers that take it on, it’s very addictive … a natural high on life.
How long can you hold your breath for?
Long enough if keeping calm and remembering the training that I have done with Joe Knight from One Ocean International, my life revolves around that every day. When I’m relaxed in the pool its 3:20 which is disappointing in a way because I need to get past my mind telling me I need air, like all good free divers can do.
Have you gone over the falls there yet?
Couple of times but only on the end bowl, not like some of the surfers that have gone over on the peak. I keep telling myself they are fine and survive the beating so go deeper, it’s a build up over time, it will happen.
Do you kiss the sand when you get back to the beach after a session like that?
I certainly kiss the wife and kids once home. It’s a complete natural high if I think enough effort went into the swim.
Interview original appeared in issue 151 of Carve.