Surf to write
Or in my case, from behind the lens.
Write a story relating to surfing; photographing it, living it – sounds pretty simple doesn’t it? I thought so until five years ago. I mean, one day I was down at Kommetjie beach – lighthouse side – in the corner armed with a camera. I had never attempted surf photography before, in fact, I never gave surfing a second glance. Yet there I was, looking through the lens at a few chaps out there surfing. I asked myself, ‘Really, is this all it is? It looks like skateboarding on water.’ Then I noticed a woman sitting on the dunes watching her man learning the ropes on a board. For over an hour she sat there just watching. Is it really that interesting? I was not sure.
I moved to the Eastern Cape, ten minutes away from the famed Supertubes in Jeffery’s Bay and I started snapping away, a new hobby perhaps? The more I shot the more I learnt. Soon I started taking, what I thought were some pretty neat shots but, they were never featured no matter where I posted them. So one day I emailed the editor of Zigzag and asked what they are looking for, because I really thought that some of my shots were up there. There are two things I remember from his response, they want shots that tell a story and it always helps to get close ups of the surfer’s faces. So armed with this new knowledge, I was back out there snapping away, new angles, getting the timing right but still, something did not feel right. I felt empty.
In St Francis Bay I befriended a local surfer and we got chatting. He allowed me to “practice” my surf photography with him We then started talking about the surf and a whole new world opened up for me. Suddenly it was not just about the swell rolling in and breaking, it was about wind direction, swell direction, what the sand was doing that brought it all together to create the right conditions. Like a puzzle, pieces started falling into place, my shots got better, and started telling stories in their own right. Then ShotBru used a photo of mine in their selected twenty of the month (shot ShotBru). Yet, still I felt like there were pieces missing.
Being a regular 9-5 overworked, underpaid landlubber I bought what I could afford, a DiCipac waterproof housing unit for my camera and started venturing out into the water getting a little closer to the surfers. Not very easy when you’re used using both hands to shoot. In the water you can only really use the one hand, which makes it harder to manoeuvre. I persevered and again ShotBru rewarded me by including a couple of my shots in another collection.
One morning I went out just as the sun broke the horizon and got some amazing shots. I had walked many a mile sneaking up on the ocean and snapping a few from behind the bushes like some peeping Tom. By now I was getting regular photos in the featured ShotBru galleries, but again there was something missing with the activity I was steadily falling in love with
Then one morning it happened, like your first orgasm, a revelation. I was out beyond the breakers before the sun came up. It was there for the first time that I felt the ocean move around me, like the blood through my veins, it heaved and rolled like it was breathing and I was just there moving with it. I found myself relaxed and smiling. I started taking pics. Pictures I would never have seen unless I had felt them first. I allowed myself to just be in the moment, in the sea. And click. I was living the image.
That morning I believe I found the missing piece to the puzzle and it is this:
Nature does not allow you to just show up and click. She has to let you in, invite you into her “inner circle” and experience it. You only get there with dedication and determination. You have to be present. That is when, for me as a water and surf photographer, you capture those moments. Like the ‘whooooop’ you hear from surfers when someone has caught an awesome wave, that moment, shared… I know what it is… I think you call it stoke!
You gotta live it, feel it, and experience it before you can tell its story, from behind the lens or down the barrel of a pen.
*All Images © Christopher Scott
This submission is a part of Zigzag’s ‘Write To Surf’ journo contest.
Send your stories to firstname.lastname@example.org. One submission will be selected every six weeks to appear in Zigzag magazine. The selected submission will also receive a hamper from Billabong. Zigzag retains the right to use any work submitted for the Zag Surf Journo competition on zigzag.co.za as outlined in the rules and terms of the competition. Zigzag reserves the right not to award a published winner in the magazine every six weeks, depending on the quality of entries. Zigzag is not obligated to run any and all entries submitted, either online or in print. Zigzag retains the right to edit all work submitted for brevity and / or clarity. Please note: Prize hampers will only be delivered within South Africa.
The Billabong prize hamper includes: 1 x Billabong Wetsuit; 1 x Billabong Backpack; 1 x Billabong Cap; 1 x Von Zipper Sunnies; 1x Billabong Boardshorts.