Archive for February, 2010


Wednesday, February 24th, 2010


Tyler Swain and I strode arm in arm, lock step, across the pavers in the foyer of the swank, old, Figueroa Hotel. It was a rainy night in Downtown LA. I was just back from some time away with Shawn Alladio in Oregon and Northern California, and being immersed in watery adventure. Tyler was fresh off the set of Jackass 3 where he is engaged as camera. He had just survived being taken out with a twelve inch dildo fired at him down a hallway from a potato cannon. It had struck him mid chest and dropped him. Then there was the taser. My face hurt from laughing at the picture he had painted.

We walk different worlds, he and I, but fell in together gratefully this night. It seems that we never really get enough time to catch up. The cool damp air of the foyer presaged our trip out into the craziness of a Saturday night in LA, and the traffic created by whatever was going on at nearby Staples Center.

I am not a fan of LA. It is concrete claustrophobia to me, seasoned with dashed dreams and desperate hope, clung to by denizens and transients with claws of  blue steeled sorrow.  But this is where Tyler lives, when he is not traveling, filming or creating some wild thing or another.

Donna and Brittany trail behind the two of us. One of them says something in a sarcastic tone, to the effect of “Oh we see how it is, you two have your arms around each other and we are left behind”. Tyler and I grin, and do not say much, jerking the girls along, as we dive into the fluorescent night time, in search of a dinner together, before we go our separate ways, paths and dreams.

Illustrative Matrix

Illustrative Matrix

A scant few yards of sidewalk pass underfoot, and over the clean scent of rain, wafts the salty sweet fragrance of onion and bacon in a stark yet pleasant counterpoint. A friendly looking Hispanic woman smiles at us and chants “Bacondogs.” It is a statement, more than a query.

“Ever had one Tyler?”,  I ask. “Oh many’s the time when I was wandering along, and that is what I had.  It’s late, been drinking, and nothing sounds as good as grilled meat and grease. Seriously.”

We step into the middle of Ninth St., and I look up after making sure nothing is going to run us down. The Marriott Hotel stands, a black obelisk against the brighter grays of a city lit, cloud layer, which steadily flows across black eternity, giving us brief glimpses of the starry expanse beyond.  Strobe beams dash to and fro like a laser light show. The scene is awe inspiring and strange. I knew that were I to set camera to tripod, we would be stopped in short order by some sort of official representative of LA’s no filming fan club. That says it all about LA for me: look, but do not touch, or share. We want it all for ourselves. What that braying really means is “pay us”. It is death to any conscious creative. It also strangles the asset  value of this piece of real estate. No one owns anything. Not really. Even the heart changes.

Here is something perfectly illustrative. It underscores much regarding man’s  path, and God, His. If you get your head around it, please drop me a note, as I have failed to do so. I already knew of my minuteness in intimate detail, thank you.

The four of us have a pleasant meal at a nouveau style bistro, and great conversation seasons it. The wait staff is personable and dives right in, as if they had known us far longer than thirty minutes. I appreciated them. The affect was not unlike being in a street side café in the Sumatran port town of Sibolga. I think it may be a third world tenet: hospitality to strangers. LA is peculiar in it’s similarity to things third world.

It is not that I despise the place. It is that I am uncomfortable there. Each visit reminds me that I am a stranger in a strange land. The wayfarer from abroad, on my way to a vital and loving reality. Yet each time I do manage a visit, I seem to experience what I like to call, a Matrix moment.

A Matrix moment is what was illustrated on film by the Wachowski brothers in their Matrix film series. It is when apparent time slows to a crawl and one becomes intimately aware of every detail and it’s movement through time. It causes me to understand, to comprehend something, by forcing me to slow down, and embrace the realization created by a complete shift in the tempo of my perception of time.

Those moments are inexplicably placed for me. They are cosmic signposts. But the number of things which must transpire in order for the moment to occur, are so involved and convoluted in form, that it boggles the mind. It convinces me that what is seen,  is frequently not what it appears to be. Unbeknownst to me, as we rumbled down Figueroa Blvd in the sinister black, Speed 3, looking for the 110 freeway entrance, one of those moments was about to occur.

That night had begun with the intention of attending a Sidestepper concert at Cal State University. Donna had won tickets on KCRW. We had been a little late due to traffic and the tickets had been given away. No biggie, I actually felt relieved as a three hour concert was not my idea of a good time. I was just trying to be a good humored escort. So I had called Tyler from the theater. He was at the Figueroa, having rented a suite for the night for an evening in Downtown. But it all began with the intention to attend that concert.

Finding the freeway entrance, I ignored Donna’s directions to go the other way, and we hot pedaled into a slot in slug tempo traffic. In awhile we had merged into the center lane of Hwy 101 N and meandered in the flow, towards our friend Brian’s place, for a party.

