Posts Tagged ‘Cortes Bank’

Swell Five and the Marathon Man

Thursday, December 31st, 2009

Frame 1 Day 2

It was o dark thirty on the second day of swell event number five on the Gold Coast, in the middle of the El Nino 2009-2010 season. I was gingerly working my way down the spiral stairway which leads down from the aerie which is the loft bedroom that overlooks one of the beaches I shoot all of the time. Under my left arm was my Macbook Pro. In my right hand my cel phone. Quietly, carefully, I padded down the bamboo shod steps, and my right hand exploded in song.

Deftly I snapped the cel phone open. Chuck Patterson was on the line. “Hey Dave, headed your way. Whatcha doing?” I knew that it was cloudy out, having peered at the sky already, but knowing Chuck had already likely left home in OC very early, my answer was predictable: “Um, meeting you?”

By the time  I reached the kitchen, we had arranged a meeting place. In ten minutes I was in the car, a cup of coffee in my hand and full camera kit stowed. As the car rumbled to life the sexy female voice that is my bluetooth, told me I had another incoming call: Lars Rathje. Overhead the ominous dark clouds began to be tinged with the grey tone of an impending dawn, still an hour away. Well, looks like a crew shoot, I thought. Wonder what the day would offer?

The prior day had been grey with soft flat lighting and a beautiful 4-6 foot WNW swell. Looked like more of the same, except that swell on the buoys was a little bit larger.

Twenty minutes later, saw us all gathered under a brightening dawn sky. Chuck’s big ass truck, chock full of his water toy-tool collection was already waiting in the parking lot of a place we hoped to shoot. He was on the phone, so I meandered out and had a look. Hmm. 3-4 footers peaked and the wind looked to be slightly side shore. An indicator at this time of year, that the day would be Santa Ana. I knew that we would need to look around, to find a more suitable wave.

Chuck joined me, and nonchalantly mentioned that he had gotten off a boat at 3 am. He had been out at Cortes Bank. Said that it had been fun. Interesting. But we were focused. As Lars, Hans and a friend showed up, we all had a quick look, and before the sun was risen, were on our way out of the parking lot. The Chase had begun.

An hour later, having checked a few places, we wound up down the street from my house. Crisp edged blue lines strode down a long point, brushed by a 10 knot, cool offshore wind. My phone had been going off the entire time with messages from Tyler Chandler. Tyler is a budding 16 year old photographer. He and I had been having a tet a tet online for some months. He was camping nearby with his parents for the holidays, as his Dad commuted up to Santa Barbara for work. I told him where we would be, and he walked on down from their campsite.

I opted to long lens, as I had a lot of people to shoot, sans tripod. Hand holding my big Canon 600mm IS lens is not something I often do, but this spot is right on the freeway. It was empty and I did not particularly want to advertise what we were doing, and ruin the session for the few knowledgeable people that would show. But Tyler found me immediately, and we chatted, as I tutored on the nuances of our craft.

He and I clicked away, and frequently changed position as the boys drove through some spinning barrels at mach speed. It was perfect. And challenging. Chuck had opted to SUP the place on his 8’6″ Hobie stinger Quad. The boys were short boarding, their friend was body boarding. A few other people were scattered on the point.

Pretty amazing that Chuck could even stand, having just completed what I knew from personal experience, to be an incredible marathon out to Cortes. He had taken an 11 foot SUP to the wave. Chuck is a tripper. An elite athlete in so many sports, that it is sort of mind blowing. He is one of my favorite subjects due to his savvy and yet easy going nature. We have spent some amazing times together around the world. Here we were again, scoring within eyeshot of my house.

A few hours later, we grabbed a late breakfast at Cajun Kitchen in Downtown Ventura and after, headed immediately South in what had become a bluebird 75 degree Santa Ana day. A check of an infrequently surfed mysto spot, saw it vacant and somewhat fickle at 3-4 feet. Before I knew it, the boys had scrambled down the cliff and I struggled to catch up, as loading a water housing and getting into my 5  mil wetsuit, takes a little time.

