Australians Matt Wilkinsonand Tyler Wright emerged victorious today, claiming the Quiksilver and Roxy Pro Gold Coast titles respectively, in clean three-to-four foot (1 metre) waves at Snapper Rocks.
The opening events on the 2016 Samsung Galaxy WSL Championship Tour, the Quiksilver and Roxy Pro Gold Coast pres. by BOQ showcased the world’s best surfing, massive upsets and a significant tone-setting for the season ahead.
Wilkinson’s victory today marked his maiden on the elite Championship Tour with the Australian putting on an exciting performance throughout the event, pushing scorelines and knocking out top-seeded opponents. The goofy-footer unleashed a variety of technical maneuvers to solidify his position atop the ranks of the Jeep Leaderboard. Wilkinson previously dispatched reigning World Champion Adriano De Souza (BRA) and last year’s event winner, Filipe Toledo (BRA).
Wilkinson faced Kolohe Andino (USA) in the Final and the frontside verse backside match-up did not disappoint. The two battled wave for wave, with multiple lead changes throughout. Wilkinson took an early lead with an 8.60 opening score and held off Andino until halfway through. Andino took the lead and stayed busy as the time ticked down, while Wilkinson waited for a wave. The Australian’s patience paid off with a 5.60 point ride at the six minute mark to regain the lead. With thirty seconds left on the clock Andino caught a wave to chase the 7.38 score needed, but Andino’s efforts were not enough. Wilkinson won the event 14.22 to 13.66.
“I started this year with a win in the Qualifying Series and to win this event felt amazing. I did not expect this but I was hoping for it,” said Wilkinson. “My heat against Adriano is the kind of heat where I usually lose. I just got the score right at the end and it gave me the fire to make me feel like the ocean was on my side. I surfed well with so much pressure on, and I knew I hadn’t gotten a great Snapper wave this whole event, and that first wave of the Final had two really nice sections at the start. I am so stoked to win.”
“I was hoping to make it in the top five or ten this year, and I have been at the back end of the teens for the last few years, so this is a different start,” continued Wilkinson. “I feel like I have matured a lot in my heat surfing and in my surfing in general. Hopefully I can put a lot of heats together this year and win the Title.”
“There are so many great surfers that went out early in this event or did not make the final, so I am stoked, but obviously I wanted to win that final really bad,” Andino said. “I guess it is like the first loser, so it is going to fire me up even more. I am excited for the rest of the year. Obviously, I’ve got big goals and big plans, but it’s a long year. I’m trying to stay even-keeled with my attitude in surfing.”
The final match-up of the Roxy Pro Gold Coast saw Tyler Wright (AUS) battle Courtney Conlogue (USA) in an epic clash. Wright looked smooth and powerful, claiming a win at the first event of the season and climbing the Jeep Leaderboard ranks to earn the top spot. Throughout the competition, Wright stayed focused and committed, winning each heat leading up to the Final. Today was the 10th match-up for Wright and Conlogue, adding a 7th win to Wright’s tally.
Wright and Conlogue went wave for wave to start the heat, but Wright continued to outperform her previous wave scores to give her a control halfway through the Final. Wright showcased her powerful rail-to-rail surfing, with a clean and precise rhythm. Wright landed a 14.67 over Conlogue’s 10.94 to give Wright her second Roxy Pro Gold Coast Title. Wright will wear the yellow jersey going into Bells. This was Conlogue’s highest finish at this event, as it was her first Finals appearance on the Gold Coast.
“The last few months and everything that has happened, it has been such an experience and a crazy one. It brought so much clarity for me and simplified everything so I could come here and absolutely be my best on the day. It made me realize that I want to win a World Title and I want to do it my way.”
“I want to verse the best, and Steph (Gilmore), Carissa (Moore), Courtney (Conlogue) and all the girls on Tour, they are all the best. I just want to do my own thing. I’ve known for a long time that I could win and it is having that belief and going out in heats saying ‘Yes, you’ve got this – just get it done.’”
“I want to thank Micro [Glen Hall] for being in my corner and helping me out, as well as my family and Rip Curl and everyone who came down today and supported us. It has been absolutely incredible so thanks.”
“It was an amazing final as I always wanted to have a heat against Tyler, and she surfed absolutely stellar,” said Conlogue. “ I’m really looking forward to being at Bells and starting over again. I thought every heat was a challenge posing obstacles I had to overcome. Your biggest challenge is usually you and the ocean and trying to get yourself on the right waves and creating those opportunities to perform. I am happy to be out here. To be able to surf Snapper with only a few women out there is amazing.”
Filipe Toledo (BRA), defending Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast Champ and favorite to win the event, was injured after trying to perform an air-reverse in the Semifinals. Toledo fought through his injury to score a 13.27, but Matt Wilkinson (AUS) came back with a 14.43 two-wave combined score, earning a 6.60 in his last wave to advance to the Finals.
“I went for the air on the last maneuver of the wave and when I was landing the wave just came up on my board and put the pressure on my leg, which went up and sideways,” Toledo said. “I kept surfing after that and it was painful. But now I am good. I am not dying at all, I am just feeling a lot of pain. Besides that, I am happy with my result. I was surfing good and the board was good.”
