Harry Bryant taps the dizziest heights of an Australian summer scene, NSW. Photograph by Woody Gooch.
Kids ask too many questions. What’s this thing? Can I touch this thing? Why can’t I touch it? Will it hurt if I touch it? Why’s it hurt when I touch it? Why’s it hurt when I touch it again? Why do I keep touching it? It’s annoying as hell. They should be cut some slack, though. They’ve only been in this world so long, and aren’t yet jaded by its absurdities. And so, surely the little guy in the foreground here is pelting his mother with questions about how the man in the water came to be flying. Fortunately, photographer Woody Gooch is here to provide answers to the many questions surrounding Harry Bryant’s display.
“This was a classic spontaneous trip, as always,” says Woody. “A special spot that we can only access by a barge and 4×4 car. It was one of those flukey days where you score waves with no one around in the Christmas holidays… which is hard to understand. I was surfing a little before this photo while Harry was bodyboarding and practising his cross legged reverses. Some other surfer who was on the rocks fishing told us he watched a ‘herd’ of 12 foot tiger sharks tackle a gigantic manta-ray on the rocks for breakfast. Of course, the session kept going on for hours without any hesitations. When I was surfed out I decided to go onto the beach, and then this happened.”
Andy Criere slices an emotive winter fillet in Hossegor, France. Photograph by Seb Zanella.
Drone shots are still oddly fresh. Just look how this sky eye captures a moment of frigid solitude so… abstractly! Let’s allow the photographer-slash-pilot, Seb Zanella, to detail the specifics: “The surfer here is promising French surfer, Andy Criere. This shot was taken during an early winter morning at a secret spot near Hossegor. It was firing all day, and we were the only two in a water. This was the best tube day of the year for Andy. It was so cold that day, I remember that we made a fire on the beach, just to get a little bit warmer.”
Colin Moran and the correct execution of a roundhouse cutback, CA. Photograph by Brian Clifford.
Colin Moran sure has his choreography down. Shoulders squared, hips aligned with the spine, snout tilted a few clicks far of 90 degrees, and already peeping the next move. Not too mention those unintentional jazz hands for added effect. And, that line! You need true speed to unveil such definition.
“You don’t see very many roundhouse cutbacks these days, which is one of the reasons I love shooting with Colin Moran,” says our photographer here, Brian Clifford. “He has a different approach to wave riding which makes my job very easy and enjoyable. This particular shot was taken during a south swell in California. When we saw the charts lighting up, a couple of us decided to hop in the van and head up north towards the central coast. We spent a full day looking for waves but kept getting run out by deep fog banks and poor wind. That was until later in the evening, when the conditions started to clean up. I hopped into the water with the boys for what would be the best lighting and conditions a photographer could ask for. After getting this shot, all that fog and bad wind were well worth the wait.”
Mason Ho preserves, short and long term, at rush hour Pipeline, Hawaii. Photograph by Quinn Matthews.
“This was on one of those swells where everyone was talking and tracking the thing around the whole island and knew the morning it was going to be on,” says our man behind the lens in this instance, Quinn Matthews. “Everyone was up at first light trying to figure out what was happening out front. For the first little while it looked good, but then it looked like the swell had, once again, been overhyped. I decided to shoot with some filmers down the beach for a little while and after the first three or four sets rolled through, something clicked and the ocean turned on.”
And with a swell finally lining up, it’s unsurprising to learn that Mason Ho, pictured, was deep in the mix. “There was only a short window of about two hours where the waves were really good, but even then the swell was much more peaky than anticipated so it wasn’t easy,” continues Quinn. “Not many people were getting the good ones and local knowledge really seemed to be an advantage. Derek Ho nabbed the best wave of the set before this photo and drew a line on it only he could. Then the very next set, Mason found himself in the spot and, sticking to Ho fashion, drew his own line. He had so much speed and just kept moving farther and farther forward on his board until he was in this crazy position set up for the inside section. It was cool to watch both of them doing their thing.”
Josh Kerr dances for Jordy Smith, Hawaii. Photograph by Quinn Matthews.