This particular wave washes up a cliff and sends a backwash wave immediately out to sea, which sweeps sideways across the next, incoming blue sparkler. It is a high degree of difficulty wave to surf. Yet Chuck was somehow managing to stay astride his SUP board. I am sure he was the first to ride it on that sort of craft. Hmm, I pondered, as I slipped over the boulders, and out through the shore pound: two firsts for Chuck in 24 hours: Cortes, here.

It is complex pioneering a new sport. SUP is so young that it has not yet found stasis amongst the ocean going community. Many people hate the big boards. In similar fashion to what occurred with the advent of the birth of modern longboarding, there is extreme resistance and punishment aimed at its proponents. But people like Chuck are rare in any sport. He is so level, so polite. He reminds me a lot of Garrett MacNamara in his exercise of restraint when SUP surfing a break. As senior watermen, they have it down, and are diametrically opposite of the more novice surfers who use the board’s superior paddling power to dominate a break.

We picked off a few good ones, surfing alone for an hour and a half, before Fred Viela and Jake Kelley showed up. There not really being room for all of us, we opted to reliquish the wave to them as we had already gotten a good turn. I grabbed a couple images of the two before we left. I like the fact that Fred and I always seem to be in synch. I was stoked to get an image of him at his home break.

As the day waxed long, and afternoon waned, we all found ourselves at another seldom surfed, fickle spot. It was 3 PM and we had been going since 6 am. But Chuck he had been going since the day before. Hans and Lars opted out of the third surf and we said our goodbyes. Happy boys.

Chuck and I lolly gagged, hemming and hawing about whether we would shoot, in spite of seeing some really good, oily glass, golden green waves, roll perfectly through. A smallish group of guys plied the break. But off to the side, we kept seeing a  solitary peak pop up.

It hit us both simultaneously. The realization. We both saw the light go on and grinned. “What are we doing? You are here, I am here. Lets do it!” And we laughed. I hand held the 600 again, as I perched in the  rocky blind of a jetty that lay below Coast Hwy 1, and Chuck put on an amazing display of balls out SUP, alone on one of the more beautiful days that we will see this year.

Then up the beach as the light waned, I saw it. A beaut of a backlit swell, wandering into the reef, where a solo surfer paddled for it. I trained my lens on the surfer, as he dropped in and stumbled to his feet somewhat clumsily. Three frames clicked off as he slid through the barrel. Perfect. In many ways.

In surfing, many of us strive to be what we consider best, We do exploits which increase in difficulty as the years go by. Here was Chuck, a best case example of a waterman, surfing alone, while someone with  a  fraction of his ability, scored the wave, and likely shot, of the day.  I say that because I know that the wobbly surfer’s wave was obviously a peak moment. A high. While Chuck was just playing. It was the rarest of the emerald gems collected on that day as a result.

As sun set, and darkness settled, a dramatic frontal band darkened the horizon. Chuck and I parted. He to his wife, and me to a birthday party that my girlfriend Donna had organized for me. A long day, a good day. As the car’s turbo spooled and I swung into the sweeping turns up Coast highway, it occurred to me how blessed that I was. My friends define me. I am so lucky that they call.

That night, 60 or so, gathered at my house. An amazing collective of some of the most talented people I have ever seen gathered in one place.

Marathons can be a good thing.

You can find an account of Chuck’s excursion to Cortes at Hobie, right here. and on Chuck’s blog here.

Seth Godin has some interesting observations pertinent to this blog and our lives and careers here.

Donna Von Hoesslin posts something beautiful about the New Year, on the Betty Blog here.

On this eve of the start of a new decade, it is not just a wish for a happy New Year I offer, but one of encouragement, and a challenge to include yourself and your own talents in what goes on within your own community, what ever, and where ever, those may be.

Here is something sweet, sent along by Suzi Ryder. Well done!

Below is that sole surfer’s great wave and image.

Sole Peak Moment

Click on any images in the gallery below, for a larger view. 56 of 250 images from the final file.

What is Surfing: Fifty Views

Thursday, June 18th, 2009
The Chant

The Chant

Each day lately, begins with me wading though the e mail file. Today I opened a newsletter from an organization which I support, by lending them usage of some of my images. The subject header was “International Surfing Day”.  A “Cool, we have our own day”  impulse when I pressed the “read” icon, rapidly transitioned to less than kind  post read thoughts.

