The Fabulous [and Dangerous] Life of a Surf Photographer

by Owen James Burke

Photograph by Jeff Flindt

The function of professional surfing, and photography, brings to mind warm water, women in bikinis, and an endless summer vacation, but what are we missing when we drool over the lives of those who chase waves all day? The reef rash, the confrontations, and oh yeah, the ever-constant threat of drowning.

Photograph by Jeff Divine

The fact is, surf photography is one of the most dangerous occupations one can undertake. Not only are you in some of the best, and oftentimes most powerful waves in the world, you’re sitting right in front of a dozen of the best — and most aggressive — surfers in the world, and they’re coming down right on top of you, with thousands of gallons of water behind them and in many cases, a reef within a couple feet from the surface. Then all they’ve got to do is weave through ten or twenty of you, hoping, but maybe not necessarily trying, not to slide across your face on their way down the face of the wave.

Photograph by Jeff Divine


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