Learning Surf Videography

Learning Surf Videography

The furthest to go from macrophotography was sports videoography. Surfing is really far out, you’re looking at least 20 yards from shore to see a lineup catching unbroken waves, so to truly see them it takes more than your routine zoom lens. And like everything else, there’s a graceful beauty of seeing it slow-mo:

The longer your lens, the more sensitive it is to movement. Half of the reason I slowed it down was to compensate for shake, or badly timed breaths, but at least I brought my tripod this time. The link above is to a highlight reel from Easter morning at the hidden gem of a place known as “Lowers.”

It’s hidden only in the sense that you can’t see it from the freeway and just pull off to park. Despite its rugged entrance, there are still hundreds of surfers who show up there daily during the ideal swell, as it truly is one of those perfect spots.

To reach it, you’re either dropped at a long offramp on the freeway, or you park at either nearby exit and pedal in on a pair of the biggest, bounciest mountain bike tires you can find. Down the hill, across the train tracks, through the trail, take a right and look for the peak at the pack of Portos.

Go left instead and you’re staring at a large decommissioned nuclear power plant. Yes, the superhuman abilities that these athletes have forged in the swells of Trestles truly are a result of a “small radiation leak” which now has the facility in a decades-long tear down. But nah, what could go possibly wrong here?

Surfing from afar has always looked cool, but viewing it in the lineup, seeing 8 to 80 year olds out there ripping circles around you, almost defies reality. It’s a lot of fun, but some days are just too big and perfect to reasonably paddle out there and risk messing it up for those who actually know what they’re doing. So I waited a few hours.

Imagine going no-handlebars down a long hill. Just like old pavement, waves fracture and break, so you weave around trying to get by. Crashing a bike can be brutal, so water is definitely kinder to simply fall on, but then rumbling along in the rocket ship of a washing machine right behind the face is like your wipeout sliding to a halt.

Now look back at the road and there’s more bikes coming, not stopping because they’re here 110% to ride down this hill too, with the road ripping completely upward behind them. And if you’re lucky, you’re still attached to your bike.

On the bright side, there’s this fancy warm neoprene supersuit you’re in, so just flip the board over and paddle back like you’re saving some baby from a burning building. Or maybe don’t save it, you are cold and probably late to something else, so flop back on, turn away and hope you get coasted in past most of the rocky reef.

Summertime is fun and usually flatter, better suited for a longboard, but the shorter boards feel more aspirational. Yesterday was pretty hot, but winter is around the corner. I hope you’ll find a morning just like that one.

Read more about Trestles, including a funny fairly tale history with President Nixon: