Shooting Shorebreak

When I first started getting into photography some of the shots that inspired me most were those of empty waves breaking onto the shore. I’m not 100% what drew me to this type of shot but it has remained my favourite type of surf shot, and is something that I have been wanting to try for years.

The problem with this type of shot is that you generally need a good DSLR with a fast shutterspeed and a decent lens. On top of that you need a waterhousing for your camera. Now the camera and lens can add upto anywhere from £500 to £2000, then add on another £1000 or so for the waterhousing and you can probably gather why I haven’t been posting many shorebreak shots.

However, since the launch of the GoPro and it’s subsequent upgrades the price of shooting in the water has gone down. The quality of the GoPro isn’t quite the same as a DSLR but it is pretty damn good, and some surf mags have even run GoPro shots on their frontcovers so the quality isn’t far off.

Since I didn’t have a spare £3000 knocking about I got a GoPro Hero 4 Silver for Christmas and have been slowly getting to grips with it.  I made a DIY mount to make it easier to swim with and last week I finally got a chance to test it in the open ocean.

I’d gone to Scarborough with the hopes of catching a few waves but the reality was different from the surf forecast. Instead of just turning round and heading home I decided to just swim out with the GoPro and shoot some empty waves. I put the camera on burst mode and rattled off around 900 images. Some of them turned out ok;




I’m really pleased with the results, they may not be as good as the photographers I look upto (Clark Little & Tedford Mahiko) but they aren’t a bad start. Hopefully I’ll get a few more chances to practice before the Autumn swells start hitting and some great waves will be lighting up the East Coast.


Waimea Bay

In surfing folklore Waimea Bay is the stuff of legends, it’s where the big wave movement first gathered momentum with pioneers like Greg Noll charging waves that were once deemed impossible. It’s a place where hero’s are made and lives are lost, boards are snapped and bones are broken. Out of season the sea is tranquil and almost as still as a lake, but when swell starts bombarding the North Shore of Oahu in the winter months the bay comes alive and the eyes of the surf media are never far away.

I was lucky enough to spend a month living on the North Shore of Oahu, about 5minutes walk away from Waimea Bay so it goes without saying that I spent a lot of time there.

My first visit to the bay was a memorable one, the biggest swell of the winter had hit and waves were breaking off the point at about 18ft, I just sat on the beach for a couple of hours snapping pics and just staring in amazement:

Unknown surfer, on one of the smaller waves of the day.

Some of the waves were pretty brutal, with surfers suffering some pretty nasty wipeouts in the process. Nevertheless fearless wave riders continued dropping into the waves and riding them with style:

Wave of the day.

As mentioned the waves at Waimea Bay can be quite powerful, offering long hold-downs and the potential for snapped boards and bodily injuries, risks that people are willing to take in search of the ride of their life:

What can happen when it goes wrong.

If the wipeout itself doesn’t snap the board its highly likely that the shorebreak will finish it off as it gets washed in. On the day I was there watching surfers take on big waves the shorebreak was going off too, with the waves varying between 5-10ft in height, breaking onto about 2ft of water, a very intense wave. A group of bodyboarders had a go and ended up getting smashed but caught some ridiculously heavy waves too:

About to get pounded.

After a few days the swell started to drop off and the shorebreak was a consistant 3ft with the odd 4-5ft wave coming through. I decided that I had to paddle out and try for a couple of waves, a couple of duck-dives later I was in the spot and waiting for my first wave at Waimea Bay. I was quite nervous sat there, but within a few minutes I saw a wave that looked perfect for me, it was about 3ft and I knew it’d be a good start so I paddled for it, dropped down the face,  hit the bottom turn and started to trim then BAM the entire wave closed out on me, pushing me down to the bottom and spinning me around. I came up after a few seconds, grabbed my board and paddled out for some more.

The wave breaks quite strangely here, instead of peeling it holds its shape for a few seconds, giving a short ride and possibility for tube time, then all comes crashing down on you, it’s like nothing I’d surfed before or since, can’t wait to go back for a few more!

Me on a small wave at Waimea.

During the time I spent on the North Shore I had many great sessions at Waimea, I took a lot of beatings, hit the bottom a lot and caught some of the best waves of my life. One of my favourite sessions there took place on an evening, just before sunset, a few of us grabbed our swim fins and heading down for a bodysurf. The waves were about 4ft but without a board it was much easier to get out and just sit waiting for a wave, it’s one of those sessions that’ll stick with me for a long time, new waves, new friends and awesome weather, hard to beat really.

When I saw this wave I ran back to ditch my camera and grab my fins and board.


Unfortunately my time in Hawaii had to end but I’d had some incredible surfs, surfed spots that I’d dreamed about after seeing them in movies and made good friends along the way.