Nothing Soft about the Soft top

This past summer I headed south with a handful of the Nike team riders to chase down a massive south swell. Among the group was young Kauai-an Koa Smith, a surfer known as much for his funny antics as is penchant for charging frighteningly large waves. Coming into the trip Koa had recently teamed up with soft top board company Catch Surf as a way to have fun and mess around on some different equipment. Looking for a chance to get a few tubes on the soft boards Koa brought a couple on our trip: no one was expecting what he would pull off. We showed up to an already pumping swell, and it was still building. By the peak of the swell the boys had all had their share of absolutely insane barrels, fearlessly charging through 15ft beach break bombs. I was shooting off a jet ski when all of a sudden I saw Koa appear out the back on one of the other skis holding his 8ft softie. It was the peak of the swell and the surf was massive, I wasn’t too sure what Koa was getting himself into, but next thing I knew the kid was stepping off into one of the biggest waves of the entire trip. He faded this thing backhand and manhandled the soft board into this beast of a pit. He didn’t make it out, and took one hell of a beating, but the kid charged and solidified himself as hellman and future legend. Good on ya Koa boy!

When Covers Just Happen

This cover of Kai Barger was shot quite a few years back, but it is still one of my favorite images. Warm sunny day, clear blue water, Barger absolutley killing it on this turn, you may be thinking that this was shot in some distant country, on some lavish surf trip: well that’s not quite it. The night before we knew that the waves were going to be pumping so I gave Kai a call and told him to be meet me at the beach early, he said he was in, it was on. First light and I am down there ready to get some work done, but no Kai. The waves were pumping and there were a handful of guys out so I stuck around and shot all morning any ways.

Right when I was about to pack up I see Kai strolling down the beach. I told him he blew it, missed the session, I was out of there: but he talked me into staying. His excuse was that he had to sticker up his boards, the funny thing was his Nike sticker was upside down! This was nearly the final straw for me, not only was he hours late, but the company who I was working for, sticker was upside down making it pretty much unusable. I was pretty over it but told Kai I’d stick around for another hour.

Kai ended up flaring up the whole session and pulled the unreal blow-tail pictured earning himself his first cover of Surfer Magazine. The funny thing is, the upside down sticker ended up being placed perfectly right side up in the photo: needless to say it was the last time I hassled anyone over their sticker placement.

Oh, and the tropical looking, epic surf. It was Lowers going absolutely richter one summer day


From the Archives

We have been going through a sort of office re-vamp lately: reorganizing old drives, moving stuff to new drives, and just generally digging through the archives. While tedious, the process has been great that it has brought to the surface some old gems that somehow slipped through the cracks before. This photo is from one of the very first Nike 6.0 trips to Fernando de Noronha in Brazil. It is truly one of the most scenic and beautiful place on earth. We had been shooting waters for a few hours and this was one of the last frames I popped off as the sun began to set behind the rock.

To buy this print and others click HERE

Its always overhead when you’re lying down

I first saw handplanes a few years back, well before it was common place to see a handful of head bobbing in the lineup, and I was intrigued by them. I love riding waves, and I love riding waves on various crafts: shortboards, fishes, mini simmons, SUP’s, they’re all good, and all fun, so needless to say I wanted to check these things out. As my quest to figure out what these little planks were all about (all I needed as a grom was a McDonalds trey), I was told that I had to get in touch with Gary Murphy of Brownfish handplanes. Supposedly Gary was some sort of Handplane Guru, the man to talk to. Finally one morning I had a bit of time and so I dragged my assistant Kevin along with me and we headed down to Seaside Reef to meet this Brownfish guy and see what it was all about. The waves were average at best, but Gary had kindly brought a few samples along and got us out in the water. One wave later I was hooked, and I mean hooting like a grom that got his first tube hooked. The thing is, handplanes make anything fun, period, end of story. Too small, too fast, too crowded? Doesn’t matter. As Gary says, “Its always overhead when you’re lying down”.

We traded off waves for well over an hour that day, and I can honestly say it was one of the more enjoyable sessions that I can remember. We got to talking with Gary on the beach afterwards where he explained that he had been shaping a few surfboards just as a hobby when he found a crewd fencepost turned handplaned washed up on the beach. With his shaping skills already in place Gary figured he’d try his hand at making one of these mini wave riders, and that was all it took. A few months later Gary invited me down to check out his operation, so once again Kevin and I hit the road to see what he was all about, and spent the afternoon shooting him shaping. From his shaping bay the guy is constantly tweaking shapes, sizes, bottom contours, and various other design aspects in order to make what many, including myself, consider the very best handplanes out there. He truly is the Handplane guru, and his wide range of planes will keep you in the water and keep you stoked.

If you want to get your hands on one of these masterpieces check out tell him I sent you and he’ll probably charge you double

brownfish from Kevin Voegtlin on Vimeo.

Water World

This image was taken on a recent trip to Indonesia. The waves got small for a few days and we had to find some ways to get creative, the crystal clear water and shallow reefs make for some unique photos of the world below. We were fortunate enough to have a beautiful custom wood board, shaped by our friend Kevin Cunningham, on board: really setting this photo apart. For more on Kevin’s board check out his company at

Indonesia is an amazing place, but being that it is on the entire opposite side of the world, it makes for quite the trek getting there. This trip we had a day to kill in Hong Kong while waiting for our connecting flight. Wandering the city was an eye opening experience to say the least, look for some pretty neat video and imagery from our wanderings coming shortly.