Posts Tagged ‘Surfing magazine’


Sunday, May 12th, 2013

Mothers Day

It is Mother’s Day.

Yesterday I wandered out to create an image that would be illustrative, which I could use as a thank you note through our Ocean Lovers venture site. That image is above. I thought about it prior to building it, and all through the process from design, to copy writing, finalizing, and publishing.

Sunset colors. White sage buds. The blossoms unified by the setting sun. An eternal message embedded within the symbology of the compositional elements. Earth, sky, eternity.

I had spoken to my friend and colleague West Cook earlier. He was at his post running the restaurant for a Casino here in Ventura. We had laughed about the dense fog and how he would be missing nothing. I had been wrong obviously. I even set about proving myself to be in error as I spent the two hours after our conversation creating a funny series of images, just by thinking about where to be, as conditions changed and what to say, via the camera. That image above was my final exam. I had been wrong. But in following the lead of Nature. something special was fostered. Mothered into existence, as it were.

I just finished perusing the first 12 people in the Follow the Light Grant competition. Which is a Photography grant created by colleagues, family and friends of my first editor and long time friend, Larry Moore, who succumbed to brain Cancer in Oct 2005 at the age of 57. (The same age I am today as I write this)

Celeste Moreaux had kindly included me in this year’s  group of individuals who get to look at the entrants and their work.

With all the changes in publishing, technology and communication venues since Larry’s passing, some things will stay constant. First among those is the ability of the photographer to think, and in process actually have something worth saying. Of the first 12 , maybe 2 got that. Not bad really. 2 out of 12. But the thing is we need to understand that what we create ought to matter. We need to comprehend what this means: mattering. How to use your ability to touch a heart and draw people along.

So many of us get it wrong. We push. When really, the effective thing for an artist to be is a light source, and draw people along. The image beckons.

Cameras are tools for facilitation of the implementation of change and communication of emotion. It is a simple thing really. One just needs to learn to care about the right things. Then people get it, and they follow the light.

We as Photographers and Artists really need to understand what our function is, and most importantly who we are and where we are going. Otherwise we mistakenly believe it is us who people ought to follow. All we really are is a people skilled at holding a mirror. The reflection should never be our physical one in that frame. If we want to do work that matters the image skillfully will reflect our voice, our spirit and soul. Better make sure yours is maturing or it will embarrass you: the grand revelation of who you are within your work.

Larry understood that so well. The remembrance of some of our conversations makes me smile this fine Mothers Day.

Here are a few images from my desktop today.

Aloha Oe.












Motivation Song

Friday, May 14th, 2010
Adam Virs

Adam Virs

This shot is of Ventura Surfer Adam Virs. It was taken in Ventura California, just south of the Harbor. You can see Two Trees, a landmark, in the background. If you are from Ventura, this image is pretty cool. It is a frame from the second or third roll of film that I ever shot from the water. The surf was terrible this day. When I came in, I ran into my friend and soon to be colleague, William Sharp. We were both shooting for Surfing Magazine and being edited by legendary lensman and mentor, Larry “Flame” Moore.

William laughed, and shook his head at me. “Dave, Dave, Dave, what were you doing out there? The surf is absolute crap.” “Um, shooting a cover.” I answered, with my typical, aggressive candor. “Really. You think so?” he asked. (I HATE it when people say those words) “Yea, saw it when I hit the shutter.” William smirked and remained silent.

So later that day, when I got my film back, there the image was, just as I had seen it. Since I was such a novice, it was not till many years later that I learned this was not the norm for most photographers.

When Flame got the shot in the mail, he rang me up, and was very enthusiastic. “Dave this image of Adam is remarkable. Trust me when I tell you, that it will stand the test of time.” I was pretty amped. I mean Larry was a bar setter in surf photography. He had shot me in my Pro Surfing career, and it felt remarkable that here we were years later, together, and that he had become a proponent of my work.

So the magazine came out, and Larry ran the shot postage stamp sized. William laughed, and tried to be encouraging. “Oh, that is just Larry trying to motivate you.” “Geezus William, I just got kicked in the nuts. This is how it works?” “Yep, that is Larry”.

I shot this photo using a water housing made by a well known surf photographer, and close friend who also happened to be a housing builder.

I used my wife’s Minolta X700 body with a Minolta 28mm lens and RVP 50 film. The water housing was hers as well. Veronica was one of two female surf photographers working for Surfer magazine when I became a professional surfer. Quite a ground breaker that way.

She was my wife, friend and photographer. It was a great excuse for us to travel together. She rarely used the water housing,  Ronnie swam like a rock. I knew this first hand from having pulled her to the surface before.

Larry called me into the office shortly thereafter, and asked me to bring my housing. I made the drive down to San Clemente, and as I handed the housing off, I could see what looked like anger on Larry’s face. “F ing —–“ he said, saying the photographer-housing makers name. “What?” I asked.

