It's Retro Bro / by craig levers

Over on Instagram for this week I'd posted a bunch of retro shots with the stories behind them. Some date back over 20 years... I could have gone further, but their choice was largely on the memory they sparked. For this post I'm going to let you in on all of the upcoming daily selection... you get to see them first. 

Starting with the first two that have been posted.

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Here we have my old mate Troy Riley one of the original HB Jamas. This was a pacific trip in 2006 with Morehu Roberts, Blair Stewart and Sam Willis in tow. We scored perfect waves and got a ton of super full frame water shots which were the style of shooting back then. The deal was to almost be showcasing your water skills as a surf photog; the downside was that the fisheye lens distorted the shit out of everything. Case in point Troy is a booble head in this image. In 2006 I was still shooting water on film; digital still had a way to go to match film so I’d be swimming a half K through the lagoon out to the reef pass with only 36 frames in the housing. It meant you made every frame count. The vibe on this trip was epic, thanks fellas for making it so. The group cocktail shot is L to R Troy, Sam and Morehu.
We cashed in on a flight deal that included 4 star accomodation that had a reef pass straight in front and the other passes were close. The deal included free buffet breakfast, so our routine was, up before first light, shoot until 9am, back for the buffet, rest, shoot again, eat, shoot, dinner with ridiculously huge cocktails, in bed by 9pm...repeat. The perfect Photo trip. 


Chrissy Malone at HTs in 1999 and the portrait is from the year before just a week after he’d won the National Open Title. This was the first photoshoot a NZ Surf mag had funded to the Ments- by that I mean the publisher paid for me to go, the surfers had to find their own funds. Everything was shot on film and at the time I was also shooting video on a Canon XL1. We produced a terrible video called SOS which was Surfers Over Seas. Again it was such a different era, where it was such a rarity to see images and footage of Kiwis charging OS that there was a real demand for it. The trip was bookended by Damon Gunness having his 21st on the boat... here’s a tip... don’t get a hangover in the Ments on a boat with no air conditioning. It really isn’t worth it. The charter with Kiwi Owner/Captain Moose on the Kuta Laut was awesome, Moose is so dialled into the swell and spots- still is. We came back 50 rolls of film exposed, which in the scale of things isn’t that much, but at the time my publisher wasn’t happy about the processing bill. But there were covers, features and poster shots that ended up all over the world. Chrissy still charges hard, living in Raglan and owning the ledge when it gets over 6 foot. His son Navryn is charging too- rad to see you behind the ski the other week Nav!


Paige the Grom! By 2006 it was clear that Paige Hareb was going to be a dominant force in surfing, she had won back to back U16 National Titles. The reserved teenager was winning every grommet event there was. And in the mid 2000's there was a large circuit of comps, both Rip Curl and Billabong NZ putting on their own series which ran back to back. It was hectic and expensive for the families involved to get their grommets to all the contests. But I think the companies did succeed in fostering young Kiwi surfers, Paige, Billy and Ric were all groomed through these years. Both Leon Parkin from Rip Curl and Scott Casey from Billabong were passionate about pushing the junior scene.  
Within 18 months of these two shots being taken Paige would win her third National Title; Womens Junior and was catapulted onto the world stage with her break through WQS win in W.A. She never looked back, becoming NZ's most successful World Tour Competitor. In full disclosure, I've interviewed Paige for the next book; NZ Surf; The Collection Vol 2 which will be out in November... so I've got the stats dialled in.

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The day I nearly quit [again]. The surfer is Danny Carse, and at the time he was the best young surfer out of Otago. I loved shooting with Danny, every single time you'd walk away with something special. This shot was taken at North Piha just after a Quiksilver Air Show in 2002. And we were about to chase swell down to Gizzy with the Electric Eyewear Team. This image is on Velva film using a 15mm Fisheye with a Canon Eos 5 camera in a waterhousing I'd built. Because the NZD was so weak and my publisher, god bless him, couldn't keep stumping up for the tweaks and changes I wanted as I learned the craft. So I had to make my own, I wanted to.  
Over that summer I worked super hard on getting strong content for the mag. We were using a new scanning house to digitise the images, they had a state of the art drum scanner... we were about to find out they didn't have a state of the art Scanner operator. In 2002, because the image files were so huge to do the mag layout we worked with low resolution image samples. The Scanning house would then replace the samples with the high resolution image pre print. Because we were working in low res, we didn't pick up that every single scan had a blur over it. And we couldn't pick it up on the newsprint proofs we used to get. If you look closely at Danny's air you'll see the hills in the background have a weird edge on them. The whole fucking issue from cover to cover was blurry and it was out in the bookstores. It broke me, I'd worked so hard to make the images, and for the reader it would have just looked like all the images were out of focus. To add salt to the wound, the scanning house lost all of my original photos from that issue. I started looking for a new job, I was so disheartened. But I also felt I had something to prove, I needed to be a part of an issue that was strong. I held in for another issue...and then another... until mid 2008. 

The mug shot is of course Danny with his little brother Ric Christie. Ric's surfing is hugely influenced by Danny's style, every time you see that back knee drop inwards, that's a bit of Danny. This shot was taken during the Taranaki Nationals 2007. 


Matt Hoy, summer 2003, Whanga Bar. Again this was straight off the back of one of the Piha Quiksilver Airshows. Hoyo would MC the events with Hawaiian John Shimooka. The Airshows were fricken awesome events all the Aussies would come over and the local board riders Keyhole would host a massive party/bbq at me old and sadly departed mate Bazzy's place. The Air Events were fast and high entertainment, they were over in one day and spectators could really get their heads around the concept. The last Airshow at Piha was held in pumping waves with clean offshores. I vividly remember a competitor getting a stand up barrel into a huge closeout hit, and getting a zero for the wave, he'd just got what on any other day would be a 10, but the wave didn't give him an air section and that was the rules- it was an Airshow- rough! Anyways... after the Airshow Maz, Hoyo, Bosko, Troy Brooks, Ry Craike and Craig Warton with me in tow chased cyclone Dobi down to the Coromandel. The idea of the week was that Quikky needed to shoot their winter wetsuits, so the poor lads had to surf in brand new full suits, they were marinating!  

This week; well I'm writing up a storm for the aforementioned NZ Surf; The Collection Vol 2 book. Warren Hawke is again at the helm and I'm just the lowly publisher slash contributor. Wazza likes to keep the content of the book pretty close to the chest, but I can tell you that the spreads I've seen so far are making me pretty bloody chuffed to be involved! OK, back to punching keys on the board... 

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10 years of Publishing Hard covers and no sign of stopping anytime soon :)