Posted by: Mark | December 31, 2009

Surf Photography

Lately I have really been getting into bodysurfing. For non-surfers out there, this is essentially riding a wave without a board. You swim yourself into the wave and glide down the face. You can get into the barrel of a wave while bodysurfing almost every time, but you almost never make it out. It’s an incredible amount of fun.


Today I got the inspired idea to put on my swim fins and bring my GoPro camera out in the water with me as well. The result is what follows: a ton of pictures from today, December 31 2009, at Noriega St at Ocean Beach, SF.

A brief note: first off, my GoPro is an awesome camera, but it is the wide angle version. As such, it has a very exaggerated fish eye. I had to get extremely close to the surfers in order to get decent shots. I literally had a buddy of mine brush my camera hand with his butt as he went by I was so close. Secondly, the timing on getting this pictures is very tricky. I had it set to a three-shot setting, but many of the shots came out all black while I was under water. And thirdly, I should add, that I got my ass kicked to get these pictures. I was sitting right in the impact zone, where the waves break, and each wave broke more or less directly on my head. I’m exhausted, but quite happy with the pictures that came out of the session.

If you click on any of these pictures, you will get to see a much bigger version of it. Enjoy!








Random Shots I like, with explanation below each photo

I like this shot a lot because the coloring came out really nice, it’s a beautifully barreling wave, and best of all, those two feet sticking out the face let you know this guy just made it through without taking it on the head.

This picture gives you a good sense of what it’s like to be out there taking shots. I am just about to get pummeled here, with the lip coming down just over my shoulder. You can see that it’s lining up to be a hollow wave, and after I got this shot I was thrown over the falls and pounded into the bottom for a little while.

This picture is of a good friend of mine, and I like it because the lip is throwing some water in my face and so it’s blurred the shot in a way that it looks kind of trippy.

This picture is hard to appreciate if you don’t surf. The spray that is coming off the wave was generated by the surfer who just took a tremendous turn off the lip. Some of the spray is even seen coming up close to my camera.

This picture needs some explaining. As I said, it’s quite easy to get into the barrel when you are bodysurfing. I wanted to try and take a picture while I was inside the barrel riding a wave. I tried about a dozen times, and this is the best one that came out. It’s very difficult to accomplish. Essentially, I was sitting wayyy inside, and just as the wave was about to break on me I’d forcefully kick straight up to basically try and put myself in the falling lip. I would fall with the lip down the face of the wave, holding my camera arm out and hitting click as I was tucked in there. This is the best one I got…my future goal is to get the perfect barrel picture.

I like this picture because first off, it’s of my buddy Jaimal Yogis, the author of Saltwater Buddha. This was a close-out, and he is smiling because he decided against taking the wave. I like how you can get a sense of how much water goes into each wave from this angle.

This is me, stoked. I originally intended on only staying out about 20 minutes, and then ditching my camera and fins and grabbing a board to surf. I had so much fun, I ended up doing this the whole session.

If you think any of these pictures are you, or want to pretend that they are you, comment on this post and I’ll send you the fullsize image so you can potentially print it up and frame it at your house.

I get the feeling that this is the first of many surf photography posts I will be sharing…



  1. Nice images Mark. Especially like those top 5 images and thanks for sharing your details about the Go Pro.

    Would you suggest sticking with the wide angle version? You scored some very nice shots, but shame about having to hang out in the impact zone. That would make for a tiring and brief session. Props to you for doing that at OB.

    • Great question about the wide angle. It depends on what you’re planning on doing with it. If you want to sit in the line-up and take pictures of your buddies, I’d recommend the regular lens, which I plan on getting. However, if you want to stick the GoPro on the nose of your board and film yourself as you surf, you need the wide angle. If you want to see a sample of a video that I made using the GoPro on the nose of the board, check out this link

      Also, I will add that yes in deed, I took a beating. I stayed out for 2 and a half hours, and dragged myself back to the beach. And I thought surfing at OB was exhausting…

      • Thanks for the reply. Those are good points I had not though of before. I can see how both the wide and the normal lens have their place in the water.

        Look forward to seeing more. I love that last clip of walking out of the water with the the board at 90 degrees in the link you just posted.


  2. RAD!

  3. I’m the guy throwing the spray!! Any more pics?!?!

  4. Wow, Mark! Thanks for sharing these. I’ve never surfed (don’t really care to, thanks!) and you did an awesome job of capturing the feeling. Happy New Year!

  5. Nice shots!

  6. Those photos really put you right in the action.
    Thanks for taking some on the head.
    Shots turned out great.

  7. Great pics, I’m the frontside bottom turn guy. That was the best wave I got yesterday but OB put me in “timeout” on the inner bar for the following 15 min. I’d love the file (and any others you’d like to send).

  8. Yo mark, stoked to see the shots! I’m on the blue-railed board standing tall on my backhand on that left. I knew that someone had gotten a shot on that wave. Narcissism and curiosity got the best of me so I searched and found. Thanks for shooting. Hope to see you out there next time…

  9. You’ve got an eye Marky Mark. Look forward to more sessions this winter.

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