Could Have, Should Have- Didn't / by craig levers

It Has Been Pumping

I often get asked how do I decide whether to go surfing or take photos. Well, after 30 years of struggling with it, I can firmly reply with confidence...I don't f&cking know. You just have to accept that which ever way you go will probably be wrong. Not being so cheeky about it, it's always been about perpetuating a surfing lifestyle. The reason for shooting is to be able to go surfing. Over the last bout of offshores out west I chose surfing over shooting. 


Gary Bowers aka PHLEX Photography  however, stayed strong in his commitment to the craft. Here's his patented angle of the Bar with Napes nicely placed.


Well I wasn't sure who this guy is, but then through the power of the inter web, Pando went- hey that's me!  PHLEX nailed the moment! 


Kye Bedford in the driver's seat. Photo PHLEX

Check out Gary's Facebook page HERE and follow him on Instagram HERE . And thanks Dave for bailing me out of Blog bog. 

Last Week's E-Bomb was the most read one to date. 

In keeping with that retro theme I've dug up a bunch more from the archives. It has been cold, even Phlex's images above look cold. So the theme around this retro bunch is escapes to warmer climates.


Scar Reef 2000. The grommet boat trip. On deck From left to right you have Leigh Hawker, Bobby Hansen's back, Dan Scott, Matt Scorringe,  Dan Birch, Jay Quinn and Ainsley Guness.

We scored seriously good waves on this boat charter, Scars was good, Super Suck was exceptional. The groms definitely had their boundaries pushed on this charter. But I also let them know that they weren't expected to charge anything they didn't want to. It's a tough line for a grom to navigate I reckon. The pressure of having a magazine staff photog onboard, peer pressure... I always tired to convey that there would be no judgement. That surf trips should be FUN and my job was to reflect how much fun was being had.

I still think it's important for surf media [and the surf industry in general] not to loose sight of what the reader wants to read and see. I think it's relatable stories and adventures, spliced with information of how that could be your adventure too. 

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2002 Jordan Barley at Speedies, G-Land.... speaking of groms pushing their boundaries. Jordan pushed himself hard on this trip to the jungle, it was his first time in Indo and he was travelling somewhat solo, he hit me up to see what I was doing.  He was nervous about taking on G-land but I told him I'd look after him. I was going with the Whanga Mafia, Chris Speedy, Josh Kennings and Troy Reilly, Rueben Noble joined us as well so we had a strong Kiwi crew for Java.

Pre-organised camera boats fell through [as was the norm in Java] water-housings were broken, but somewhere in the mess of it all there was good work done. And then the subsequent issue of the magazine's images were mis-scanned and the whole issue looked all over contrasty and gritty. It was heartbreaking as a photog to do the hard yards and then your results appear sub par.


Welcome to the Jungle Jordo! From left to right you have Chris Speedy working on his board, Jos in the stairwell, Troy about to bb gun me, Rueben whooping up Jordan at Backgammon.  


Rueben at Bingin 2002 a few days before we went to G-Land ...and the water housing wasn't broken. 


While I love Indo, there's definitely more of a connection to the South Pacific. This trip in 2001 was one of the best I've been on. Left to right you have Bobby Hansen, not sure who's sitting next to Bobby, Daniel Lovell behind him, a random Swedish backpacker one, Andrew Robinson, down in the centre is the host with the most BIG Dave, behind him is his wife Vena with Felix Dickson, Motu Mataa and random Swede II. We scored seriously good waves everyday. We had the best routine down, dawn shoot, breakfast, another surf search, possible shoot, arvo siesta, swim, evening bender. Repeat for 10 blissful days. 


Motz laying it over 16 years ago, timeless style. 

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On the other hand, the Pacific is also been where my worst surf trips have occurred. I've learnt to accept that Fiji is not for me. I've been beaten up on the Coral coast, stranded in Kandavu and skunked at Frigates. In fact on each of my two last trips, close friends have passed away back home. It's a horrible thing being in another country working when something bad has happened at home. I don't want more mates to die, so I don't go to Fiji. 

That said there were a lot of laughs on these disaster tours. Around the Kava bowl in 2001 is my old and dangerous Partner in Crime Steven Luff, Mikey Phillips and Stu. It's at the now defunct Frigates camp, actually we had all our cash stolen from that camp while were were out in the boat. The surf sucked that trip. 


To make amends, the next year Mikey Phillips, Nick Tansely, Tony Schaffer and I went up again, this time to score Kandavu. It was even worse. Got this shot of Mikey at 1-2 foot Wilkes though!


Tonga is regarded as super fickle. But I've always had good luck there. This is Maz the year he qualified for the World Tour, 2001. It was a great trip staying at Ha'atafu with the Burling family, as always looking after us. It was a big trip Maz Quinn, Marc Morre, Motu Mataa, Jordan Barley, Eddie Tongalaui, Nick Macrae, Matt McNeil plus a couple of others I just can't recall- sorry fellas. 


Maz 2002 at Burleigh Beach Towers, above the venue of his first World Tour Event. He made the 1/4s, his highest placing that year. I always remind him it was because I was there, it is how it works. Rik, Paige, Billy, just saying guys, just saying. 


Speaking of OZ. In 2003 Luke Harwood spearheaded a tradition that would last for the following 5 years until I left the magazine. The Annual Rusty roady on the Eastcoast of Aussie. Without exception we scored good waves every trip. Luke and Justin Souter were the lynch pins of these tours. They both did an amazing job of making the trips easy for me, they made them fun. The fun happened after the job was done and we knew we had good images in the can. We'd alternate years in between flying into Sydney and driving north, or flying into Coolangatta and heading south. There are just so many uncrowded options once you get away from the big population bases. 


Justin and Luke of the first Rusty tour... ohh this motorhome actually caught on fire! A metal egg holder shorted out the junction box. It was heavy! 


Souty, shadow play on point... you can't stop looking at it now I've mentioned it aye. 


Jos Kennings, Tahiti In 2003. Budgets for photo trips really started to come into play around this time. Surf trips changed, not better, not worse, just different. Previous to this surf trips where kind of cobbled together with whoever could go, they'd largely be the surfer self funding their own trip and working in with me where'd we go. In 2002-3 the brands now had the budget to send an entire team away on the photoshoot. 

My publisher still paid my costs and wage, in part in order for there to be a distinction and hopefully make it clear we had editorial control. I don't think it really translated too well. Everyone on these trips had fun and there was still an element of challenge and exploration. But there was a shift in expectations from the sponsor/brand. For a magazine and a photographer it's a slippery side. The surfers now were on the company's ticket, so they were there to work it, the photojournalistic reportage of a surf trip like that is different. I think the best editorial comes from trips where the participants are almost un-expected parings.  


Blair Stewart same session, same roll of film. 


Sam Willis and Jos at the end of the road, Tahiti 2003

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Ben Kennings, Teahupoo 2004 top and bottom


Regardless of those nuances, with winter's firm embrace, just where would you rather be? yep in that boat with BK I reckon too! 

From The Bookstore 


Ohhh, feeling all nostalgic and yearning for yesteryears now? Well have I got the book for you! There are still a couple of boxes- and I do mean only a few- of PhotoCPL- New Zealand Surfing Photography 1991-2008 left. Get retro! Get PhotoCPL! Check it out HERE