From The Scaffolding: Stab High Through The Lens Of Surfing's First Air-Focused Photographer
Jimmy Metyko came to Waco. Here's what he saw.
In 2018, the Texas-born surfer and world-renowned photographer, Jimmy Metyko, asked if he could shoot the inaugural Stab High event for free. We, of course, obliged. Not only did Jimmy shoot the event in a style totally his own, but several months after the fact, he also provided some of his favorite images, complete with extended captions, for our readers to enjoy.
In 2019, Jimmy did exactly the same. The only difference being that he had to work around our intricate, industrial scaffolding system that shrouded the once-bare wavepool wall. Below is a personal account of Jimmy's experience that day.
For the second year in a row, I was allowed to run around as a wildcard shooter for Stab at the “Van’s Stab High presented by Monster Energy ‘Mostly in the Air’ event at BSR in Waco,Texas powered by Perfect Swell technology.” A mouthful, but worthy of saying in full at least once.
Same directive as last year: ferret out angles and a POV that are unique to the Stab High experience, different than their standard production and without worrying about any immediate content consumption (read 7+ months later).
No easy task considering that, unlike the first Stab High, where you could count the number of shooters on one hand, for 2.0, Stab, along with Vans and Monster Energy, had a plethora of all-time shooters crawling and swimming all over the event.
Jimmicane, Tom Carey, Sam Moody to name a few; as well as, local BSR/Texas lensman Rob Henson and countless film crews with $20K+ Red cameras as abundant as iPhones. Even Ladybird Bella Kenworthy had her legendary shooter-dad, Jason, in tow, firing off images at 14 frames per second.
Shortly after stepping into the BSR park on warmup day and witnessing Schulz’s “Freak Flip” (my camera still in its bag), I ran into Stab editor Morgan Williamson.
Frustrated by the scaffolding erected on top of the wavepool wall (which blocked all my time-tested, go-to shooting angles), the first words out of my mouth to Morgan, half-joking, half-serious, were, “I hate the scaffolding, can you guys dismantle it for me?“
That quickly got a “Nice to see you, too” facial expression.
Understanding creative types all too well, Morgan reassured me that the scaffolding was a good thing and graciously offered me my mandate:
“Jimmy, use the scaffolding, shoot from it; climb on it, go all over. It’s there for you to use.”
No doubt that the scaffolding offered some very high, very unique angles for shooting, otherwise only obtainable by drone. In addition, Stab had built two cantilevered caged platforms out over the water at the base of the scaffoldings that brought the spectator right into the action—the “Shark Cage”. So close that literally a Monster Energy drink could be exchanged with a contestant mid air, in return for a little aerial spray on your Vans dangled over the side. Definitely not your standard ocean shooting angles.
As mandated, all images below were either shot from the scaffolding or include the scaffolding. And if a scaffolding pole cuts the image in half, distracting from the fluidness of perfectly executed, technical aerials, so be it. The attempt was a metaphor representing the wave pool paradox: the invasiveness of wave pools into our already perfect surf culture; yet on the other hand, illustrating Stab’s foresight, vision, support, and building of a previously unimaginable, exciting new crossover sport and venue.
Perhaps no other image illustrates this paradox better than a single unaesthetic scaffolding pole seemingly rising from the water with just a hint of phenom crossover skater/surfer Curren Caples tweaked so linear and vertical on his Lien Crossbone that he is able, at peak frame, to hide behind the 2” vertical pole. Depending on your point of view, it's either grotesque or insanely cool.
No matter how you feel about wavepools and their recent explosion and proliferation into our surf culture, the first two Stab High events have provided by far the best platform to exhibit, progress, spectate, judge, promote, entertain, shoot, and most importantly support technical aerial surfing at a faster rate than previously obtainable.
Looking forward to Stab High 3.0.
No Short Porch here. Balaram Stack flashing some “Yankee” in the heart of Texas baseball country.
At what point does Bella Kenworthy cease being the daughter of legendary shooter Jason Kenworthy, and Jason Kenworthy becomes the father of legendary surfer Bella Kenworthy?
The snow leopard of surfing. When he shows himself, you make sure your camera is poised and your finger is on the trigger. You may be tempted to just watch in awe, but unlike the unrealistic character Sean O’Connell, you shoot.
Chippa quote: “Stab High is completely different to any surf contest you will see. The setting is like a skate vibe. You have everyone on the wall two feet above you, yelling at you.”
The hardest part of shooting a Stab High event is that you have to keep your camera trained on every single air or you will miss something crazy.
This is either the absolute best or worst aerial shot that I have ever taken. Curren Caples tweaking a skate Lien Crossbone so straight, so extreme, that he is actually obscured behind a 2” diameter vertical scaffolding pole at peak frame.
Dane Reynolds x Jimmy 'Crane' Wilson
A little security check under the hood for anything explosive.
Everybody was watching Bobby pop these clean little airs, wave after wave as he was figuring out that sweet spot to launch. Then on his very last wave before heading in, he rips this massive four fin slash carve. The gallery watching from the scaffolding, collectively leaned back and let a big “Whoa”. You could feel that rail slice through the water at sonic speed deep in your gut. A few of these are needed every so often in the middle of a “Mostly in the Air” air event.
There is something to be said about an event that in 30 minutes goes from 100-degree scorching mid-Summer Texas heat to a black sky, “Doppler-hooked” central Texas weather mass and the guys putting on the entire event, the entire staff at Stab, are out in the middle of it all, cheering and throwing their arms up like lighting rods on every high voltage air thrown in the final.
One of three surfers to be in the finals of both Stab High events. You will not find yourself in one final, never mind two, if you do not belong there. Eithan, one of the few aerialists who seems to have come to Stab High 2.0 with a game plan and then executed it flawlessly.
Last year’s winner Noa Deane, when not walking around in cowboy boots and spurs, took these varials next level—throwing them with control, style, and confidence.
Is adding ledges, poles, and rails in the future for Stab High? If so, 11-year-old skater/surfer super grom and Ladybird Sky Brown seems poised and already thinking about it.
Instruction manual not included.
PSA: If Jimmy's work inspired you, we'll be holding Stab High 3.0 in Melbourne, Australia on March 21, 2020. We hope to see you there, or at the very least, watching the event online.