In a major upset, Matt Wilkinson (AUS) knocked out reigning World Champion, Adriano De Souza (BRA), in the Quarterfinal match-up. De Souza began the heat with a relaxed approach, where Wilkinson took an early lead, but De Souza snagged the lead right back from Wilkinson. Needing a strong second-wave score to defeat the World Champion, Wilkinson caught a buzzer-beater giving him a 0.43 edge to eliminate De Souza.
“He [Matt Wilkinson] has been surfing good with a nice rhythm as well,” De Souza said. “It was a tough heat. He got the score he needed right at the end. I’ll just keep fighting. It is another result where I’ll walk away thinking I can do better, I can improve. I’m definitely hunting for a good result at Bells.”
Stuart Kennedy (AUS) continued his streak of upsets as he eliminated John John Florence (HAW) from the competition with a buzzer-beater ride in the last heat of the Quarters. Kennedy, who gained entry into the event as an injury replacement, earned a 15.23 combined two-wave score to defeat Florence’s 14.00.
“I learned so much coming out of last year and I’m putting it all together this year and figuring out how it all fits together,” Florence said. “The Quarters isn’t a super bad result at all. I am confident going into the next events. I love Bells and Margaret. I am looking forward to doing some carves.”
Carissa Moore (HAW), reigning WSL World Champion and last year’s event winner, was defeated by long-time rival Tyler Wright (AUS) in the Quarterfinals. Moore was not able to find a second wave score to answer back to Wright’s 8.50. Wright beat the three-time World Champion 14.17 to 14.00 despite a strong event showing from Moore who swept all heats leading up to the Quarterfinals.
“Two minutes to go, I still feel like that was a lot of time,” said Moore. “Just the way that the waves were coming in I was losing a little bit of faith there, but wanted to fight all the way to the end. I am stoked for Tyler. It is good to see she is surfing really well and she’s in rhythm with the ocean. I think for me the most disappointing part of it is that I never felt like I opened up the entire event. It’s just one of those events where I didn’t feel like I really clicked. I am super stoked to start off the year with the semis, not bad.”
Highlights from the Quiksilver and Roxy Pro Gold Coast will be webcast LIVE at WorldSurfLeague.com.
Competition continued today at the Quiksilver and Roxy Pro Gold Coast presented by BOQ with an action packed day at Snapper Rocks. Silky smooth 3 to 4 foot (1.5 meter) waves rolled into Rainbow Bay, providing the perfect canvas for the world’s best to battle for a chance to compete on finals day.
The first stop on the 2016 Samsung Galaxy WSL Championship Tour, the Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast bore witness to the world’s best surfing once again today as major results and huge upsets unfolded in front of thousands on the beach and millions watching around the world.
The opening Quarterfinal match-up saw a battle between Tyler Wright (AUS) and Stephanie Gilmore (AUS), six-time World Champion and five-time event winner. Gilmore and Wright fought hard for the lead after tying their first wave scores. Wright came out on top by earning a 6.50 point ride to eliminate Gilmore by 1.27 points.
“This year I feel different,” said Wright. “I’ve come into this year different with a coach, and I’m ready to take on Steph and Carissa and girls like that. I asked Micro [Glen Hall] to come on and help me. In the past I was definitely not open to a coach, and it took me a long time to realize that I could actually learn more. It has been an easy transition, because with Micro it is a balance between having fun and going out there and doing what you are best at.”
Carissa Moore (HAW), reigning WSL World Champion and last year’s event winner, defeat compatriot Malia Manuel (HAW) in the Heat 2 of the Quarterfinals. Moore came out with an early lead, creating a 2.93 gap that Manuel was unable to close.
“I was actually really nervous going into that heat because I knew the high tide was coming and I knew it was slowing down,” Moore said. “I feel comfortable when there are lots of waves and we just get to surf, but when it comes down to wave selection, I think that is my biggest weakness and Malia really thrives on that. I was just trying to be patient and wait for the good ones that had the wall, but also stay busy.”
Courtney Conlogue (USA) went up against Sage Erickson (USA) in the Quarterfinal match-up, and with a semifinal spot on the line, both competitors gave their all to advance. Conlogue showcased her power game and took an early lead to hold off the fellow Californian with 15.17 points. Erickson put up a 10.00 two-wave combined score, but could not find the waves to defeat Conlogue.
“I just thinking ‘come on, you can get into the semis’ and I think it was just a matter of getting on the right waves and getting on the opportunities that allowed me to let loose,” Conlogue said after her heat. “These conditions are incredible with the low tide pushing out and it is so fun being out there. I am just trying to get through so I can surf more.”
Tatiana Weston-Webb (HAW), 2015 WSL Rookie of the Year, took on Johanne Defay (FRA) in the last heat of the Quarterfinals. Defay pulled off a major technical maneuver in the heat to lock in a 7.17 point ride. Weston-Webb struggled to fight off Defay’s 12.50 two-wave combined score and close the 2.96 gap needed to advance to the next round.
“I am trying to go big with innovation and I just felt like I had nothing else to do on this wave, so I just tried and it went well,” said Defay. “I am very happy and there’s not a lot of times where I am innovating in the heat, so it was good timing.”
