Tandem Surfing Shoot


Perched on top of a slippery rock with waves crashing around my feet, my hands are gripped tightly onto my favourite pro camera with my 200mm zoom lens. On my travels, I’ve been on many adventures with my cameras and I’ve definitely been in more dangerous positions, (like dangling one handed from a tree several feet off the ground inside the bowl of an extinct volcano) but today is quite exhilarating.

My feet are splayed out gripping to the smooth rock surface, my back bent forwards trying to compensate for the heavy weight in front, my elbows on my knees trying to stabilise the long lens. With each wave I angle the lens away from the water to make sure spray doesn’t drench the camera, but my eyes are more focused elsewhere.

Blinking against the harsh sun, I’m staring out to sea watching several tiny surfboards bobbing on the water waiting for the perfect swell. It’s not very big today, but there should be just enough to catch a good shot. On one particularly long and stable surfboard sits two people, Ahlia and her partner Travis.

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They’re Tandem Surfers.

I met Ahlia about six months ago when her and her business partner Matt engaged my services for marketing photos for their Yoga and Wine Tasting Retreat based in Montana. www.yogavinoretreat.com. Matt is a professional sommelier and Ahlia a very talented Yoga instructor. Following her facebook page, I found a video of her tandem surfing and immediately asked if I could come along to one of her sessions.

For anyone who doesn’t know what tandem surfing is, (I certainly didn’t until I saw a video of Ahlia in action), it’s a sport that started on Waikiki beach. It’s thought that along with being a local pastime, a bunch of beach boys in the early 1900’s turned it into a popular sport. When Hawaii became a hot-spot for tourists, they started taking girls out for rides on their boards, this evolved into more exhilarating rides to show off their skills to watchers on the beach by lifting the girls up and perching them on their shoulders. Over time more lifts were added and competitions spread around the world.

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Today Ahlia and Travis are training for the first competition of the year, and they’re having a great time. After practicing some lifts on the beach, they hit the waves with gusto and paddled out on their specially modified SUP board. “Try not to get my hair wet” Ahlia said to Travis, “I want to look pretty for the pictures”.

After a few tries of catching a wave, they finally got one. They both stood up together and Travis gripped Ahlia by the waist and hoisted her above his head. She stretched elegantly pointing her toes and bending backward spreading her hands. The wave was short, so the ride didn’t last long. Travis carefully lowered her down but they splashed and fell into the shallow waters. So much for keeping her hair dry.

A few more tries and they only seemed to get better. They began practicing two poses on the same wave, which looked a real challenge considering how short the rides were.

I’d been taking photos of each lift, and still had to capture that one elusive ‘perfect’ photo of the two of them, and as the hour was almost up, this wave was my last chance.

Balancing precariously and leaning forward, I trained my lens on the large surfboard. Ahlia and Travis paddling like mad to get the largest wave of the day, now speeding towards me, Ahlia is expertly lifted into the air, spun around and just as they rip past me, she waves and flashes me a huge grin. My finger presses the shutter release and the camera springs to life clicking wildly. ‘Yes!’

That’s the shot!

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