Tatsuo Rokudo traveled to the Japanese island of Ogasawara, 25 hours east of Tokyo by boat, to do historical research but found the locals reluctant to talk about their memories of World War II. At a loss, he began watching the surfers instead. "I got to know them, and now I realize what it is like to coexist with the sea, and that Japan is an island country and the earth is a planet of water," says the Tokyo-based photographer. "I am planning to try surfing this summer."
Rokudo chose black-and-white for this image ("I don't want my pictures to look like pretty postcards," he explains) and exposed 100-speed film for 1/250 second using an 80-200 zoom lens set at f/2.8.
Chris Van Lennep has been shooting on Oahu's North Shore for nine years and has seen how dangerous the Waimea Bay shore break can be. "Usually only bodyboarders dare to try this wave," says the South African photographer. "There's an immense volume of water, and it's in the thickness of the break, not the height. It's virtually impossible to stand upsurfers have tried it, and it proved fatal for one chap." The rider captured here, a former Portuguese amateur champion named Jos√© Greg√≥rio, wiped out but eventually made it back to dry land unharmed. Van Lennep photographed him in December morning light, which he says "gives amazing color saturation."
He used 50-speed film, a 600mm lens, an f-stop of 4.5, and a shutter speed of 1/750 second.
Bryce Duffy took a walk along San Francisco Bay after a long day in his studio. Though it was a rainy December evening, Duffy wasn't surprised to find these surfers riding the swell at Fort Point below the Golden Gate Bridge. "The Northern California crew is a fairly hard-core bunch," explains Duffy, a professional portrait photographer. "I snapped these guys just as the light was disappearing."
Using an 80mm lens and 800-speed film, he set his exposure at f/2.8 for 1/30 second.
Tony Harrington spent two hours ducking waves in the shallow water off eastern Australia's Forresters Beach on a cool morning last June to capture this image of local Peter Hayse squeezing into the barrel of a five-footer. Harrington, 37, lives minutes from Forresters' treacherous Banzi break and has photographed surfing and snow sports from his backyard to Greenland, Hawaii, and Alaska. He's taken his share of painful tumbles in search of the perfect shot. "When I slip up here, it's over the falls and headfirst into the reef," he says.
Harrington used a custom-made waterproof housing, a 15mm lens set at f/4, 50-speed film, and a shutter speed of 1/1,000 second.
François-Xavier Abonnenc caught this image of professional kitesurfer Marcus "Flash" Austin ripping below the face of a 20-foot wave off Maui‚Äôs Ho‚Äôokipa Beach Park last November. "It was the biggest wave of the day. When I saw him coming across, I knew it was going to be incredible," says the photographer. Abonnenc, 28, lives in the village of La Garde on France‚Äôs C√¥te d‚ÄôAzur.
He shot Austin with a 500mm lens set at f/5.6, exposing 100-speed film for 1/800 second.
Wayne Levin dove underwater to photograph bodysurfers ducking a six-foot wave some 600 feet off Oahu's Makapu'u Beach. No surfboards are permitted at this famed spot on the island's southeast coast, so reaching the outside set requires swimming through a treacherous shore break. "It's like flying under a storm," says Levin, 57, who lives on the Big Island's Kona Coast and has specialized in black-and-white underwater images for 20 years. "I lost a lot of masks taking these pictures."
He used a Nikonos IV and a 35mm lens, exposing 400-speed film at f/11 for 1/250 second.
Erik Aeder got this shot of locals Jeff and Jen Henderson tandem windsurfing across eight-mile-wide Pailolo Channelbetween Molokai (in the background) and Maui, Hawaiione windy morning last summer. "I hung out of a helicopter for more than two hours, waiting for the sun to come out," says the 48-year-old photographer, who lives and works in Haiku, Maui, and surfs at Ho'okipa Beach Park. "There were 25-knot winds and eight-foot swells, but the Hendersons sliced through it with style."
Aeder used a polarizing filter on a 20-35mm lens set at f/4, exposing 100-speed film for 1/500 second.
Tim McKenna was in the warm Pacific waters off Maraa, Tahiti, photographing Laird Hamilton when the surf king duck-dived under an incoming wave on his way back out. "This is one of my favorite images of Laird," says the 36-year-old Aussie, who lives in Paea, Tahiti. "He looks like he's levitating in a trippy liquid environmentwhich, of course, he is."
With a 24mm lens set at f/5.6, McKenna exposed 50-speed film (pushed one stop) for 1/500 second.
Tony Harrington was stalking storms via the Web in early March to find out where conditions would be most prime for shooting athletes in action, and the images on these five pages are the result. When the 40-year-old Aussie saw that a major Asian system was heading west toward Hawaii, he booked a flight to Maui. Setting up on the cliffs overlooking Jaws, the famed north-shore break, he began shooting the storm's monster waves. "Laird Hamilton"pictured at right"was by far the standout that day," says the native of Forresters Beach, New South Wales. "It was an epic morning, with spray flying off the back of the waves like horses' manes."
