ABOUT SIX YEARS AGO, while surfing alone at sunrise on a flawless winter morning, I had a bizarre revelation: I came to the conclusion that I’d rather be taking pictures of these waves than trying to ride them. Insane. I know. I was paddling out, the sun had just risen over the mountains to the south, and as I went to duck-dive under an approaching wave I turned my head to the left and watched the sun’s reflection bend and morph up around the lip, creating this golden orb.
The remainder of the day was spent thinking about that image; it was burned into my mind. I eventually bought a water housing (which looks like a pistol with a small shoebox attached to it), put my camera in it, and started swimming and shooting. Sunrise after sunrise, winter after winter, I spent many a cold morning by myself out in the water hunting these barrels. The following is a collection of some of the waves I’ve captured over the years.
Locations are listed in the captions. For the Newport Beach ones I’m withholding the name of the exact beach because it took me two years to discover, and a lot of early mornings to get it. Hope you understand.
Oh…and as many people ask, I do still surf, it’s just that when it gets good I go grabbing for my camera instead of my board.
1. Blue Note
2. Aquatic Reflections
The lip of this wave forms a shape that looks like an eagle swooping down to capture its prey.
3. Golden Room
I remember holding my breath and sitting on the reef as the wave passed over my head. I kept thinking to myself, “This looks like an IMAX movie…” except it was real life.
This was a heavy heavy wave that was breaking in about a foot deep of water. If you look at the center of the barrel you can see that the wave is actually sucking the sand up from the bottom.
7. Caribbean Dream
This is the view I dream of when I sleep.
10. Glassy Evening
11. Goddess of the Sea
It was a beautiful morning: warm, Santa Ana winds blowing, and a rather high tide that was messing with the surf. I knew the conditions were going to be pretty good to shoot some barrel shots and decided to wake up at the crack of dawn.
After freezing my ass off (also, the sun was getting too bright), I decided to head back to my car to see what I got. I changed out of my wetsuit, sat in my car, and turned on the heater. I began flipping through the images. I was anxious to get to the shots with the sun up but as I powered my way through the early shots, I saw one that I noticed was kinda weird. As I clicked back to it, I just couldn’t believe it, there she was…the Goddess of the Sea staring right down the barrel. A bit like some kind of celestial surfer, getting tubed.
12. Bluffs 2
13. Heavy Aliso
Sometimes, in order to get these shots, you have to put yourself in a position where you know you’re going to take a beating…this was one of those. I think I’m still cleaning sand out of my ears after getting worked on this one.
14. Ice Cave
15. Misty Strands
16. Over Under
17. Pacific Falls
18. Peep Hole
20. Sand Bar
I love looking at this one and noticing how the water is sucking up off the sand bar to the left of the image. This barrel broke on about a foot of water and you would not have been a happy camper if you got caught in its way.
24. Surf and Sand
25. Wake Up
26. Honest Glass
Sunset on Christmas day…not a single person out and beautiful waves for days.