Surfer going down

Surfer crashing

Surfing is really big here in California, as you might imagine. Roof racks, instead of being used for skis and snowboards, are used for surfboards. You’ll even see guys on bicycles holding the handlebars with one hand and cupping their arm around their surfboard with the other!

You wanna go see some surfing? Let’s go see some surfing!!

So one evening after getting set to camp right across the street from this location, I felt the inspiration to go walk down and check out the kiteboarders I saw playing on the ocean. (You can barely just barely see their kites in the distance as those two fuzz balls along the horizon.)

Rocky beach

Rocky beach

What is kiteboarding? I’m glad you asked! Lemme show you…

Kitesurfing

Kiteboarding

One amazing thing I discovered about kiteboarding (aka kitesurfing) is that unlike regular surfing where you have to paddle out into the ocean against the waves and then wait for a good wave and catch it to ride it in, you can kiteboard in most any direction, with the waves, against the waves, or perpendicular to the waves! You’re pulled by the wind and so you can actually watch kiteboarders surf out into the ocean and then turn around and kiteboard right back! It’s really cool… ๐Ÿ™‚

Speaking of taking advantage of the wind, there’s also a sport called windsurfing. Check this out:

Windsurfing

Windsurfing

Take a surf board. Add a sail. Done! New sport! ๐Ÿ™‚

However, the main type of surfing here is good ole’ regular surfing.

Pair of surfers

Pair of surfers

Note the wetsuits. You see, ocean currents tend to spin clockwise in the northern hemisphere. (Counterclockwise in the southern hemisphere.) What this means is that unlike the ocean in the southeastern US like in Georgia and Florida where I’m from where the warm water comes up from the equator and the Gulf of Mexico, the water on the west coast of the US comes down from Alaska. Because the water is cold, people who go out there regularly where wetsuits to help stay warm. The only people you’ll see without wetsuits are, well, tourists like me who don’t go out there often and either don’t know, or are willing to go in anyways since we came so far. ๐Ÿ˜€

(I remember the first time I came to CA and we were all going to the beach, I put on my swim trunks and was surprised to see that no one else did. I figured they were gonna change there but a friend asked me if I was planning on swimming and then noticing my confusion as to why we were going to the beach and not going swimming, informed me that the water was actually quite cold, even though it was hot out.)

Anyways, back to the surfing, when the opportunities arose, I shot some shots of the surfers doing tricks on the waves.

Surfer doing some twist thing

Surfer doing some twist thing (technical term)

I also liked when the surfed past me to where you could see some of the landscape in the background.

Surfing by the coast

Surfing by the coast

Now sometimes the surfers had to bail and seeing them go soaring was really quite a spectacular sight! Those guys can fly!! ๐Ÿ˜€

Soaring surfer bailing

Soaring surfer bailing

and just for fun, I put together a little animation of the event so you can see it in action.

Soaring surfer bailing animation

Soaring surfer bailing animation

Check out the guy actually jumping clear over the wave! Notice how he was surfing on the front of it, surfed up to the crest, and dove right over behind it. lol…

One thing I’ve noticed in my shots is that I tend to not shoot early enough or long enough, something I noticed sports photographer Mark Rebilas is very good at, a guy who inspired the style and layout for this blog. (In an effort to get just the right moment and not get too many throwaway shots, I try to shoot only the peak action. However, often times there’s value in shooting longer such as in seeing the lead-in to or aftermath of a big crash, seeing a jersey number or player name that had been covered up during the peak action, and so on. Learning to lean on the shutter a bit longer can be very useful.)

While I was there I approached another photographer who was shooting and struck up a conversation. Turns out the guy’s been surfing for about 30 years and now that he’s gotten older and had his share of injuries, he coaches his son. They live an hour away and drive out to the beach to surf *every day!* They’re committed! His son’s apparently pretty good and had actually won a championship just a few days prior.

I was impressed to find that my photographer friend could identify who was who simply by their surfing style and form. To me they were just black suits in the distance, but to him he could really read the scene. It was fascinating to listen to him describe how the waves work, what you look for for a good wave, what differences various surf boards make (he actually custom makes his own surf boards and his son actually had about 75 surf boards!!), and so on.

A funny story.. you see the regulars all get to know each other since they hang out so much. They’re people from all across the board.. doctors, dentists, restaurant owners, and so on. Lots of different jobs. The photographer I was talking to mentioned how this one guy in the distance, he’d known him for 2 years now and didn’t even know his name! lol… Have you ever had that experience? and then it’d be odd to say, especially after knowing a guy for a while, “Hey, what is your name, exactly? I never actually learned that.” To give him some credit, he knew the guy’s nickname that everyone called him, but not his real name. To take care of this, I struck up a conversation with that other guy when he came by to talk to his friend and used that opportunity to ask him what his name was. When he gave me his nickname, I asked if it was short for anything and he explained it to me. Turned out it was. He was Japanese and his nickname was easier for most people to remember. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Anyways, this guy was also awesome. He owned some sushi shops and when I asked how the waves were out there, he explained to me all about the difference between waves that are created by the wind and storms out in the ocean versus waves created by underwater ocean water movement. I forget the exact numbers, but the waves caused by storms typically came from hundreds of miles away while the waves that came from deep in the ocean came from thousands of miles away! This boggled my mind…

This section’s starting to get a little text-heavy, so let’s include another picture! While shooting the surfers, my photo friend and I were talking lenses and camera gear and how you typically want longer lenses to shoot surfers since they can be pretty far away (they were actually quite close in this area, fortunately). He pulled out this awesome manual focus 650-1300 f/8-16 lens and let me take it for a spin.

Canon 1D and Rokinon 650-1300mm lens

Canon 1D and Rokinon 650-1300mm lens

lol… this lens cracked me up! and it was quite a treat to use, especially considering it was only like $250-300 bucks!! It took some getting used to to be able to lock and track focus manually, but once you get it, it’s significantly tighter than my 70-200 @ 200mm. Sometimes you can have it fully extended and notice things start getting small, then you take the camera away from your eye and look at what you were just looking at through the viewfinder and notice how far away the little speck of a subject you were actually looking at!

On the flipside, it’s possible that the lens can be a little too long. This guy was coming in towards the coast and since he ducked down for some reason, he actually wound up in my frame without getting chopped off.

Surfer going low

Surfer going low

A lot of shots I wound up having to throw away due to misfocusing, but this one was close enough and cool enough to actually beย usable. ๐Ÿ™‚ The shot of the crash way up at the top was shot with this lens.

So that’s surfing… Pretty cool, eh? ๐Ÿ˜‰

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