I started my photography career with TransWorld Surf in September ’99. I was a graphic designer at the time and a friend of mine who was a surfboard shaper, Todd Proctor, asked me to design an ad for him. He gave me a really shit photo to work with and I’m like, bro, just rent me the gear and I’ll go and shoot a photo. He called up one of the mags – ‘cause I didn’t know what I was doing – and asked ‘em, what do you guys shoot on? They said, you need a 600 mil lens, you need a camera that shoots nine or ten frames a second – or whatever it was back then – and we use Velvia film. I showed up at the beach and Flame (Larry “Flame” Moore, founding photo editor of Surfing magazine) was there.
to frame it because I’d looked at surf magazines for so long – in high school, in science class, just flippin’ through the pages – so I knew what a good shot was. And I just pulled it off that way. That was the first time I ever shot a photo. Ever. It was a total fluke. I was driving home after shooting all morning and I just realized – you know when you see a girl and you just know that it’s going to happen? – I was feeling like that. I just knew that – screw graphic design – I want to be a photographer.
My first photograph ever published was a backside barrel shot of Taylor Knox from that morning at DMJs. I just remember getting to the rack and picking up the magazine and finding it. It was like a half page. I think it was like the third issue of TransWorld. But you see your name on the bottom there and I was just like, fuck! Ahh! Oh my god! And that was it. It was like heroin. Boom. Done. And I’ve just been chasing that ever since.
Hawaii and go out at Silver Strand and try to do a session when it was 4 or 5 foot with the boys. And I just went, oh my god, this is fuckin’ nowhere near as easy as I thought it would be! So I come back and there’s drips all over the photos and they’re blurry and soft and everything. I didn’t even know to lick the port or do any of that stuff. And all the surf photographers I was asking were kind of not telling me anything. It was all a closely guarded secret. So I landed in Hawaii and it was straight to Pipe – Pipe was like 6 to 8 feet. I’m looking at it thinking, well, I’ve been out in waves like that at Silver Strand, no problem. Next thing I get out there and just get pounded. I had never really experienced waves that powerful before. I spent my entire time before that only surfing in Southern California and Baja. But the power of the waves when I first got to Hawaii, they just scared the fuck out of me! And I’m coming in with drips (on the port) you know. I was calling up Sherman, just saying, what should I do? He’s going, ear wax, nose wax, blah, blah, blah. So I was trying all this stuff that didn’t work, which you don’t do. You’re supposed to spit on it, lick it, and then dunk it, and just let it sheen and then you get sharp shots. Sean Davey actually put me on to that. He sat down next to me and he sees me digging in my ears and rubbing my nose, and he’s like, what the fuck are you doing bro? He’s like, clean this off, spit on it, lick it, dunk it. So I did that and it was a “Eureka!” moment. So it wasn’t a hugely successful first trip to Hawaii, but it was enough to keep them believing in me at TransWorld.
M I S TA K E S
P AY C U T
I made every mistake in the book during those early days, but TransWorld never got to see it. I’d go get that film back from the lab, go through it, and any mistakes – out of there! Dumb mistakes. It’s all part of learning, I guess. I got away with it.
It was a whirlwind. The photography thing took off so fast that I ended up being this graphic designer trying to sell my company, trying to be there at the beach every morning shooting photos, having a brand new baby daughter – a family, you know – living in Malibu and still trying to pay the bills. I was doing all right as a graphic designer, and once I switched to surf photography – fuck, the pay cut was a shock. I was working sun up to sunset every single day; I’m getting photos published here, I’m selling ads, and I’m not pulling in even one eighth of what I was making as a graphic designer working 40 hours a week.
A day or two later I showed up at the Surfing office. I went in there and they sent this guy Scott down to take the photos off me. Scott was Flame’s assistant at the time. And I’m like, no, no, no, dude, I want to see Flame and show him the stuff myself. So Flame comes out and he goes, hey listen, you’re standing right next to me, you’re shooting my guys, get the fuck out of here!
Art Brewer was there. Dino Andino, Donovan Frankenreiter and Pat O’Connell, all these guys that I’d just been looking at in surf mags for ages, they just paddled out with this kid Jason Rice who I was shooting. It was six feet, first thing in the morning, beautiful light, at DMJs in San Diego. I came with a 600 and 20 rolls of film. I had read a photography book the night before so I could kinda get a grasp on like aperture, exposure and stuff. I had a light meter and I’m just looking at the light meter like, what the fuck? At DMJs the sun is directly behind you so it’s like a studio. So it was hard to go wrong. I got really lucky on that first day. I knew how
By the time December came, Sherman (Steve Sherman, founding photo editor of TransWorld Surf magazine) asked me to sign a contract. He put me on his staff and then he sent me to Hawaii to see how I would do over there. It was my first trip and I was super nervous. I’d never shot from the water before, and I’m thinking, fuck, how hard can it be? I’ve surfed. You just put yourself there, shoot the guy, and done, right? So I finally get my housing right before I leave for
T R AV E L
I’d just travel with two pairs of jeans, two pairs of board shorts, about ten t-shirts, one button-up for clubs. Just a bag of clothes and then like five