Adriano De Souza (BRA), reigning WSL World Title holder, defeated 2016 WSL Rookie, Conner Coffin (USA), in Round 5 Heat 2. Coffin opened the heat with a solid 8.00 ride, surfing sharp and clean, but was unable to find a second score to match-up. Coffin held priority for 85% of the heat, but De Souza worked away at the inside to gain a 0.99 point lead over the rookie.
“I needed to fight so hard in order to come back in this heat,” De Souza said after advancing to the Quarterfinals. “Conner is a super talented kid and he started the heat pretty well with that 8. I realized that when I have the opportunity I have to push as hard as I can every single turn.”
Injury replacements Stuart Kennedy (AUS) and Sebastian Zietz (HAW) faced off in the last heat of Round 5. Both surfers caused massive upsets earlier in the event, and the showdown between the two did not disappoint. Throughout the heat Kennedy kept increasing wave scores forcing Zietz to chase his lead. Kennedy eliminated Zietz with a 17.67 combined two-wave score.
“It is good to finally let loose on that one,” Kennedy said. “I felt a lot more comfortable and glad the waves turned on in that heat.”
Joel Parkinson (AUS), hometown hero and 2012 WSL World Title winner, defeat 2016 WSL Rookie, Caio Ibelli (BRA), in a close match-up. Ibelli surfed with lots of variety, notably completing a huge layback hack, but it was Parkinson who answered back with two solid 8 point rides.
“We both got an opportunity or two,” Parkinson said. “Caio’s waves probably did not have the length. He ripped on them and had good starts on them, but they just didn’t have the legs the rest of the way. I hadn’t had a heat where I had two 8s, but I wanted to really put a heat together with a big total.”
Adrian Buchan (AUS) set a tough pace against 18 year old rookie, Kanoa Igarashi (AUS). Buchan earned a towering 16.04 two-wave combined score to defeat Igarashi. Igarashi tried to deliver aggressive moves, but could not find a rhythm to advance.
“I give him [Kanoa Igarashi] a lot of respect.” Buchan said. “I didn’t give him an inch and I just wanted to use all of my experience in that heat. I knew it was going to be slow, but I knew there would be good waves if I was patient and I managed to pick two good ones.”
Keely Andrew (AUS), 2016 WSL Rookie, and Bronte Macaulay (AUS), who gained entry into the competition as an injury replacement, were knocked out of the competition in Round 4 by Sage Erickson (USA) and Malia Manuel (HAW) respectively.
The WSL Commissioner’s Office will reconvene tomorrow morning at 6:30am to assess conditions for a possible 7am start.
Highlights from the Quiksilver and Roxy Pro Gold Coast will be webcast LIVE at WorldSurfLeague.com.
Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast Remaining Round 4 Results:
Heat 3: Kolohe Andino (USA) 16.10, Adrian Buchan (AUS) 15.74, Sebastian Zietz (HAW) 15.33 Heat 4: John John Florence (HAW) 11.90, Stuart Kennedy (AUS) 11.43, Kanoa Igarashi (USA) 4.74
Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast Round 5 Results:
Heat 1: Joel Parkinson (AUS) 16.07 def. Caio Ibelli (BRA) 12.66 Heat 2: Adriano de Souza (BRA) 13.76 def. Conner Coffin (USA) 12.77 Heat 3: Adrian Buchan (AUS) 16.04 def. Kanoa Igarashi (USA) 9.87 Heat 4: Stuart Kennedy (AUS) 17.67 def. Sebastian Zietz (HAW) 10.77
Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast Quarterfinal Match-Ups:
QF 1: Filipe Toledo (BRA) vs. Joel Parkinson (AUS) QF 2: Matt Wilkinson (AUS) vs. Adriano de Souza (BRA) QF 3: Kolohe Andino (USA) vs. Adrian Buchan (AUS) QF 4: John John Florence (HAW) vs. Stuart Kennedy (AUS)
For us Northern Hemi types it’s finally looking like spring. That time of year when we finally consider leaving the house without a full set of waterproofs, hiking boots and winter survival gear.
That’s right. Those shoes, trainers, daps, pumped up kicks or ratty old Cons can be looked at as viable options again without fear of your feet getting soaked, acquiring trenchfoot and/or frostbite.
Conversely as nature uncurls itself from winter hibernation so do we. Outside is a thing again. Not just somewhere to be endured between home and work/office/pub/waves. You can get changed for a surf without needing speedy ninja wetsuit on and offing skills to prevent blast frozen exposed flesh. Hell, there’s even enough radiation blaring from that ball of fire in the sky to singe a bit of colour in our pasty skin. S’right, the season of poo face/hands is upon us. The mark of the surfer. Relish it.
Now the big question we all face as surfers as the days lengthen and warmth seeps back in to the world is when to lose the gloves, hooded suits, or twat cap if that’s how you roll, then finally, and this is the big one, losing the boots and getting the wax between your toes again. Before you know it that 6 or 5mm will be living up to its classic name: steamer. On those clear, wonderful, crisp cold mornings just perfect for a slide as you peel off your superman suit you’ll literally steam. Like a welcome cup of java. Which looks pretty cool. Unless it’s wee steam. Which is inevitable but gross…
Soon be time to roll out the 4 or 3mm and which after a heavy winter will seem like you’ve lost a couple of pounds without eating salad or going to cross fit at all.