Flame told me that the 3/8 inch thick plexiglass port that my lens looked through, ruined optics, and that it was the housing makers means of  sabotaging his competition. “Fix it” were his sole words of advice. I did later that week, taking the port to a plexiglass fabricator and having him glue 1/8 optical grade glass in place after milling away the 3/8 inch thick plex that was ruining my lens view.

I was still shaping boards at the time that I shot this image. I have pretty much always been a board builder. I started when I was 12. The board Adam is riding is one of the first ones that I built for him, after he had come to me, and asked if I would coach him. I was shaping and building boards for a lot of pretty good surfers at the time. All of them were highly motivated. Adam, Bobby Martinez, Mary Osborne. A long list actually. But these are my close friends to this day.

The net result of Adam’s commitment and our joint efforts, resulted in him becoming one of the winningest amateur surfers in US history. In 12 months time, he won multiple regional, and two National titles, on both short and longboards that I built for him, start to finish. If anybody has won so many events in such a short time frame, coming from out of nowhere, so to speak, I am unaware of it.

I  tagged along with Adam on his adventure, shooting, shaping and coaching. But his strength was really rooted in motivation and desire. I simply believed. He did it all.

The other people’s stories, will need to wait till I unearth another image with a song to sing.

That was Flame’s terminology for imagery. Photos are the songs, and tell stories. Photographers were the singers.  And that image, well, time has passed… My mentor died of brain cancer.  I miss him. Adam has had a long career as a Professional, and the photograph remains contemporary for the most part. I bet Larry is still smiling about that. Last month, Ronnie borrowed a water housing from me. Motivation really is everything.

The Chase

Sunday, July 26th, 2009
Siren's Serenade

Siren's Serenade

Surfing is not a sport. Not in any conventional sense. It falls into the genre of life’s laundry list of activities,  better described as a life style. So broad in scope, it permeates all facets of a participant’s cognitive and subconscious thought processes, to the extent that you are surfing, even when not actually riding a wave.

One of the reasons for this life style moniker is The Chase. This facet of surfing dictates that the participants be die hard, or more accurately: die never, optimists. Finding waves, developing technique,  expanding performance range, and increasing the difficulty level of ocean conditions in which a surfer feels comfy, impregnates every nook and cranny of an ocean imbued life. So when not actually eying the hook, as cool, blue-green, salty deliciousness pulls at your arms, and  the shoreward rush lifts your board aloft,  you are still surfing.

The Chase requires a level of mastery in life skills that make the average rocket scientist’s skill set look rather short. Surfing involves a subconscious management of the variables.  The surfer develops an ability to put them self in a precise place and instant of time, that will occur, somewhere in the future. Being good at this requires  prescience, self knowledge, study and faith.

Yes, faith. Possibly one of the most miss understood terms in the Western world, it is often mistaken for hope. That gaffe can be an expensive one. Simply put, Faith is when one possesses a knowledge and in turn a confidence that cannot be swayed by anything. Not wind, wave, danger, death. It is when one knows in their heart of hearts what will occur.  It is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not yet seen. It positions you on the cosmic GPS.  Surfers have faith.

Great surfers exhibit faith when they show up at the right beach,  on the correct tide, with perfect wind and weather and have the best swell for the break pouring in. They paddle out, place themselves in the saddle, turn and glide into that chronological apex and moment of truth called the takeoff.  My photography career was not made by my ability as a Photographer, but by my exhibition of Faith which continually places me at various points in time to experience the take off. The Chase fulfilled, ad infinitum.

Some day it will place me in the precise cross hairs for a more grand take off. I have Faith. I know this.

This week had started out with the rumor of a swell arriving from out of the distant Southern Hemisphere.  On the Southern ice cap, a storm had howled out into the ocean and made it’s way past the reaches of New Zealand, where in what we call the “swell window” for the Northern Hemisphere, it generated a significant energy pulse.

When that pulse hits California beaches, the waves come to shore in sets that mirror the storm’s wind gusts. The better events have long periods of flat water, with sets containing a lot of waves in them when they arrive. This creates issues for the un initiated, who may have been lured to the ocean by News reports based on what surfers call the “rumor mill”. They see flat water and think: “Oh someone has made a mistake.” They had been unwittingly set up for a lemming call of sorts. It is sad hearing the news of their struggle or death later, that the news media had helped to create.

In surf culture some  surf forecasting concerns have a history of  crying wolf, that has grown legendary among the faithful. This process keeps lifeguards in business. It also fans The Chase, among the faithless.

This last swell forecast, was accompanied by news hysteria, doing what they do: fan fear and hysteria. (White shark sighting, dangerous waves coming) This caused my voice and e mail to fill with questions about what headed our way. Funny thing fear, it is energetically diametrically opposed to creativity.

My answer was : “I did not look at the storm or do the forecast, so I do not know. But the shark, that is sort of typical. They are always there.” I was faithless on the swell. I simply had no knowledge. But when I saw the swell begin to show on the near shore Southern California weather buoys, hope dawned, that something could happen.

After three successive days of lackluster waves, in spite of a decent pulse on the buoys, I began to think that maybe this was another failed event. But then things changed. I have a large number of indicators which I learned to examine in a lifetime of engaging The Chase and approximately 12 years of freelance swell and weather forecasting, that saw me mis-cast approximately  five percent of the time in my ocean history. So I am generally faith full when I head out.