The newsletter yielded the cyber floor to a new surf magazine editor from Orange County who I had never heard of, and who communicated his chronologically and geologically biased adolescent view of what Surfing is.

But it occurred to me, that maybe Surfing could be many unique things to a diverse cross section of humanity. It is something equally valid to an  OC based ex pro surfer, as well as a neophyte hick from Wisconsin. Each holds a view that could be considered authentic, when taken in the context of a more grand perspective of the sport.

But what is Surfing?  I mean at it’s core? In his youthful myopia the editor had innocently posed that question for me, even if my first response had been indignation.

So here goes. Fifty views of what Surfing is.

One: Surfing is old.  Surfing is actually not a young sport. It’s youth is only in relation to it’s existence in Western culture, where when compared to other sports, its age being within this century, it is relatively young. Surfing is ancient. It was part of the animistic religion of Polynesian culture, and when taken in it’s full context,  had several cultural purposes in addition to it’s spiritual parallels.

It was integral to the maintenance of an oligarchal social Caste system. Wave riding was used as a means of demonstrating skill, the end purpose being to establish dominance within the tribe and of course to that end, it was a means of courtship. When a woman chose to ride a wave with a man who had demonstrated his mastery, she in effect selected him as a sexual partner ( the Polynesians were polyamourous) and it was on, shortly thereafter. There you had it. The first surf contest, and the prize. One can see why Calvinist and Mormon Missionaries discouraged the pastime so fervently.

It always strikes me as humorous when I look at modern day professional surfing for those reasons. (Yes, I knew about this when I surfed for a living) It cracked me up then, too. My ex wife used to comment about modern pro surfing and the lack of women in the boys club,and always alluded to it being a guise for latent homosexual urges. (Hey don’t shoot me, we divorced, remember?)

Two: Surfing is Educational. By forcing one to become intimately acquainted with the sea, surfing places you in harms way. I love Darwinism. Natural selection is the best thing in the world in its equanimity. In the ocean you either begin to catch on right away, or you scurry out of that liquid embrace with all the speed of that cat you tossed in your parents bathtub. It has an interesting affect, the sea. It piques your curiousity and challenges, which causes one to acquire and marshal all the diverse talents needed to be a surfer, or it scares you, and you leave. Flight or fight. Facing fear. Seeking knowledge. Knowledge and its sibling, Understanding, work together to erase fear. Surfing teaches that lesson well.

I love teaching people to surf. Love it. What I do is remove the mystery. I make the person understand that there is nothing that can hurt them, then I stay with them. I make catching those first waves simple using an old push from behind trick where you push the neophyte rider into the wave, but implement a modern twist where you hold on to both rails of the board and stabilize it, all the while giving any direction necessary. I am always calm in the ocean, so that is what I communicate. I start out using my ability as their crutch but eventually the new surfer realizes they have a grip on it all and off they go.  The loss of me as crutch is seldom noticed as they glide along on their own. It is a happy moment when that occurs.

All surfers love communicating surfing. For us it is the golden handshake that we know can transform and beautify a life and translates back into a better social fabric ultimately.  One of my favorite students was a cowboy. Within ten minutes of instruction, I was back on the beach and watched this guy who had never been in the ocean before stand up, ride a wave to the sand, pick up the board, walk to where I stood and say: “Hey that was easy”   “Umm never in the ocean before ever?” I had asked again.  “Nope, but I did race supercross for a long time, and the balance thing is sorta like that, so I just did what you told me. Easy.” This cowboy was a master of motion balance. His name is Jeff Sober and he ran an oil company and hailed from Wyoming. The memory still gives me a smile.

Three: Surfing is expression. It can mean a myriad number of things and conforms to each person and where they are in their lives. It relates to a person spirit, soul and body as it challenges on all three levels. You confront the unknown with each go out. You learn a new world. Your experience is entirely unique and grows more rewarding continually as the accumulation of experience and knowledge begets understanding and allows you to go further eternally. It is the ultimate Pavlovian response example. Good doggie, here is your treat. Or bad doggie, back to the beach with you. It’s methods are basal. It is infinitely expressive.

Four: Surfing is addicting. The exhilaration of the chase, the acquisition and the ride,  yet all that is left as the wave ebbs is the knowledge you are left with. To get more, you must paddle back out. So you do, because you thirst for it.