Of course being British spring can be a double edged sword. It can be mega sunny and pump, we’re on for a week of lovely surf on the left coast at the moment, or it can go flat for seven weeks. And rain the whole time.
How ever it plays out we’re glad the darkness is over. Spring starts astronomically next Sunday and for the meteorological sorts it’s been here since the start of March. Now we just need the ocean temperature to crawl back into double digits…
If, like us, you like a Fantasy Surfer then, like pretty much everyone you’ve already written off the Quik Pro as a counting event come year end. Those infernal rookies and wildcards have slayed giants. Which is great for them and their careers, not so good for our FS teams, as most folk would’ve had Slater, Fanning, Medina, Wilson, Smith etc… Ah well. The Brazilian storm is still raging also did you see Filipe’s heat?!
WSL PRESS RELEASE
High drama and excellent scores continued today as the world’s best surfers did battle in clean three-to-five foot (1 – 1.5 metre) waves at Snapper Rocks, completing Rounds 2, 3 and the opening two heats of Round 4 of the Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast pres. By BOQ.
The opening stop on the 2016 Samsung Galaxy WSL Championship Tour, the Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast bore witness to the world’s best surfing once again today as major results and huge upsets unfolded in front of thousands on the beach and millions watching around the world.
Filipe Toledo (BRA), defending Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast champion, bookended the day’s affairs with incendiary surfing, first dispatching of lethal rookie Ryan Callinan (AUS) in Round 3 and then posting a near-perfect 19.20 out of a possible 20 in Round 4 to advance directly through to the Quarterfinals.
“I am still shaking watching these waves because it is so perfect,” said Toledo. “I am just super excited and cannot wait to get back into the water again. I want to keep going with good scores and doing well in heats. The board feels amazing, so I am feeling confident and having more fun in each heat.”
Sebastian Zietz (HAW), who gained entry into the event as an injury replacement, caused a major upset by knocking out local favorite and three-time World Champion, Mick Fanning (AUS) in Heat 7. Zietz opened the heat with a massive layback snap, showcasing the same all-out approach he used to advance out of Round 2. A snapped board forced Fanning to switch out his equipment and leave the line-up with six minutes to go on the clock. Zietz was able to pull out a second high scoring ride in the dying minutes of the heat, to take the win and advance to Round 4.
“I think being more relaxed translates into catching better waves,” said Zietz. “When you are relaxed it all just comes to, and I have a really good board and a good team. I’m bummed for Mick. I thought he was surfing the best out of anybody so I better go far for him.”
Stuart Kennedy (AUS), injury replacement, continued the day’s upsets in the last heat of Round 3 as he eliminated 2014 WSL World Champion and 2014 event winner, Gabriel Medina (BRA). Kennedy unleashed multiple risky maneuvers to earn a 0.27 lead over the Brazilian heavyweight.
“I love surfing against the best guys. It pushes my surfing to the next level after grinding it out on the Qualifying Series for so long,” said Kennedy. “I just knew I could get on some good waves and let my surfing do the talking. It has been a grind to get to this level, but I’m so stoked to have the opportunity to be the replacement, but hopefully I can keep getting more opportunities throughout the year. To beat those two guys, Kelly and Gabriel, it’s like a dream come true for sure.”
Adriano de Souza (BRA), reigning WSL World Champion, continued to showcase his power surfing as he defeated event wildcard Mikey Wright (AUS) in Round 3 Heat 6. In an all out battle, Wright and De Souza went wave for wave, but it was the Brazilian who took the lead with a two-wave combined score of 16.17.
“Mikey is such a great talent and surfer, and such a nice young gentleman, but I am so happy to make it through this heat,” De Souza said. “Round 3 is that round that does not make a lot of points, so I was nervous out there. I am happy to make this heat, but I also want to have fun too, and I definitely felt that on that wave.”
John John Florence (HAW) pulled out all the stops against Michel Bourez (PYF), most notably with his massive double-grab air that put 9.23 points on the board. Florence’s flair paid off, as he created a 4.06 point gap that Bourez was unable to close.
“The waves are really fun right now, you just have to pretty much enjoy it,” said Florence after his heat. “Michel is a scary guy to surf against for sure so I had a little bit of nerves, but I was thinking about myself and trying to have fun out here, and it ended up working out.”
2016 WSL Rookies also dealt out big upsets in Round 3 today, showcasing the depth of talent in this year’s rookie class. Conner Coffin (USA), Caio Ibelli (BRA) and Kanoa Igarashi (USA) excelled in their match-ups to take down Italo Ferreira (BRA), Josh Kerr (AUS) and Jeremy Flores (FRA) respectively.
Coffin came charging into Heat 3 defeating Italo Ferreira (BRA), the 2015 WSL Rookie of the year in the last thirty seconds of the heat. Coffins’ buzzer-beater score over-took Ferreira’s lead by only 0.21 points to securing Coffin in Round 4.
“I used to surf against Italo in World Juniors and he used to be this air-maniac doing crazy air-reverses and last year it looked like he took the whole year to work on his power surfing,” said Coffin. “Showing up at Snapper I was super impressed. I knew it was going to be a hard heat and to get a big score you had to catch a wave with a lot of wall and not sit forever. I was so stoked that last wave came.”