Is there anything better than a non-lethal nugget shared with friends? Usually, the North Shore isn’t the right place to find such things. But sometimes – when the swell drops and the winds aren’t too harsh – the claws retract and the paper-tigers comes out to play. “This was a strange winter on the North Shore,” affirms photographer Quinn Matthews. “There were a few good days, but mostly it was plagued with unfavourable rain and wind. Waking up on the beach in the morning isn’t as exciting when you look out front and there’s very little potential. It seemed there were two choices: Rocky Point with every other surfer on the island, or trying your luck scoring one of the lesser known waves. I was staying at the O’Neill house with Jordy Smith. And, still buzzing off his win at Sunset a few days prior to this shot, he was keen to find waves. We called up Josh Kerr and Soli Bailey and drove away from the strip. I had no idea what to expect, but we showed up to this moody, but really fun-looking right air wedge. Immediately we were dancing around and 100 percent out there. The paddle out was real long and had a similar vibe to some swims I’ve done over in Western Australia, but we were in tropical Hawaii though so I didn’t think much of it… until the next day anyways, when we went shark diving not far from there and were swarmed with a few too many sharks. Then it made sense why there was an ominous feeling. With the wave breaking in pretty open ocean, it was tricky to pick the right spot to wait. Luckily Josh was in just the position to come from behind the peak in this one as Jordy cheered from the shoulder. It was a good day and crazy to think that we had this all to ourselves for a few hours.”
Mitch Crews cracks spearmint candy, with gusto, QLD. Photograph by Andrew Shield.
Mitch Crews sure knows how to hospitalise a ubiquitous closeout. Like any good surfer, he’s a true opportunist. But beyond that, it’s incredible how he smears a track most might shy away from. Kicking out? It’s for the weak! “Crewsy is a very ambitious young fella and was a bit disappointed with his results in 2016,” says photographer Andrew Shields, who captured this. “He’s made some equipment changes this year and planned to spend more time at home on the Gold Coast. But January was pretty bad for surf on the Goldy, and Crewsy and his sparring partner, Jack Freestone, were getting a bit antsy after a couple of unsuccessful trips down the coast looking for waves. This day there was a solid south swell that was actually a bit too long and straight for the banks. But as Crewsy said: ‘It was awesome to have some overhead surf after a few weeks of grovelling.’ This one held up long enough for him to fly down the line and hit the closeout section early with a carve that looks like it’s testing the strength of one of his new boards.”
Creed McTaggart illuminates a small (but charmed) envelope, WA. Photograph by John Respondek.
“This is one of the spots Creed learned to surf,” says photographer John Respondek, who captured the moment Mr McTaggart contorted himself under a homely, unremarkable, but still enjoyable lip. “Its kind of a novelty surf break most of the time, but on its day, it’s fun as hell. The best thing about this spot is the viewing platform from the carpark. Whenever it’s on, all the local lads come out of the woodwork to watch, drink beer, and even BBQ in the afternoons. The West-Australian crew just gets it, don’t they? I guess thats why I keep going back!”
Chippa Wilson pops and flattens down a Cabaritian pad, NSW. Photograph by Andrew Shield.
It’s habitual to panic when hitting the flight button. But preparation and a cool head is key: As evidence, take just how high Chippa Wilson is here, yet still so very in control. Loose arm astern, firm grab, curved back, planted feet, horizontal craft and an eye on the landing. He might as well be on autopilot. “Chippa spends a big part of his life traveling the world looking for waves,” says our photographer, Andrew Shields. “When he’s at home though, he very rarely drives any further than a couple of miles north or south of his home beach at Cabarita. Fortunately, his Christmas/New Year holiday break coincided with some great banks along Caba and a consistent pushy east swell. This session, Chippa hit at least half a dozen big left ramps and I got a few shots in between being rolled across the shallow sandbar. I was hit by the whitewater on this one before I could see if he rode out or not. But with Chippa, it’s always a better than even money bet whether he’s going to land his airs. He has the highest success rate out of anyone I’m currently shooting with.”