Photogenic!!! -- 2/5/00

I was "satisfied" with the results. Unknown, scoring at Backdoor

Recent conditions have been outstanding, with light winds and clear skies. A simultaneous string of low pressure systems has been marching across the North Pacific, providing us with consistently moderate to large surf. The weekend allowed me to partake in some of the action.

Of course, Saturday came just as one swell went on the decline and the next one not scheduled to kick in until late in the day. It was just like me to catch the action right on the dip.

I paddled out at pre-dawn with a couple of other bodyboarders in the hopes of snagging a few before the onslaught of bodies filled the lineup. Good thing.

First wave was just so nice! Patiently waited for an overhead peak to show up. Was a little late on the takeoff, feeling my way down in the darkness. Did a sharp bottom turn and pulled in high, losing an edge slightly. Fortunately, I quickly regained control and just sat in the tube before the wave spat, then spat me out. So stoked!

Quickly windmilled myself back out and immediately lucked into an identical ride on a slightly smaller wave. Was this going to be one of those magical surf days?


After that, I just couldn't put it together. For some reason, I started feeling tentative about my riding. On many occasions, I took off, then straightened out, getting snowballed by the whitewater. I just didn't feel confident enough to pull in.

To compound the problem, tons of people quickly filled the lineup. By 7:30 AM, there were about 50 bodies bobbing about in the Pipeline/Backdoor area. It was like Friday afternoon traffic on the H-1 freeway with a couple of stalls and accidents to boot. Guys were taking off literally shoulder-to-shoulder on the peak, with lots of calling out for waves. It was an ugly scene.

After a while I got so flustered that, as far as my bodyboarding was concerned, I decided to call it a day. But since it was still early, I figured that I shouldn't squander the opportunity to shoot some of the action.

I lucked into a small, but decent last wave and got heavily pitted, spitted and released, riding to shore with a big grin on my face.

Grabbed my cam and quickly jumped back in. Just so happened that Don King (shooting 16 mm film) was going in at the same time. Always reassuring to hang with the "real" water photogs.

Conditions were just pristine! The new swell seemed to already be on the rise, with a decent westerly push. Pipeline was going off and even Backdoor was makeable. There was a bit of funk from some crossed swell and backwash, but otherwise, it was just epic.

I originally planned to shoot the lefts at Pipeline, taking advantage of the comfortable channel and the direct front lighting. However, when Don headed towards Off The Wall, I decided to follow him. Figured he must know what he's doing. ;-)

When I got to the impact zone at Backdoor, I stopped paddling. No matter where Don was going, I wasn't moving any further. Though the front/side lighting was sharp (when shooting the rights at Backdoor), the waves were just too pretty to pass up.

Changing my photo style, I decided to just shoot indiscriminantly. My time was limited, and I always regret holding back and missing great shots to conserve film. I figured just shoot!

Btw, the next time you jump in the water with a Nikonos, make sure you know how much shots are on the roll. Though I was just shooting anything that moved, I still had to pace myself so that I could gauge my water time wisely. But like an idiot, I didn't notice my film roll length and the Nikonos doesn't have a window from which you can see your film type. Ack!

Funny thing was I ended up shooting a whole lot of empty wave pics. This is not to say that it was uncrowded. If anything, the crowd had thickened since I left the lineup. In fact, with the influx of water photogs (maybe six or eight of us scattered all around), the waveriding zoo got rowdier as surfers and bodyboarder alike had visions of stardom, jockeying and dropping in on each other relentlessly.

I've shot at Backdoor before and have had some harrowing experiences of getting caught inside. This time though, it was a cakewalk, with a fairly well-defined channel.

As a matter of fact, of the three water photogs at Backdoor, I was sitting the deepest in the impact zone. Got a lot of "back-of-the-head" shots of the other cameramen, but no biggie. They are doing it for a living--I'm doing it for fun. There is a pecking order that needs to be respected, even in surf photography.

There was one largish set that caught us all inside, though. Had to dive to the bottom three times in a row and weave through the plumes of turbulence and glide over the flat, but sharp reef. Having no board to hold you back really makes a difference in duck-diving waves.

When all was said and done, I spent about 45 minutes shooting 25 shots. I knew I got some solid photo opps, but you can never count your chickens before they hatch. I was sweating bullets in anticipation of the results.

Two days later, after flipping through the thousands of other film packages at Costco, this is what I found...

"Small" grinder at Backdoor

Unknown taking off into oblivion at oily Aint's

Unknown, behind the 8-ball at Backdoor

Backwashed tube at Aint's

Unknown sponger, taking off late at Aint's

You should see the "throwaways..."

Also check out the one from my disposable camera

Aloha from Paradise,