Five: Surfing is giving. It defines that basic principal of the universe, it gives health, wisdom, understanding, compassion, judgement.  Surfing gives.The most easy going people that I know, albeit the most driven in other ways, are the best surfers. They know who and what they are and how they got there.
I have met and hung with a lot of the best. They really are.

I recently read a great book on a superior waterman. It is here at Legendary Surfers. I find it funny that he and I were both born in Milwaukee Wisconsin. Tom Blake got it. Do you?

A great example of surfing and surfers giving back is Paul Jenkin. His new film trailer Watershed Revolution is here. . Paul gets it. His blog is here.

Six: Surfing is funny. One of the most eloquent expressions of indignation at the rape of a sport that I ever viewed was in the master actor Sean Penn’s sarcastic portrayal of the San Fernando Valley surfer in the cult classic film Fast Times at Ridgemont High.

Sean, being from the Malibu- Santa Monica coast had grown up around surfing and had developed his character in the film to satirize all that irked him about the transient surf population which attempted to decide for him what was cool and what was out. His pot saturated idiotic innocent iconoclastic character, Jeff Spicoli, served for over a decade as popular mainstream cultures view of what a surfer was. The brilliance in this was not lost on real surfers. Something to be said for authenticity.

What the performance said was that surfers are idiots. They need to be medicated. They are hedonistic thrill seekers with no future. Sean being a brilliant student of his craft and a surfer,  had manipulated popular culture in his portrayal. Okay dude, cmon down to the beach, I am an idiot and I rock. It’s a funny baiting of popular culture. We all know how it ends when someone does come down to the beach. The education begins rather promptly. To me Sean is surfing and is likely still laughing. The uninitiated to this day still use the expletive “Dude” when attempting to communicate an understanding of surfing and popular culture.  Yes surfing is funny. So particularly are surfers.  If you want to see real practical jokes just hang with a surfer, or watch Sean Penn in that film. It is just who we are.

Seven: Surfing is brilliant. The light it shines on where you are in your life and what is important and it’s ability to reset and restore a person’s defaults thereby bringing them back to an equable place is genius. All you PC users should relate. System locks up? Turn it off. Then back on. It is the last ditch line of defense and can get you back in the game.

Eight: Surfing is smart. It encourages the ability to think laterally and come up with creative solutions. One of the first questions being: “How can I order my life so that I can stay near the ocean?” has given birth to the action sports industry, and countless successful small businesses. You would be surprised at who surfs, or is in some way forever married to the ocean by virtue of having at some point embraced the activity. A great example of lateral thinking as related to marketing is here by the folks from Rusty.

Nine: Surfing is eternal. It explains flow and the cyclical nature of life and ourselves. It speaks to the inner man of who and what we are and comforts us in the communication of the knowledge of our destination.

Ten: Surfing is bliss. Ask any surfer what his most amazing moment was and he will tell you about a wave. Look at them. You can see it in their eyes.
Bliss.

Eleven: Surfing is Understanding. It leads you to a higher intellectual and moral ground.

Twelve: Surfing is harmony. You understand harmonics and music after a while listening to an aqueous symphony. Popular culture is frequently steered by music. It is one of the fundamental occupations of tribal culture.

Thirteen: Surfing is color. Color indicates an energy signature. You really learn about what color temperature means as a photographer. But surfers see colors that the human eye, film and digital technology have the most difficult time expressing.

The remaining 37 views illustrate the old adage of a picture being worth a thousand words. Here are 37,000 words and an infinite number of emotions. When it comes right down to it, surfing is love.

The Bible of the sport these days is The Surfers Journal

What the US did in acquiring Hawaii is here It is educational in a painful way, but explains a lot about the cost of modern surfing.

Here is what surfing is to some lads in Ireland. Approximately 30 minutes of beauty: The Powers of Three from Relentless Films

My girlfriend Donna gets it. Here is an online video where she explains how a female surfer can contribute to social change through surfing and business. What do Holly Beck, Mary Osborne, Shawn Alladio, the Partridge twins, Zuri Star, Jeanette Ortiz, Asia Carpenter, and young Vanina Walsh all have in common? Betty B, Donna Von Hoesslin, the ocean.

