Tuesday night I received an email from my buddy John Hefti, that the Rip Curl Pro Search in San Francisco surfing competition was happening at Ocean Beach and there was a high likelihood of Kelly Slater winning his 11th ASP (Association of Professional Surfers) World Title. I thought that sounds really cool, but after a long day, with a busy week ahead and knowing I'd be going straight from 8am surf start to Stanford for my talk at 5:45, followed by the Stanford Women's Basketball game... I decided to go. How can you miss an opportunity to shoot surfing on a beautiful day in San Francisco, considering it's been DECADES since there was a professional surfing event at Ocean Beach, you don't get many opportunities like this! I packed up my camera gear, trail mix, granola bars, and water and headed out to the beach.
San Francisco always has beautiful autumn days, but as we are already in November, and my sister used to live 2 blocks from Ocean Beach, I figured even with a beautiful day in the city, the coastline would still be a foggy freeze. Nope! It was a BEAUTIFUL!!
And thankfully it was warm, because by the end of the competition, the crowd started creeping into the water, and I ended up knee deep in the waves, thinking uh oh, I hope I can get all the sand out and dry off before I have to give my photo seminar! Thankfully, I often leave things in my car and had a spare set of shoes lying in there! As my feet tweet went from this
It was so awesome to see the competition at Ocean Beach. Especially as the container ships would cruise through the background.
I had shot Mavericks before, but that didn't prepare me at all for this contest. Mavericks is big wave surfing, with waves cresting about 25 feet a mile offshore and the surfers basically drop down a vertical wall of water and try to hang on, to the board, the wave and their lives. These waves are about 3-5 feet tall and allow for more tricks and turns.
Though sometimes they still fall/jump off
It's also neat because though there is priority on waves, sometimes two surfers would catch the same wave and just take it different directions
Breaking so close to the shore also made it easier for spectators to watch and it was neat to see the surfers walking back to the shore.
Though I'm not particularly adept at surfing, it has a special place in my heart because after having surgery to remove a painful cyst in my wrist, the cyst came right back within months, the night before my appointment to get it looked at again, I went surfing with my friend Ricardo in Pacifica. And thanks to my poor surfing skills, totally wiped out, went face first into the shallow water, stopped myself with my hands and the impact totally "popped" my cyst and it never came back! So as much as I would like to be a great surfer maybe I should stay at the level I'm at since surfing cured me! haha. This is all I should do on a surfboard ;-)
As the day went on, and we waited for results of Round 2 to find out what heat Kelly would be surfing, heat 6. Start time would be around 3pm and with half hour heats, this would be a close call. Thankfully the competition went on smoothly and the moment we were all waiting for came around 2:45 as Kelly and Daniel Ross went into the surf.
Ross had a great run.
But Kelly narrowly defeated him by .73 point
And what a ride for Kelly.
Before even getting out of the water, he was stormed by fans.
Who carried him back to the stage.
To accept his trophy.
And drink that champagne.
I only had my 300mm and 70-200mm, my 16-35 is broken at the moment, but here's a shot from my iPhone to show the size of the crowd cheering him on.
With the mics being hard to hear, he got closer to the crowd, asked for a moment of silence for his friend, surfing competitor, and the first surfer to win Rip Curl Pro twice in a row, Andy Irons, who passed away exactly one year ago.
Then he thanked the crowd, and I ran off, jeans rolled up, feet drench, hair disheveled, lugging my gear, thinking what an awesome day!! =)