"Hassle the photographers" -- 2/22/02

Small, but sweet!
More photos here

Had a day off, so after doing my honeydo's, I zoomed out to the North Shore to check out the action. For some reason, I wasn't all that jazzed to ride. I just had this strong urge to shoot from the water, and since the Gotcha Pipeline surfing event was on, I decided to try my luck there.

The area around Ehukai Beach Park was a madhouse of cars and people. Apparently, the area was being shared not just by the contest crowd and onlookers, but by the film crew that was shooting "Surf Girls" right next door at Ehukai.

The surf was tiny by North Shore standards with just overhead surf coming in from the northwest. Easterly trades buffeted the waves offshore, making for some nice, misty overspray. The water color was exceptional, with nice blues and green hues across the sandbars and reefs. Also, there were hardly any clouds--very important in surf photography. It was small, but all the other elements were in place for a good photo shoot.

Earlier, when I was getting my gear together, I found that I had already preloaded some film in the camera. Had to lose a shot to make sure, and I wasn't certain if the film speed was set correctly or how many shots was left (no film window on the Nikonos). I just guessed that it was still the Fuji Provia (asa 400, 36 exposure). Kinda unsettling because you want to know exactly what your limits are before swimming.

(Apologize in advance for the shameless name-dropping.)

First, I had to schmooze things over with the contest crew, rekindling old friendships and making sure it was all right to shoot. I first went to the venerable Rabbit Kekai just fo' talk story and to find out where contest director Reid Inouye was. He directed me to Mick O'Brien's house out back. On my way there, I had to hassle announcers Bo Hodge and Jeannie Chesser, who have playfully given me some jabs through the years. Found Reid with head judge Jack Shipley and we shot the crap for a bit.

After getting the green light from all parties, I grabbed my gear and headed for the shoreline, acknowledging photog Bernie Baker on the way out (who was judging at the time).

Swam out real easily to the lineup and hung out in the Pipe channel. After shooting my first shot, I realized I didn't check the camera settings. Of course, it was set wrong. Argh!

I soon realized that Backdoor was better, so just before the end of a heat, I started getting closer to the competitors. "Water photographer, please move out of the contest lineup!" was blurted out by Bo to the entire beach. Little did I know that this would be the trend of things to come. I acknowledged him and backed off, but soon after, the horn sounded the end of the heat and I motored across the lineup and into the "channel" at Backdoor.

It's amazing what a difference the angle of the sun can make. Whereas the lighting at Pipe was more backlit and shadowy, shooting from Backdoor had this very tropical look, with the water color really looking vibrant.

I was feeling pretty good, just cruising all by my lonesome. Because the surf was so small, I was sitting in water that was barely seven feet deep. I was the only one shooting, and it felt great. Of course, it didn't last.

Soon, a couple of videographers joined me. One was named Ray Hollowell, who was the hired hand for Gotcha to shoot the event. The other was named Mike, who was shooting slo-mo video set at 140 fps!!!

Those guys really knew how to get into position. They sat real tight and got up close with the contestants. Sometimes a bit too close, I thought.

Two things happened because of that. The first was that I got a whole bunch of shots of the backs of their heads as they deftly positioned themselves ahead of me and in the midst of the action. It was a bummer for me, but I understood that this is their livelihood and just my hobby.

But the other thing was that the announcers starting to continually call us away, saying that we were too close to the competitors. It was really frustrating because it wasn't like we were totally clueless. We've all done it before and made sure that we did't get in the way.

Yet over and over again, Bo would boom out a warning for us to get further away. I think the judges were on his case.

Ray joked to me that it seems they "hassle the photographers" every single time, even though we are the very ones promoting and documenting the event. It's almost like it's their duty to hassle us when we are out there.

Eventually, Mike gave up and paddled back to Off the Wall. I hung in there, but the complaints kept coming so I finally followed Mike out of the lineup, leaving Ray behind. Guess by leaving just one camera dude in the lineup, it eased the judges a bit because the whining stopped.

Moving over to OTW wasn't a total loss. Actually, the waves were punchier there, with some pretty hot action going down. Perry Dane was dominating the lineup, along with longboarder Lance Hookano and some bodyboarder dropping da knee.

After burning my film, I came in feeling fairly exhausted and all worked out. I went back to the judges stand to make peace, but nobody gave a s#!t. They all understood that I was trying to help the contest, not undermine it.

Guess they just had to play "hassle the photographer" after all. :-)

Aloha from Paradise,