Stab issue 76, 2014
A Nervous Ski Launch in the Cold of Dawn
Ingenuity and danger! Those’d be the crucial shots injected into Stab’s newest concept shoot, brought to life by Mark Mathews and the publisher of this magazine, to re-invent the world’s greatest surf photograph.
Laurent Pujol was first to remix the GoPro angle: He dropped a surfer into the POV frame and shot from behind, looking out. Stab commissioned Laurent to photograph Shane Dorian at La Graviere, Hossegor, before offering him $10k to shoot at Pascuales in Mexico over sand, and at Teahupoo in Tahiti over reef. Mark would be the surfer, but when Pujol insisted on more money to compensate his risk (he’s a patriarch, so fair play!), Mark simply offered: “Why don’t I shoot it?”
And then, The Right, in WA, was chosen as the studio.
It was early and overcast when the skis launched. Turbo Diesel cracked the dawn as 4WDs reversed down the boat ramp. The estuary’s texture was subtle thanks to a light wind from the north, and icy cold thanks to the winter currents. It ran past the boat ramp, wound between national parks stuffed with paperbarks and out into the Indian Ocean.
Taj and Mark’s vessel would be a black Yamaha ski patched with duct tape, two boards either stirrup. Taj, already in wetsuit with life vest underneath, fiddled with the emergency-red kill switch (worn on the wrist), and checked the ski rope, trying not to think about what was waiting after the estuary.
Taj wasn’t his jubilant self. He was in a trance, like a pre-bout boxer. Mark, wearing a thick, chocolate coat over his wetsuit, a life vest that’d soon be in use and hi-cut kicks instead of booties, handed a red DHD tow board to Taj.
Filmer Tim Bonython caught Mark’s eye: “How are we looking, mate?”
“We’ll see when we get out of the river,” replied Mark. “Fingers crossed there’s some swell after all this organising, people flowing in from everywhere for this. I’d hate to get out there and it be dead flat.”
Boat driver Blue Broaden, who would chaperone lensmen to the channel, asked Taj: “Have you got a plan for today?”
Taj’s first smile of the morning. “I don’t really know, I’m just following the leader. These guys are talking camera angles and everything. It’s pretty hectic. I’m just the guinea pig… I don’t know what’s going to happen.”
Taj pulled out a neoprene hood and three-mill gloves, then mounted his ski. Tai ‘Buddha’ Graham reversed his to the sand so Mark could step onto the back. The tea-tree brown water funnelled as throttles were cranked.
“Hey!” Mark called over the engines. “You’ve got to be careful on the way out through the river mouth. The sand there gets really fucken shallow.”
It’d be the only time they’d worry about it not being deep enough.