I was 15 years old when I first discovered the sport of surfing. Classmate Glen Ford had a board that was spray painted in camo colors, a single fin and it was about 9 feet long. The cracks in it were yellow where the foam had soured, and it was soft in some spots, filled with water. I don’t remember how much I paid him for it, but I bought it and then headed down to SkiWorld for a new bar of wax to slather onto it.
I think I went to New Smyrna with my best friend Noel and his family on my first adventure with that crazy board. I surfed all day with Bullfrog sunscreen burning my eyes and saltwater getting up my nose everytime I crashed, but I was hooked! Eventually I moved on to a Fluid Dynamics board, yummy yellow colored with 3 fins, boy could that stick fly, and it taught me how to really surf.
Surfing became my obsession and I would go as often as I could. My school notebooks had drawings of waves and palm trees on them, I would study the stack of magazines I bought at the 7-11 and memorize all of the tropical paradises and reef breaks that they featured in every issue. I watched VHS tapes of the professionals on tour, and wore my Vans sneakers and surf team T-shirts. I blended with the other surfers on the East Coast and became pretty good at riding the waves.
Eventually I made my way over to California, the Bahamas and Barbados for the thrill of something different. My obsession was real and I knew that one day I would ride for money…..until one afternoon I was the passenger in a horrible automobile accident on a trip back home from the beach. Physically I wasn’t too terrible, but something in my brain clicked that let me know that I would have to be a whole lot better to make a living at this sport. My dream of becoming a professional surfer was over…….but, like in life, there were other options.
My mom purchased my first 35mm film camera for me around this time and I quickly found that I had an eye for camera work. Everywhere I went I took my Ricoh and would shoot contests, surfer girls, crazy haircuts and beautiful sunsets, just like the images in the magazines. I would sit for hours, waiting on a perfect wave or scene, snapping only when the moment was right. Film in those days was pricey and developing was time consuming, so unlike today’s digital shooters, I was very selective in what I shot.
Moving on I eventually starting shooting video and producing my own television show on the Sunshine Network. I would film surf contests and sell advertising to cover my costs. I had a great thing going, shooting with Natural Art Surfboards in Barbados, and watching Kelly Slater come up as well as getting a few waves myself. I miss those days and looking back I realize that I now want my two boys to experience that same feeling.
The three of us have been getting a lot of surfing in lately and we will be going again today. I can sense that they are starting to feel the rush of adrenaline that comes with being in the water, and I think they really enjoy the sport! I truly love it when they tell me their goals and dreams, and I can only help to guide them in the right direction…….
……….Yesterday I was on assignment in Melbourne Beach and was finishing up around 5:30. Traffic was bad heading back to Orlando so I decided to head over to the beach and check the waves. I parked and heard the roar of the ocean as I walked through the parking lot and up onto a beach boardwalk. There were a few surfers out and another father resting on the overlook. We spoke and he informed me that his son and other members of the Satellite Beach High School surf team were a few streets down and that they were “ripping it”!
I thanked him for the tip, smiled as I waved goodbye and headed on down the street. I was immediately taken back to my youth as I saw the team slaying each and every wave that pushed itself onto the shore. These kids were killing it, smiling the entire time. I was in Nirvana. Something in me came back to life as the salt air mixed with the shouting in the water made me feel like I was a youngster once again. Not having my new surfboard with me I grabbed a camera and filmed for two straight hours and saw some amazing surfing.
One more thing I saw yesterday was a young cameraman named Marcus who was shooting in the surf with his underwater housing. He was working everytime a wave pushed through, snapping images and ducking when his peers flew down the line right towards him. He has the drive and the passion that I have been missing of late, and I want to thank him for showing me that there is still someone with that surfing soul in him. I will see you soon again my friend……
Here are a few of the images that I captured as the sun was starting to go down.