U2 gets it. One love, one tribe, one world, one end.  An aqueous melody is here.

Seth Godin had this to say about mediocrity and boy does it apply to this post! I think that it is the issue which truly got my dander up in the first place. I am passionate about this sport my ancestors gave us. I have a low tolerance for mediocrity in it’s leaders. I am not mediocre, you are likely not either. Our leaders should be better than us.  Seth’s assessment is brilliant.

Click on any of the images within the gallery for a back story. The edit was done in ten minutes and signifies what surfing is to me, a hick from Milwaukee Wisconsin who just happens to have native blood in his veins and surfs.

Aloha

Aloha

Kawika

Kawika

Ikaika Kalama

Ikaika Kalama

Mary Osborne, Bliss

Mary Osborne, Bliss

Dan Moore, Challenge

Dan Moore, Challenge

Brendan White, Golden Carpet Ride

Brendan White, Golden Carpet Ride

Solitude in the Pulse

Solitude in the Pulse

Dane Reynolds, Phenom

Dane Reynolds, Phenom

Santa Ana Evening

Santa Ana Evening

Shane Dorian

Shane Dorian

Sean Tully, Homage

Sean Tully, Homage

Keith Malloy

Keith Malloy

Dino Ching Memorial

Dino Ching Memorial

Guy Quesada

Guy Quesada

The Boys and Jericho at Malibu

The Boys and Jericho at Malibu

Drawing the Line

Wednesday, May 27th, 2009

Tyler Warren, Walking the Line

Tyler Warren, Walking the Line

Learning to say  “no” was one of Life’s hardest lessons for me. It came at great expense to those I love most in the world. No is not simply the absence of yes. It is the proverbial line in the sand of our life’s path. For a photographer and artist it is quite possibly the single most important thing that one can ever learn, because it is the no’s that will give you the space for the yeses that determine your subjects and future.

I have had several “aha moments” in a career association with my agency, Corbis Images. One of them was relatively early on when company VP Steve Davis spoke about choices. Steve stood in front of 200 of us, a collection of the best photographers in the world, and in five minutes explained how to create a career. I paraphrase below.

“We will help you to shoot virtually anything and anyone in the world. But choose wisely, because your choice determines everything about how your life will go”. Heavy statement. What this truly meant is that we had the weight, influence, and support of one of the most powerful imaging entities in the world holding the door open to a myriad amount of sets. The world of Music, Entertainment, Sports, you name it, this Bill Gates owned company had just said that they would commit to fulfill our desires as artists. We had been handed an e ticket really.

In the same meeting a creativity specialist spoke on the primary goals of an artist. Another “aha moment” occurred. She simply said: “Learn to image your emotions.” I will leave that statement alone. It needs no amplification or pollution by me.  It needs to be deciphered by you.

I chose my life to image, and the people and subjects that I love. I did this by uttering a complex word. I said “no” to everything else.

Today I say no selectively a lot. But this allows me to respond with yes,  frequently. It is why I am busy.

I get requests for me to give away my life every day, This is illustrated below in a funny tet a tet sent to me by Sean Davey. Saying no is more important than yes for a life and career. It all starts with no really. Remember being two? What was it you learned to say?  “NO!” Funny how we need to relearn that later in life.

From Sean:
Found this very funny add linked in a thread on Fred Miranda - http://www.craigslist.org/about/best/aus/558260167.html

Seeking hardworking service providers…
Date: 2008-01-31, 9:28AM CST

I’m a fabulously wealthy photographer / artist making money hand over fist. Here’s what I need:

A mechanic to overhaul my custom ’57 Chevy.
A maid to clean my house on a regular basis
A doctor to perform some minor surgery on me.
A band to perform theme music for me where ever I go.
A carpenter and electrician to build an extra wing on my sweet house in East Austin.
A nanny to watch my spoiled kids.

Of course there will be no pay involved. In return for your services you will get FULL CREDIT on my website, AND you can add all of this work to your PORTFOLIO! If you ask me, this is an absolutely awesome deal!

I hope to have you work for me soon!

Seth Godin had this to say about NO.

Writer Harlan Ellison’s take is here

Click on any of the images below in the gallery for a back story. They exist because I said no.