So I set out under a set of variables that I remember gave me one of my first large usage surfing images which occurred in year two of my mentorship by Surfing magazine’s Larry “Flame Moore”. In my hand was the same focal length lens I had used then, but in modern form, the Canon 70-200 f2.8 IS and the revolutionary  5D Mark 2.

Standing in the exact same spot as that first image occured, now 12 years older, I mimed the crabs which scuttled about the rocks in which I lingered, and stalked what I KNEW was going to occur. A few surfers which I had called, showed up as well.

Danny Moa, had hopped out into the lineup which was foreign to him, and caught two waves before the intimidation the break creates, sent him scampering to shore. All before what I knew would happen could occur. The other two surfers, well they had no faith either. This image above is a moment foretold captured. Faith knows where to stand, how to proceed and allows us to capture and not just chase, our vision.

Have Faith. Play that card. Start now.

I love U2. They have a habit of telling you just what you need to know in their music. But it requires faith to hear it.

Seth Godin writes about the application of Faith for business.

Below are a few images from what turned out to be a moderate to strong swell. It was three energy pulses actually, but in reading the telemetry from all three swell sources, I found a little Faith. Doesn’t take much. Someone great once said it could be as large as a mustard seed. They were right. The prospective faithful are Danny Moa and Lars and Hans Rathje, who I met while helping film the wonderful story Goofyfoot, by Jeff McElroy .








Power Surge

Power Surge

Lars: Hope

Lars: Hope

Hans: Faith

Hans: Faith

Lars, Hans: Hope Deferred



Fifty Waves to Leave Your Lover For

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2009


I live in a place many consider to be California’s Gold Coast. The term conjures up images of glassy warm Winter days, and crisp blue green lines which  swell and pitch into morning light, flashing golden with a brilliance that is breathtaking and addicting as it sets an emotional hook in one’s soul.

Dolphins reflecting dawn on glistening lean muscular bodies are syncopating rhythmic reflections which dart into the pull of northwest groundswells and burst into amber flecked projectiles as energy and joy erupt in the life pulse of a distant storm,  that ebbs on the shores of this place. Their high pitched chatter and surging  wakes, massage my senses as the pod passes. A pedestrian’s view this most definitely is not. I will never tire of it. The serenade is otherworldly.

I swim manically. It is what I do. The season for taking best advantage of the unique geography and potential lighting conditions on the Gold Coast exists for maybe 4 months of the calendar year, as swell, sun angle and weather converge to create what is possibly the best natural studio in the world.

In the last 12 years of swimming each day, I have acquired maybe 20,000 wave images that made the grade and  I kept. The women in my life, well, they were hard to pull away from at O dark thirty when excitement roused me with its irresistible reveille. It is black outside and the wind chill near freezing, as air temperature cuts atmospheric haze and focuses the morning into crystalline brilliant clarity.

But I am not the first to be so plucked from warm bed and body, though I may be the most prolific. Nor will my passion, be mine alone.

Kudos to  Doc Ball, Leroy Grannis, Bruce Brown, Craig Peterson, Woody Woodworth, Scott Preiss, Greg Huglin, George Greeenough, Jeff Divine,  Alby Falzon, Mike Moir, Guy Motil, Dale Kobetich, Peter Crawford, Jack McCoy, Don King, Larry Haynes,  Flame, Aaron, Art, Sakamoto, Scott Aichner, Sean Davey, Vince Cavataio, Warren Bolster, Yuri and to everyone who everyone that goes down to the sea with a camera. They all share something transformative with us. The world can be a tough place. We will never see enough beauty or drink enough elixer from nature to transform this blue ball into the oasis it could be. But at least they tried.

Here is a great documentary done by Gregory Schell called The Far Shore. See it if you get the chance. The story documents the travels of two unique characters I had the pleasure of meeting at a slide show many years ago at Dan Johnson’s house in Santa Barbara. Just when I thought that I was getting good, one of them sent me an image just like mine, done 25 years prior. Got to love colleagues. They keep us in check. Their tone became Surfer Magazine and presaged surf travel as it exists today.

This was a fun gallery to put together. I am as humbled by my predecessors as I am by my subject. The ocean gives your heart scale.

To the newest “Best in the world”: Good luck. You will need it, swim lots, share what you see, live and learn. Seth Godin has this to say.

Here is a music piece by composer Mark Mancina, from the film August Rush. Maybe open it in a separate window and play it while you toggle through. It is a brilliant one. I have read that it took him over a year to write it.  I hope that he never stops either.

Here are fifty waves to leave a lover for. Click on the images for the back story and to enlarge them. Oh and thanks to Jason Murray, one of my editors at Surfer Magazine who pioneered this gallery concept in one of the most popular spreads that Surfer ever produced.

This was fun. I think I will do my Wiamea shorebreak and Keiki images next. (Kidding, sort of)

© 2009 David Pu'u. All rights reserved.