Harrington captured this image with a 600mm lens set at f/4, 200-speed film, and the ASA pushed to 1,600.
Leapfrogging ahead of the swell as it moved toward California, Tony Harrington caught a flight to San Francisco and drove south to the Monterey Peninsula's Ghost Tree, a massive deep-water break just off the 18th hole at Pebble Beach. "Local tow-in surfer Tyler Smith was being pulled into solid waves in the 50-foot range," Harrington says. "I was on a jet ski shooting him as he flew down the faces."
Smith dislocated his shoulder at the end of this ride, but Harrington captured him first, using 50-speed film and a 200mm lens set at f/4, pushed one stop. After the sets wound down at Ghost Tree, Harrington learned that the same storm system had just dumped 20 feet of powder in Alaska's Chugach Range, so he booked the next flight north.
Jeff Stevens hung out of a helicopter over Miami Beach's South Point break to catch surfer Robbie Reed taking advantage of a rare "refracto swell," a powerful but short-lived surge rebounding off the Gulf Stream. "It was a hard decision to reserve the chopper," says the 34-year-old Miami-based aerial photographer. "If I flew, I wouldn't get to surf."
Shooting digitally with a gyroscopic stabilizer and a 70-200mm lens set at f/2.8, he used an ISO of 100 with an exposure time of 1/1,250 second.
Brian Bielmann has shot the shore break at Waimea Bay, on Oahu, 50 times in the past 25 years, but only once has he seen the thick walls of water split the way they did for this classic surf shot from 1989. "The wave before this one broke, ran up the beach, and then slammed back into the next wave, causing four separate lips to break at once," says the 49-year-old North Shore-based lensman.
Bielmann used an 800mmlens on his Canon F1 and exposed his ISO 64 slide film for 1/640 second at f/5.6.
In October 2005, Clint Kimmons (pictured) and four other pros spent six weeks scouring the remote southern coast of Australia for new waves. Of the four breaks they discovered, this one, dubbed Curly, was the best, serving up powerful 10-to 13-foot faces nearly a mile offshore. "It's a raw wave," says Aussie photographer Tony Harrington, 42. "It comes from deep water to a shallow reef and packs one hell of a punch."
BACKSTORY: Oz's southern coast is known for great white sharks"Men in gray suits were everywhere," says Harrington. To avoid becoming chum, he sat on a jet ski outside the impact zone and shot the surfers with a telephoto lens. But shortly after this frame, a surprise wave hit him, ruining his camera. "It was an expensive day of shooting," he says.
THE TOOLS: Canon EOS 1V, Fuji Velvia ISO 50 color film pushed to ISO 100, f/4, 1/1,000 second, 70‚Äì200mm f/2.8 lens, converted digitally to black and white
When swells hit the sharply rising reef at Tahiti's Teahupoo, they explode upward into dense monsters that can make North Shore waves look anorexicand safe. On Ian Walsh's first attempt at riding one of these giants, he got dumped and dragged all the way to the lagoon. Walsh, 24, waited another two hours before taking a shot at the Billabong XXL $50,000 Ride of the Year by dropping in on what witnesses described as one of the deadliest waves ever surfed. "You either ride to the end or it eats you," says Walsh.
BACKSTORY: Tim Jones, 37, got this shot in the middle of a scrum of vessels jockeying for position. "The hardest part was just keeping Walshy centered," says the Terrigal, Australia‚Äìbased photographer.
THE TOOLS: Canon 1DMark II, ISO 100, f/5.6, 1/2,000 second, 70‚Äì200mmf/2.8 lens
On a calm day surfing One Eye, a break off the southwest coast of Mauritius, a surfer trying to get barreled managed to get only his head into this wave." This is more about a beautiful photo than a surfing moment," says New York-based Alberto Guglielmi, 38. Because the waves were relatively small, Guglielmi, shooting from a boat, was able to get unusually close to his subject. "I shoot a lot on the water, but the boat lifts me an additional two or three feet, so I can shoot right on the bend of the wave." There is a downside: A week later, in the same location and in bigger surf, a wave rocked the boat and Guglielmi broke his ankle.
THE TOOLS: Nikon D2X, 200-400mm f/4 lens, ISO100, f/5, 1/1,600 second
On a weeklong trip to Indonesia's Mentawai Islands last April, Jeremy Nicholas managed to squeeze off one last shot of surfer Sammy Cockle before being engulfed by a four-foot wave. It was a mellow day on the water, which allowed the New York City‚Äìbased photographer to experiment with different angles in the surf and not worry about getting slammed by the ocean. "Basically, I was out of position on this shot," says Nicholas. "I wanted to be in front of him but ended up behind him instead. If that had been a big wave, I would've gotten crushed."
THE TOOLS: Canon 1D Mark II, 15mm fish-eye lens, ISO 200, f/6.3, 1/1,000 second