The WSL Commissioner’s Office will reconvene tomorrow morning at 7am to assess conditions for a possible 7:35am start.
Highlights from the Quiksilver and Roxy Pro Gold Coast will be webcast LIVE at WorldSurfLeague.com.
You probably don’t think too much about the surf photos when you’re flicking through magazines or scrolling your Insty, yes they look nice, they can be inspirational and they make you want to go surf or travel but you rarely think about the actual photo and how it was achieved.
Because somewhere out there is a photographer who shot it, a photographer that has dedicated his life to his art, a photographer eating a lot more noodles than steak, a photographer that’s suffered not surfing the best waves he or she has ever seen just to take photos.
American photographer Jeff Divine once said, “Surf photography is starvation on the road to madness”. So you really should be thankful that this strange, often slightly eccentric, sometimes officially mental, noble breed are so obsessed with getting the shot that they keep doing so even though they could make more money slinging burgers in McDonald’s.
The current crop of UK shooters: Nunn, Sharpy, Smith, Lacey, Gartside et al are the product of nearly eighty years of progression. Nearly eight decades of creativity behind the lens from maverick geniuses that have pioneered techniques in and out of the water; it has been these guys out-of-the-box thinking that has got us to where we are today. Combine these creative minds with the ongoing technological revolution that has seen one hundred years of manual focus replaced by auto focusing and film emulsion replaced by zeros and ones and you get to the current stellar, mind-blowing level of photos you seen month in, month out in the magazines and online.
So where did it begin? Who was the first surf photographer? The first photo of somebody with a surfboard dates to 1890, who took it nobody knows (its part of the collection at the Bishop Museum in Honolulu), but it’s quite impressive considering photography was only just getting out its experimental early stages at that time.
The first actual surf photographer documenting surf culture as we know it was the hugely talented Tom Blake. A pioneer in every sense of the word, he revolutionised board construction, was the first man to put a fin on a surfboard and even invented the sailboard (otherwise known as windsurfer) but his main contribution -that sees him regarded as the father of modern surf photography- was his invention of the first water housing for shooting surfing from the water. It is this surfer’s eye view of the action that makes surf photography unique in the sports photography world and Tom Blake first did it in 1930. He got his first spread in the revered National Geographic magazine in 1935.
It was Blake’s early shots, in particular a watershot of Waikiki that appeared in the Los Angeles Times, that inspired the next great, the first dedicated surf photographer- ‘Doc’ Ball. To give him his full name: John Heath ‘Doc’ Ball first started playing about with cameras as a kid around the time of the First World War and started surfing at a time when there were perhaps twenty riders in the whole of California. He had just started taking a few photos of the burgeoning scene in 1929 with a Kodak Autographic given to him by his dentist father’s assistant but it was Blake’s spread in the L.A. Times that appeared in 1931 which made him dedicate his life to recording surfing and surf culture. Not just capturing the action, he recorded the parties, lifestyle, board makers and everything that goes with it. Like his father he qualified as a dentist and seeing as it was the time of the Great Depression money was tight for photographic gear, but this was a time when you made your own boards and shorts and everything was a bit more DIY. So he traded expensive gold dental work for a better camera with the L.A fire chief and in 1937 he built his first ‘water box’ for his new Graflex camera. It was literally a wooden box with a brass handle on the side, to take a photo he had to pop open a little door at the front and close it again before the water got in. Shooting on 3 x 4” film the results were impressive. He laid the foundations of modern surf photography by always exploring new angles and techniques. The Second World War put the brakes on the development of surfing in California as many great surfers went to war and never came back. Doc became a ship dentist in the Pacific theatre and kept himself sane by bodysurfing whenever he could with the new swim fins invented by Owen Churchill; the swim fins photographers use these days have hardly changed in over 60 years. After the war surfing and Doc’s photography picked up where they left off his photos appearing in newspapers, books and even the Encyclopaedia Britannica. Tragedy struck in 1964 when Doc’s house was hit by a flood and drowned his archive but thanks to the fact he gave copies of hundreds of photos away many of his timeless images survive.
The ‘60s were a great time of change as surfing and surf culture took off in the mainstream. The first surf magazines appeared and for the first time surf photographers had like-minded souls to talk to. Guys like Don James, John Severson (the man that founded Surfer mag), Ron Church, Endless Summer creator Bruce Brown and Leroy Grannis were freed up from the restrictions of heavy medium format cameras by the new lightweight 35mm SLR cameras from Canon and Nikon. Grannis in particular defines the early ‘60s shooting water shots at many of Hawaii’s most famous waves and documenting classic Californian swells.
The mid ’60s saw surfing explode into the world’s consciousness through films and music. The transition from the black and white to colour film mirrored the loosening of society’s attitudes from post-war conservatism to the drug-fuelled psychedelia that followed. This era is encapsulated by one of surf photography’s most tragic heroes: Ron Stoner. He didn’t pioneer colour surf photography but he was the first one to master it. From 1965-1967 he was ‘the man’ at Surfer Magazine, his sublime work blew the doors off the competition, his images were simply better than anyone else’s working at the time. He shot everything: action, water, line-ups, portraits and more. Proof if proof were needed: he had the cover shot of Surfer for six consecutive issues. His beautifully composed images and undeniable talent however had shaky foundations. Stoner was schizophrenic and like many at the time had drug problems. Electroshock therapy in the late ‘60s left him virtually catatonic; he’d given up shooting by 1971, was listed as a missing person in 1977 and declared dead in 1994. What happened to him is an enduring, tragic mystery.