Up ahead I saw a trailer loaded with PWC’s and Donna said “Hey isn’t that Shawn?” My first reaction was: “Nah, probably a race team headed for an event.” Then I saw the deep blue truck Shawn uses as a tow vehicle and her home away from home. There we were, at an intersection, in a place none of us would ever be of our own volition or planning. Then it happened. As Donna rolled down her window screaming hellos and I love yous,  time slowed and we pulled alongside each other.

On my ten o clock a helo was hanging in pace with us. On my left, a champagne SUV was easing up to pass. Shawn turned and smiled somewhat amusedly. A midnight blue late model Saturn was changing lanes on the opposite side of her truck. Time crawled and I saw everything at a near standstill almost as if it were a high resolution still frame.  My car phone rang.  Shawn: “Hey David, I could hear Donna screaming while you guys were still back by the trailer.” “Yep. Funny seeing you here. Safe drive. Love you.”

And as everything shifted back into real time, I eased into the number one lane and softly throttled up. Shawn was on her way to a course in Morro Bay, where she was to train a select group of rescue personnel. I was on my way to hang with a bunch of creatives. I knew that both our heads would hit pillow at about the same time later that next morning. There are no accidents, only intersecting lives. This is the matrix. It is what determines our future. It is how I find subjects in my view finder, and how I come to love them.

This link is to the recent Music Video Tyler, Rob Dafoe and I made. The LA scenes are shot within a stones throw of where we stood tonight. It was a huge cosmic slow down, and is replete with Matrix moments. It is an example of why I connect to some people on a uniquely separate level. I only recently began to truly get a grip on this. But that is how life works. I appreciate shooting stars and how they can intersect. It only occurs when both position themselves by following their own paths. I have recognized this occurrence a lot in my career and life: the same characters will re appear at critical junctures.

I thought about Shawn, as I fell asleep at around 3:30 am.

I just finished writing this. The image below dropped into my e mail in box on cue. It is of Shawn, ready to embark on a training ride, in a rising swell, which I had been watching online. It is raining. If you have read this far, you are in. Welcome to the matrix.

K38 Morro Bay

K38 Morro Bay

The Mavericks Challenge: Ready, Aim, Stand

Friday, February 19th, 2010




An Operator’s perspective

I am just in the door from Maverick’s. We had quite an adventure up there.

This trip I was a part of the K38  Mavericks Water Rescue Team.

I joined K38 long ago, on the heels of shooting the 2000 Tow Surfing Championships at Jaws. I realized in the course of my process, that I had a debt of responsibility to both my subjects, the sport, and myself, (being a sentient human being) to be prepared and accountable as a responsible participant in documenting and filming surfing.

My motivation in seeking out K38 training, was to be able to respond appropriately and professionally in an emergency.

One of my mentors taught me early on, that a photographer is responsible for what he creates. I looked on in horror after my tow surfing imagery  helped  Surfer, Billabong XXL, Towsurfer, etc…. launch the new sport into the main stream, and realized that what I had created, could potentially  contribute to someone that I care about perishing.

My mentor explained that when you point a camera at someone,  they may do things not ordinarily embarked upon, should the camera be absent. I felt responsible for what I helped to create. (Bruce Brown had told me that he felt the same way about Cape Saint Francis, after shooting Endless Summer.)

So I had eventually sought out Shawn Alladio, and K38 Rescue. Though I never gave her the entire story on my motivation, she graciously accepted me into her program. In the course of several years I have participated in her training programs on various levels and received certification as a Rescue Boat Operator.

Lately, I find Shawn and myself working shoulder to shoulder a lot. The message is always the same: educate, be prepared, no one dies. Being on a team is sort of a strange concept for me.  Having been a competitive swimmer, cyclist, professional surfer et al (There are more solo sports on my list.) I found that my biggest challenge was to throttle down, or “stand down”,  as they say in the military. After many years, I am finally beginning to “get” that concept.

K38 training exemplifies and endows discipline. So these days, I bite my tongue, hold my Hawaiian temper in check, do what I am told. I am learning to serve, at last. I have placed myself under another’s authority.

Mavericks Rescue Team Background Story, as provided by Shawn Alladio:


Shawn Alladio: K38 Rescue

Shawn Alladio: K38 Rescue


“We were up at 4:20am getting ready for the 2009-2010 Mavericks Surf Contest the day of the historic event. We broke at midnight the evening prior after our PPE/gear checks and briefings.

The K38 crew provided the water rescue and assistance for the 24 athletes competing during the February 13, event. I’m very proud of the K38 Rescue team. They came together focused, did their job and did well. They took leadership values and incorporated them into a work ethic that produced results.

This was Ryan Augensteins’ first event. This team is committed to training and endorsing the K38 Way and standards for the future of water rescue during big wave events. I’ve had the honor of training a stellar team in South Africa who really set the bar professionally for big wave safety coverage. This team I am working with will have a minimum 3 year training timeline to perfect the necessary skills to be ‘rescue qualified’ on this level.

So K 38 was given the mission to assemble a team comprised of certified Rescue Boat operators and the local crew. An invitation to participate was sent out to a hand picked group of candidates. A select few people stepped forward.

