30 Gnarly Jaw-dropping Surfing Photos

The marriage of challenge and defying physics over water are just some of the tantilizing reasons to attempt snagging some of these pics—hopefully these 30 photos will help start the itch.

There isn’t a sport that connects man and nature as much as surfing. Having been practiced by the Polynesians for as far back as 500 years in the past, its cultural significance is now very deep-rooted in our culture—now this art of riding the waves with a board is enjoyed wherever the oceans’ waters swell and break.

Naturally, there is always a risk in surfing on big fast-moving walls of water that can’t be controlled, only marginally predicted; however, that doesn’t stop the many hobbyists who surf simply for fun or the enthusiasts who join competitions where they bust out awesome tricks on the wildest waves.

This innate relationship with nature and its beauty coupled with the athleticism involved makes surfing a delight for photographers. But because of those very factors, it also makes taking good pictures quite the challenge. To help all you budding surf photographers catch the best moments on film, take heed of a few of my tips.

Preparing the Equipment

Before anything else, you want to make sure you have the right tools for the job. Starting with the camera, you’ll need one that has a fast motor drive to be able to capture the quick motions of the surfer and the waves; burst mode is essential, so hold down the shutter when the action is about to pick up—You’d rather delete bad pictures from the lot than regret not getting the good ones.

A telephoto lens is another essential piece of equipment: It lets you zoom in enough to focus on the surfer from the beach or the pier, allowing your pictures to translate the intensity of the moment. Other small things that you still need to consider are extra batteries and cards for emergencies, cotton cloth to keep your lens clean, and the right attire such as flip-flops and shorts.

Setting the Time

Lighting is key to producing good shots. Since you’ll be at the mercy of mother nature, you need to set your shots when the lighting is perfect: early in the morning when the sun is just rising and late in the afternoon when it’s about to set. Fortunately, surfers agree on those as the best times to hit the water.

During these times, you have a lot of freedom to play with the effects of the light. You can use the position of the sun to capture light passing through the waves, reflecting on the water, creating shadows and silhouettes for your subjects.

As always, be privy to weather updates and surf reports. Rain can ruin your photo shoots (or enhance), and little waves may not make for compelling pictures.

Composing the Picture

In taking the pictures themselves, you need to communicate the energy and the beauty within the surfer and the waves’ movements. Here are a few key points for this:

  • Positioning is one crucial factor. Finding yourself parallel to the breaking wave and the surfer riding it will usually get you a great shot, but don’t limit your options to just sitting by the beach.
  • Go up to a pier to get a closer view or look for a nearby cliff that can give you a whole new perspective. If you already have enough experience, you can even get into the water yourself for more dynamic close-up shots.
  • Experimenting with different vantage points will also let you include more elements into the picture. Nearby islands, rock formations, birds in the air and boats out in the sea all make for a more intriguing story.

Just don’t forget that you still want to keep your subject, the surfer, in focus. His or her image must be sharp to really contrast over the chaotic forces surrounding them.

Anticipating the Action

Finally, you must learn to have patience; it’s not all action all the time, so you need to be comfortable waiting. Just don’t end up getting frustrated or restless, as you might just miss the perfect shot.

It also helps to have a keen understanding of the surfer’s movements so you can anticipate when they’ll be busting out the moves on a killer wave.

To further guide and inspire you along the path to becoming an epic surf photographer, check out these breath-taking surf photos from the pros.

Inspiredology, surfing photography













Alek Parker












North Shore Surfing 18