On a random day in Oceanside last summer I rounded the corner and saw one of my favorite surfers walking across the sand. It's not often that you see 2004 ASP Women's World Champion Sofia Mulanovich surfing your local spot and lucky for me I just happened to have my video camera with me. These onshore waves don't look particularly difficult to surf but the sandbars were really messed up and everyone else that I saw out there was either getting caught behind on closeouts or simply ran out of gas when their waves mushed into nothing. Sofia on the other hand made the waves look rippable and fun. With a new crew of young rippers on tour, Sofia's name doesn't pop up as often as it used to but to my eyes at least, she's blowing the tail out the back better and more critically each and every year.
Popular surf media would have you believe that it's a small, elite group of surfers that are at the forefront of modern day high performance surfing on both long- and shortboards. However, walk up to virtually any spot and you'll discover underground rippers that are pushing the limits each and every day. Local girl Kamalehua Keohokapu flat out rips! She turns around and goes on the latest of drops and where most surfers would straighten off, she'll square off the bottom and just blast the oncoming section. With JettyGirl stickers on her truck and a warm Hawaiian smile on her face, any day spent shooting with Kamal is a wonderful day indeed!
In the US, summer officially kicks off in the third week of June. The JettyGirl calendar runs on a slightly different schedule though. My summer begins each year when I get the first phone call from my favorite Western Australian, Claire Bevilacqua. Yesterday was that day and I jumped at the chance to meet up with Claire in Newport Beach.
This may end up being incoherent and rambling but here are a few words that pop into my head when I think about Bevo...
RAW: I love that what you see with Claire is what you get. If she's sad, you know. Happy, you know. Irritated, you know. Amped, you know. If my photos stink, she'll tell me. If we score a good one, she'll make me feel like a hero. Maybe it's an Australian thing, I don't know, but what I do know is that Claire's raw honesty makes her refreshing to be around.
REAL: Face it, JettyGirl is not Transworld, Surfer, Surfing, even FOAM for that matter. We don't have their clout and the mainstream advertisers that claim their pages couldn't give two hoots what we're doing. However, when Claire runs across the sand to pass out an authentically warm hug, I don't feel like our little publication is playing second fiddle to anyone. And the "real" thing about Claire is that she'll deal with me wherever, whenever and without regard to who may be watching. I won't name names here but it's incredible how many surf stars act like they're your friend but will turn away from you instantly if "cool" people are around.
PASSIONATE about pushing women's surfing to the next level: So many times when I'm shooting, the surfers seem to have a safe "three to the beach" approach to our photo shoots. While it may be "good" surfing, it's hardly exciting ...I can practically eat a sandwich with one hand and casually shoot away with the other. There's no way I can do that with Claire. The second she stands up and starts generating speed, I'm doing my best to follow focus because I know something amazing is about to take place. I hear a lot of people talk about getting scores, etc. but Claire is the only one I've heard (repeatedly) claiming that she wants to entertain the fans. Claire may or may not ever become world champion, but along with Melanie Bartels and a few others, she has advanced women's surfing in considerably more ways than she's given credit for.
I'm sure there must be a generally accepted maximum word limit to blog-writing so I'll give this entry a rest. I could write a book about my thoughts on Claire but to summarize, in a surf world containing its fair share of phonies and forced-upon-us-flavors-of-the-month, Claire Bevilacqua is the real deal, a superstar and one of my favorite people on the planet.
It happened at midday (of course) but the best completed 10 I've ever seen came under the toes of North Carolina's Kelly Nicely. Quirky and seemingly disorganized at times (especially when it comes to locating a bar of wax), Kelly has pulled off what few people I know have ...a double major leading to two science degrees, a successful science career, and a nice home in San Diego County, all the while continuing to put in top notch performances in the water. Great surfer, even better friend.
Sometimes the presence of a human being ruins a scene. But every once in a while we add to it. Kyla Langen is a great example to me of how we can properly co-exist with our natural world. On this dreary yet oddly warm morning, Kyla pauses for a stretch before paddling out for some cold ones.