The Mavericks K38 Rescue Team:

Vince Broglio (Captain)

Russell Smith

Garrett McNamara

Ryan Augenstein

Shawn Alladio

K38 Assistants/Patrol:

Ryan Levinson

Jonathan Cahill

K38 Mavericks Ocean Rescue Team

K 38 Mavericks Ocean Rescue Team

Additional Support:

Kelli Rumore

Nicole Levinson

Joy Portelli

Photographer, Camera Operator:

David Pu’u

We used Kawasaki ULTRA LX models, K38 Rescue Boards and our K38 boats/helmets were outfitted with GoPro HD cameras.”  Alladio

The new acting interim Harbormaster for Pillar Point is Mr. Robert Johnson. Deputy Harbor officer Cary Smith was the point of contact for the PPHD for the Mavericks Surf contest operations.

The Pillar Point Harbor Department offered generous and steady support.

Circling overhead was a USCG Helo and on the outskirts of the surf break, two fully manned USCG rescue vessels watched.  The legendary 47 MLB, and the 87 foot Rescue Class Cutter: Protector, the Pike.

Further peripheral support was provided by the HMB FD. I had the pleasure of working along side two of their men in the course of the event. Steady professionals.

It was an honor to be in the first line of defense, supported by various public safety agencies with men and women of this caliber.  The large asset deployment at this event was primarily to manage the huge amount of boating and spectator traffic. NOAA had issued media warnings in an effort to cut down on traffic at the event this year.

It worked for the most part. Still, it was difficult not to notice things like an obviously out of place person aboard a PWC which was labeled with the name of a surfing publication and who, when questioned by authorities, could only keep repeating the words “I am with S— magazine”, as if that gave him license to have the PWC in the lineup.

What I saw this day:

A large, building, 290 degree NW primary swell, that peaked in the course of the day with 22 feet at 17 second buoy readings, and two other swells. The combination of swell size, angle, and interval created a unique top wave that allowed for the surfers to ramp up to speeds not normally possible, which assisted entry into an exceptionally clean and concave wave face.

The ocean conditions this event day are exceptionally rare to experience, and in my 42 years of surfing and ocean activities as a waterman, and 12 years as a photographer, I am shocked to see such a rare meteorologic occurrence happen on an event day.

What transpired, was a best case, designer conditions day. With  superior competitor support, the measure of confidence on the part of the athletes, contributed to the establishing of a new bar in surfing performance at size.

So many athletes rose to the challenge this day, that I am a little dumbfounded. What I saw, exceeded anything prior in the context of my experience, in terms of ability, courage, bravado and success.

I used the Canon 5D Mark 2 system and the Go Pro HD system, and support was provided by Go Pro

I produced a detailed stills image list of iconic Surfing and Rescue Community support documentation, and shot 7 hours of motion and time lapse capture for a documentary that will focus on the event from a behind the scenes point of view.

The title of the film and the magazine feature that I am working on is “The Road Home.” It is a sequel to a piece I wrote, that was first Published by Alex Dick Read for The Surfers Path , which is a personal account of my coming to terms with the death of Mark Foo, who I had known from when I was first on the Professional Tour and in the many years which followed, spent time with when I would be in Hawaii.That story was entitled The Road To Half Moon Bay.

I did not return to Half Moon Bay to shoot surfing. I came to serve. But what I experienced, is one of the greatest gifts a Photographer and Journalist could have: being at a point in time where established paradigms shift with the tick of the clock.

Rigged to work Rescue, while holding a camera (well actually probably around 8 cameras, thanks to Go Pro) once more, the Canon 5D Mark 2 system allowed me to exceed all possible prior production potential for a single camera operator. We truly do live in the future. 24 surfers (and a LOT of support) just proved that.

David Pu'u and PPE

David Pu'u and PPE

Here is a piece of music that is remarkably pertinent and descriptive for us. It was recorded a long time ago.

Below is the gallery. Click on the images for a full view and to read more about that image.

This edit contains a small cross section of a large file that is illustrative of the event safety coverage at Mavericks and a little bit of the day and night preparations the team endured, in order to be ready. We worked long hours. We all came back safe.

No one dies.

Silent Running

Friday, February 12th, 2010

Silent Running

Interesting lyrics.

It is something which I became accustomed to quite early in life, the turning off of daily communications. I grew up alongside an interesting group of people. Many of them have been pretty much the best of the best at every manner of endeavor. I noticed that periodically and regularly, they go silent. The tenet is something in common with all who endeavor to attain excellence. Silence equates to focus. It is a telltale.

Next thing that you know. Something remarkable is done or exhibited by them.

I look forward to that from my friends.

An entertaining book on the subject is here.

So off on my next adventure I myself go. I am about 20 blog posts behind. This one is for those of you who are unused to me shutting my trap.A lot goes on under the surface with many people. I always look forward to the eventual call and re-connect.

Hidden Drive

© 2009 David Pu'u. All rights reserved.