Garrett MacNamara , Cortes Bank

Garrett MacNamara , Cortes Bank

Afternoon Wave

Backlight

Backlight

Keiki Explosion

Keiki Explosion

 Crucifixion, Adam Gray-Hayward

Crucifixion, Adam Gray-Hayward

Makaha Blue Afternoon

Makaha Blue Afternoon

Nias Morning

Nias Morning

Sean's Dawn

Sean's Dawn

Ventura Morning, Anyday

Ventura Morning, Anyday

California St Evening

California St Evening

Blur

Wednesday, May 6th, 2009
Adam Gray-Hayward

Adam Gray-Hayward

Remember what it was like as a child, where in your grassy yard on a Summer’s day, you held arms outstretched, tilted head back and whirled around in circles? The scenery would whiz by in an increasing blur. A fun thing to do, as you examined play options.

The whirling activity sort of is my life this beautiful spring day, with birds singing outside as the morning expands.

I am looking at a lot of things right now. One interesting piece was just sent to us by Elmar Von Hoesslin (Donna’s ex husband)  and is a creative look at his Berlin based company. I liked Elmar from the moment I met him, as he and Donna had traveled through California and stopped in to visit. This video says a lot about why. Curiously, the subjects AND the length are similar to the film that Donna and I are creating for Intuit which is titled Passages.

In addition to working on my girlfriend’s film, I have been deep in study for a project. I use books for reference. I love books and own a LOT. There is no substitute for them in the digital realm. Books require an investment in time, money and physical space. They have weight. They require a commitment that digital content examined on the computer does not. You cannot press enter or delete. They have an analog form. Sort of in the same manner as our physical bodies do. Probably why I like em.

In front of me is a book entitled Toni Frissell, Photographs 1933-1967. Toni’s work was so very diverse that I believe she would be thrown out of most Art and Photography schools today, which encourage an aspiring professional to focus on one thing. Fashion, Journalism, Portraiture, Art and yes WATER! Toni shot it all, and did it so well that she will live forever in her imagery.

As I flipped the pages, my eyes fell upon a paragraph with yellow highlighted words (a study tool I learned in school) which I had applied maybe 12 years ago on the page. The paragraph reads:

1. Catch the subject at an instant of pleasure or emotion.

2. Know your subject’s interests beforehand (highlighted)…this so you can get him or her talking, even to the point of saying something provocative to the extent of outrageousness.

3. Click your camera at typewriter speed. Film is a cheap commodity.

4. Luck-the commodity that puts one at a crucial event and the chance is given a vital instant. (highlighted)

Below in my own hand I had written these words:

Preparation breeds foresight, foresight gives birth to opportunity.

In doing my research I found the seed which gave rise to the tree bearing the fruit of my own career and in looking through her imagery once more, I found my own self. It was shocking to me,  and caused a slowing down. The whirling scenery stilled and pulled into focus.  God I love books. You cannot press delete!

The project I am designing will invite a select group of subjects on to a friend’s estate where we will spend some time on a one of a kind property which has locations that are the photographic equivalent of gems in a crown. I will have an assistant or two, a small crew, wardrobe and the new Canon 5DM2 and new RebelT1i. We will also be shooting some motion picture. It could possibly be one of the more ambitious projects that I have endeavored to do. Time will tell as the process unfolds.

These sort of loosely scripted shoots have generally been looked at askance by some of my colleagues with the possible exception of Shawn Frederick whose challenge: “You think that you can do something better than anyone else? So do it!” always rings in my psyche. So I just do, and the images without fail end up being something that rewards both myself, subject and crew in multiple ways. It is sexy, exhilarating, adventurous, artistic, wearing, emotional, fun and well, REAL. But there is zero fiscal motivation for me. It costs in that way.  It can be terrifying as you are banking the recovery of the time and money of all involved in long term return. I don’t think the IRS likes em(my shoots) either.

The imagery below is a sampling of a few in the “Because I can” genre. Friends, colleagues, special people and moments.  Some have passed on but they live in the imagery. From Academy Award winners and famous covers, to simple snapshots.  Click on any of the images for the back story and a full view. There are fifty one here.  I have a lot more.

© 2009 David Pu'u. All rights reserved.

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