Surfing grew through the ‘70s (as board lengths shortened) with big names like Art Brewer and Jeff Divine documenting the birth of professional surfing. The next pioneer came from a tangential source- skateboarding. Warren Bolster is widely regarded as the most influential skate photographer from the sports 1970s heyday. He was among the first to use fisheye lenses, motor drives and strobes to document the four-wheel culture. Inspiring through his work in Skateboarder magazine, amongst others, the young Tony Hawk. Bolster moved to Hawaii in 1978 where he quickly established himself as an accomplished surf photographer. The innovation he bought to skating continued as he pioneered shooting the North Shore surf from helicopters, developed remote-control board mounted cameras and later on shooting half in/half out water shots with extra large custom made domes. Like Stoner his creative genius came from a mind on the edge, and sadly he committed suicide with a shotgun in 2006.
The ’80s saw great leaps in camera technology and an event that fundamentally changed surf photography in the same way the introduction of the leash changed surfing.
Canon got a jump on the opposition in the late ‘70s introducing the A-1 the first SLR camera to feature one of the new fangled microprocessors; a fancy device that ushered in the era of auto-exposure. Previously photog’s used handheld light meters and crude in camera LED light meters to help them make their settings manually. Canon also debuted their manual focus 800mm lens in 1981, which became the surf photographers long lens of choice for the decade.
Big names of the era include the legendary aquanaut Don King. An Olympic standard water polo player credited with being the first heavy water wide-angle guy. Previously in Hawaii when the surf got solid photographers would shoot with a long lens from the relative safety of the channel. King used the new fisheye lenses to shoot big Pipe and Backdoor from spots previously considered suicidal. He leaves a lasting legacy that we’ll come to later. He’s still shooting now but tends to shoot moving pictures for Hollywood (Blue Crush, Castaway, Lost, etc). Another big name with a lasting influence was Larry Moore, otherwise known as Flame, as a photographer he documented the new high-performance surfing in California of kids like Christian Fletcher and as photo editor of Surfing magazine he instilled a professionalism and mentored younger shooters with a passion that still inspires today. He was also a pioneer of the pole cam, a water housing mounted on a minimum 3-foot pole that enabled a whole new perspective. Initially he created the system as a way to shoot back towards land on otherwise backlit Californian afternoons. The device came into its own as aerial surfing progressed through the 80s and 90s with Santa Cruz’s Tony Roberts defining a whole new look in fisheye action photography.
The history of surf photography has been entirely American so far so it’s time for a notable nod to the Australians… Being a professional surf photographer in the early ‘80s involved a high degree of skill. Manually focusing an 800mm lens on a fast-moving surfer was a skill worth its weight in gold. One of the leading proponents of long lens work was Sarge. Paul Sergeant earned good money shooting Formula One and surfing and was instrumental in the careers of many young surfers notably Occy. He was also the first gonzo surf photojournalist- filing contest reports, photos and stories as he circled the globe following the then extremely hedonistic pro tour. He wasn’t just a casual observer, in true gonzo tradition he was often seen leading the charge and like many photographers eventually had to admit he had a drink and drug problem and ended his career in utter disgrace.
The approaching tipping point in camera technology was the death knell for photographers of Sarge’s generation summed up in a word: autofocus.
Pentax brought in the first autofocus SLR 1981, but it was the arrival of Canon’s EOS system in 1987 that was the beginning of the end of the highly skilled surf photographer. With the arrival of their now industry standard 600mm lens in 1988 and the launch of the EOS1 pro camera body in 1989 pin sharp photos were achievable by anyone that could borrow $10,000 and could stomach the ongoing cost of purchasing and processing slide film. The era of the artisan was over and for the next 10-years surf photographers multiplied like flies and the previous high earnings and respect for the old guard disappeared…
The ’90s saw little in the way of technological advancement, the EOS1 eventually morphed into the EOS1V a camera capable of shooting 10 frames a second meaning you could shoot a whole role of 36 frames of slide film in 3.5 seconds and Nikon finally caught up with Canon in all fields beginning the arms race which continues to this day.
The ’90s was the decade of excess, the surf industry boomed and the top photographers made a good living, guys like Brian Bielmann, Hank, Ted Grambeau, Sean Davey and Chris Van Lennep defined our surfing world with many exotic trips opening up Tahiti, the Mentawais and many more destinations.
The big change of the ‘90s was happening in the background. An American student by the name of Thomas Knoll had been slowly coding an image manipulation program on his monochrome Mac. Which finally saw the light of day in 1990 as Photoshop v1.0. The boffins at the camera companies meanwhile were beavering away on digital technology leading to Kodak bringing out the first commercial digital camera in 1991 a 1.3 megapixel bastard son of a Nikon F3, priced at a cool $20,000US. Canon delivered the more realistically priced D30 at $3000US in 2000 at the time 3 megapixels was considered pretty cool. These days we scoff at that on a mobile phone.
