How to get the best out of your GoPro

Every surfer worth his salt has a GoPro camera these days. Hours of fun whether it’s six foot perfection or half a foot shorebreak. The quality of the images and video that you can get with these incredible tiny cameras can blow your mind. Shoot yourself by using one of the funky board mounts or take turns to shoot your mates or get arty with some empty wave shots. Alan Stokes, pro surfer and GoPro fanatic shares his tips on how to score some gold.

The Right Kit
“Get a GoPro HD Hero2, they’re amazing pieces of kit. Small, light and filled with some incredible technology,” says Stokesy. The HD2s retail for £280 or so and seem to sell out quick so if a store has them in stock, nab yourself one. “You need a leash to attach the camera to your wrist as you will lose your grip on it from time to time when you get lipped, I use an old ankle attachment from a normal surfboard leash that I’ve customised,” commented Alan. He’s also found that if you purchase the suction mount car attachment you can take the suction bit off it, the remaining plastic attachment makes a good handle to hold it with in the water. There are a million ways to work with the camera, hand held, shoulder mounted, head mounted, nose or tail of board.

Techy Shiz
Stokesy has upgraded some of his kit. “I decided to go for a 32 GB memory card so that I have 5500 shots to burn through when I’m in the water shooting stills,” he said. “By setting it on the ten frames per second setting I aim to get the good shot on the fifth shot so it gives you a good chance of scoring, the more you shoot, the more the chance of success.”
Through trial and error, Stokesy has also found that the Backpac which GoPro offer (a screen that attaches to the back of the camera so that you can see exactly what you’re shooting) causes a slight delay so he no longer uses it. But it is really handy for setting the angle of board mounts and shooting land gear. Keep the camera under the water as much as possible as if you keep on putting it under the water then above the water over and over, the constant temperature change can cause it to steam up (especially in really hot countries). Keep your fingers off the front of the camera as the incredible fish eye lens will pick up any finger tip touching the front of the camera. Lick the housing port as you go in the sea to stop drips forming. The board mounts take a bit of practice to get the angle correct if you’ve not got the screen. Experiment on land first to get the best results.

So how do I shoot a cover?
“I love shooting empty barrel shots and have had my best results on small, clean, offshore days,” says Al. If you’re mounting the camera on your board to shoot yourself, it also looks better if it’s barrelling. Stokesy opts to hang in the shorebreak with out his board and tends not to use swim fins. He only bothers with them if there’s a shallow shorey with a drop off in to deep water. As with most photography, the better the light, the better the shots tend to be. Also good water colour and sand colour help a lot. The infinity focus means that in theory, anything from an inch away to infinity will be in focus. Generally the closer you are to your subject, the better the results. Low light will make your shots blurred due to the shutter speed.

Alan has found that it’s essential to keep the seal of the housing clean. Always wash it out to avoid leaks. If you’re in warm, sunny weather, make sure that you set up the camera before applying your sun block to save smears on the camera. Stokesy chooses to keep his GoPro in a Bart Simpson snowboarding sock when he’s travelling to save it getting scratched or damaged, treat it well and it will last. If you’re shooting mates or trying to get empty barrel shots, you’ll be taking a few waves on the head so it’s not a bad idea to use ear plugs. Stokesy’s final tip is to name your images. So far his favourite shots have been christened “First Light”, “Storm Rider” and “The Evil Ice Claw of Death”!

If you get any decent shots, send them in to [email protected] we’d love to use them on our website or in the mag! Go shoot!

GoPros are available at