The 21st century has seen another sea change in photography. Digital imaging at first was resisted strongly by the surf fraternity. In the same way that board-shaping machines took the soul out of the shaper’s craft photographers saw digital as eroding the last vestiges of their trade. Even with state-of-the-art light meters in the cameras surf photographers still relied on handheld light meters and simply ‘knowing’ what the light level was and setting their cameras accordingly; because even the most expensive camera in the world still gets confused by white-water. Slide film and processing was expensive and if you didn’t expose a slide correctly then it was ruined, there was no such thing as ‘fixing it’ in Photoshop then. Digital cameras removed the cost of film and stripped away and knowledge necessary to get correct exposures. Modern times see cameras that trained monkeys could take surf photos with. But all is not lost…
The digital age has also ushered in a new era of experimentation and democratisation. Photographers that learnt their trade in the era of film continue to prosper, as long as they’ve come up to speed with the computer geekery essential to being a photographer these days, and to get incredible shots all you need is a £300 GoPro so anyone can shoot. Along with the big lens, the camera and waterhousing the other modern essential is a laptop with as much horsepower under the hood as possible teamed with the latest incarnation of Photoshop.
Removing the cost of film means you’re not throwing 20p down the drain every time you take a duff frame.
Digital has opened up a whole new world, especially with flashes, flash has been used in the water for more than 20 years but inspired by skateboarding again guys like Tom Carey have pioneered using remote flashes (where an assistant swims with a flash unit in its own housing) to develop a whole new genre of surf photo, Dustin Humphrey and Dave Nelson also did sterling work to progress this field.
The other big change, inspired by legends like Don King and Chris Van Lennep, was in the field of heavy water photography. An area, at its peak, dominated by bodyboarders- Mickey Smith, Scott Aichner, Tim Jones, Jeff Flindt and Daniel Russo et al all regularly swam in what can only be termed as life-threatening surf to capture mind boggling fisheye images. Every season they pushed each other deeper and bigger at the three key heavy water photo studios- Pipeline, Puerto Escondido and Teahupoo. Where it will stop nobody knows and there’s now a whole new generation like Leroy Bellet and Zak Noyle getting crazy in the heavy salt.
So here we are in 2016, digital cameras and the arms race between the big two camera manufacturers has peaked, with Canon’s full frame cameras hitting 20MP at 14fps (EOS1DXII) which also shoots 60fps 4K. Nikon’s D4S hits 11fps at 16MP and Sony’s stunning mirrorless A7 range is disrupting established theories.
The tit-for-tat war will only continue incrementally and established surf photographers will moan for a bit and only upgrade when something crazy is added.
A technological plateau has been hit as there’s only so many megapixels we need, future models will be eventually hit 50MP and 4K filming capability is becoming standard. Frame rate wise once SLR cameras hit 24fps they are no longer stills cameras … they are movie cameras which is a whole different tax headache. The point where you can grab a mag spread from a video frame grab is already here with RED cams. In the future photographers will be filmers that are good at picking key frames from footage.
Is there anywhere left to go creatively? You’d think every angle had been exhausted. 80-years and hundreds of surf photography devotees later there is still plenty of room for shots that make you stop and draw breath, Laurent Pujol pioneered the ‘behind in the tube’ shot. Building on early deep swimming work by Billy Morris and others getting smashed getting behind surfers in the tube this evolved into surfers carrying housings themselves, and now GoPros, but the Pujol angle is a huge leap and young Aussie Leroy Bellet has taken it further adding flash to the mix. It’s the very definition of suffering for your art. Every shot end’s in an ass kicking.
Where we go from here is anyone’s guess, the only thing you can guarantee is the strange, charmed breed that label themselves surf photog’s will be out there suffering for their art. The money is awful but the office can’t be beat…
So. Eddie went. For the first time since 2009 the most famous big wave event in the world finally went down at the renowned Waimea Bay.
Pe’ahi has stolen the spotlight in recent years as the bay slumbered. Was the Eddie still relevant now paddle performance was hitting new heights on the neighbouring island of Maui and around the world? In a word: yes.
Waimea’s boil ridden ledge is a unique challenge and the waves from the #Brockswell, named in honour of recently departed legend Brock Little, were the perfect answer. Maxing Waimea, frequent close out sets. Best in 40-years according Eddie’s little bro Clyde who still donned a rashie at 66. It was riveting viewing. Waimea in fugly mood with the world’s best big wave riders keen to honour Eddie and Brock meant for some heroic moments and a good few wipeouts that had to be watched through the fingers. The highlights reel isn’t ready yet but there’s plenty on the WSL YouTube channel.
The early money was on Dorian with a side bet on John Florence and Kelly. But it was the old guard of Ross Clark Jones, still killing it at fifty something, that got an early start. In the end John, from just down the Kam Highway, took the honour. Kind of fitting, he is the new Hawaiian royalty. So the dust settles and we wait for next season. Or maybe another six years before the Eddie goes again…
Official WSL Press Release
John John Florence (HAW) brought a new style and a new generation to big wave surfing today by winning the Quiksilver in Memory of Eddie Aikau Big Wave Invitational, a World Surf League Specialty Event, in waves of up to 60-feet. Florence won $75,000 – the biggest purse in Big Wave riding, with a 4-wave total of 301 out of 400 points.
“I was excited just to be part of the event,” said Florence. “I was so nervous, I thought, oh gosh, I just gotta get through this day and hopefully get a couple of waves!
“I was riding my bike down here this-morning in the dark and just the energy of how many people were parked all the way down the street. I’ve lived here my whole life and I’ve never seen it like that. Walking down the beach, like Uncle Clyde was saying, people just screaming, and the energy was so crazy. I’ve never been a part of an event like this. It’s definitely the highlight of my life for sure.
“Biggest of all, I want to say thanks to the Aikau family and Quiksilver for putting on this amazing event. I’ve only seen it run a couple of times in my life so to be a part of it, to be surfing in it, and to actually win it is such a dream come true…against all these legends. These guys are my heroes since I’ve been growing up. And thanks to my mom and my family and all my good friends who are here.”
Florence, 23, edged out previous event winner Ross Clarke-Jones (AUS) with a late charge in his second round heat, posting his top two rides of the day during a flurry of gigantic waves. Better known for his year-round pursuits on the WSL Championship Tour, Florence is fast forging himself a place at the head of the big wave riding movement that is regarded a discipline all its own.
Third place today was Shane Dorian (HAW); fourth went to Jamie Mitchell (AUS); fifth was Kelly Slater (USA); and sixth was Makuakai Rothman (HAW).
A capacity crowd of 25,000 lined the headland-to-headland arena of Waimea Bay, witnessing eight hours of uninterrupted, mind-blowing entertainment. They roared and gasped as the 28-man field offered up fearless rides and more than a few horrific wipeouts from sun up to sun down.
Today’s conditions were the most epic ever for an “Eddie” and will surely go down as the greatest one-day Big Wave event in history. The emotions and energy were on overload with what surfers were calling “Brock’s Swell,” in honor of long-time Eddie invitee and Hawaii Big Wave rider Brock Little, who lost his battle with cancer just last week.
Those who rode today were nothing short of gladiators, armed with surfboards of up to 11-feet in length that were still dwarfed by the ocean’s tonnage. They pitted world-class skills along with their lives against the adrenaline-inducing display of Mother Nature.
The undeniable crowd favorite, drawing a standing ovation wave as he walked from Waimea Bay Beach Park to the shoreline, was 66-year-old Clyde Aikau – Eddie Aikau’s younger brother, who has contested all nine Quiksilver In Memory of Eddie Aikau Big Wave Invitational events through 31 years, declaring this to be his last.
In all, 141 dramatic rides were logged today, including gutsy charges by Eddie Aikau rookies Koa Rothman (HAW) and Mason Ho (HAW); last minute Alternate starters Danilo Couto (BRZ) and Ben Wilkinson (AUS); and emotionally charged, seasoned rides by Slater and Dorian, in memory of close friend Brock Little.
The world famous Hawaiian Water Patrol were the bedrock of today’s event, without whose support the organizers would never have been able to call the day “on.” Their safety support and assistance in harrowing moments will see every surfer return home safe tonight.
At times it was as if there were two spectacular events going on at the same time as surfers dropped down feathering walls, and a fleet of rescue jet-skis gunned to outrun avalanches of water as they bolted towards beach or horizon.
Along with the Water Patrol support was the added layer of confidence athletes had with the Quiksilver x Aqua Lung Inflatable Vest – a technology that didn’t exist when The Eddie was last held in December of 2009. Only three of the 28 athletes today competed without a vest.
“It was actually nice to have it, to have the option,” said Ross Clarke-Jones. “Because if I don’t wear it, then I’m going to get hammered. I chose to wear it and I didn’t need it till the last wave. It was the last wave and I thought I’ll pull it anyway because I got pounded and it just came out like a breeze. It’s an incredible piece of equipment.”
Each surfer contested two rounds of 1-hour, 7-man heats, with their top four scoring rides at the end of the day producing their final event score. Each ride was scored out of a total of 100 points, with size of wave, critical nature of the take-off, and successful completion of a ride all factors.
Oahu’s Aaron Gold was awarded today with the The Quiksilver GO Challenge for a massive wave ridden at Pe’ahi a month ago that has been estimated at more than 70 feet. The special award was offered up to all Quiksilver in Memory of Eddie Aikau Invitees and Alternates for the biggest, most critical wave ridden in the Hawaiian Islands during the holding period of this event up to today. Gold won $10,000 for his efforts.
The Quiksilver In Memory of Eddie Aikau is the original one-day, Big Wave surfing event, started in memory of Hawaiian waterman, Waimea Bay lifeguard and Big Wave pioneer Eddie Aikau. What started 31 years ago to pay tribute to Aikau, has grown to become an almost mythic event whose elusiveness has only fueled its global appeal. The Eddie only runs when wave face heights reach a minimum of 40 feet at Waimea Bay… a day so rare it has only happened nine times in 31 years. Today was one of those days.
The Quiksilver in Memory of Eddie Aikau Final Results:
1 – John John Florence (HAW) 301
2 – Ross Clarke-Jones (AUS) 278
3 – Jamie Mitchell (AUS) 249
4 – Kelly Slater (USA) 238
5 – Dave Wassel (HAW) 230
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