Not Another Stab High Gallery
‘Dion, Live’, 17 selects featuring Dion Agius from the savvy eye of lensman Jimmy Metyko.
By the time I connected with Stab through buddy and surf journalist Jake Howard, Stab’s media team already had their official production crews, videographers, and legendary shooter Corey Wilson in place to cover Stab High.
I was asked to be a wildcard photographer, per say.
“Don’t worry about capturing content and launching it out to the world before the aerials even land. Give us some cool images and find something special which captures the spirit and uniqueness of the event. No hurry, we can publish later after all the aerosol has settled.”
What I have thrown back at Stab are two pieces, photo essays if you will. This is the first, “Dion Live”.
Yeah, yeah, but can the guy rock it live?
I’ve seen all the edited aerial clips, all the creative imagery by Respondek and Nick Green, viewed Dion in Joe G’s six minute orchestrated fantasy wave pool dream “Electric Blue Heaven” too many times to count. No doubt, going into this shoot, I was a fan.
Dion Agius is a talented, creative, free “aerialist” surfer, who bends our very perceptions of surfing. A digital darling for sure, I digitally soak up his content and all his sponsors content daily. But how was all that going to translate to shooting him surfing live, over two days (warmup day and event day), without direction, on an artificial wave, in Waco Texas, with 16 of the world’s other best aerialists, in the arena stage like spectator friendly atmosphere of Stab High?
I hope the images and captions below better give answer… But in short, yes, Dion rocked it.
What caught me completely off guard was how much a performer Dion actually was. How he seemed to creatively respond to the unique environment created by Stab; not only backing up his digital image but boosting it higher. He was like a performance artist who envisioned the entire Stab High event and venue as his stage.
1. “Portrait of an Aerialist, Imprinted”
The whimsical mind of artist Lucas Beaufort’s interpretation of Dion.
Observing Dion, from the start, you could see his mind constantly studying, creating, looking for opportunity to perform in and out of the water. More a performance artist, than a surfer competing in an aerial event.
2. Superhero landing”
He’s gonna do a superhero landing. Wait for it. Whoo! Superhero landing! You know that’s really hard on your knees”, Deadpool.
It wasn’t until I downloaded the first day of images, the warm up day, and viewed the poses Dion was striking mid air, that I started to process the uniqueness of Dion’s performance, live and unedited.
3. “The Dance of Death”
At one point, while shooting, I had to stop and google on my iPhone Josef Fenneker’s painting “The Dance of Death”. Not because I saw it beautifully presented in a museum, or a finely printed art book, but rather Dion was continually blasting it out, displayed on the bottom of his board in a gallery of blurry swirl, live over a central Texas wave pool. Challenging anyone willing enough to look close.
I hope someone is photographing, recording, even better, saving all of Dion’s boards for a future gallery exhibition.
4. “Caught” – The moments leading up to Dion’s first Acid Drop attempt on event day.
When shooting events, I prefer to be a fly on the wall, not to embed or engage. Capture uninhibited actions. Occasionally, you get caught by the subject. At that point you hope the subject understands how to give you only enough to make the image.
5. “Front Row”
The deck above the wave generators were at times like a back stage, at other times it was the stage itself; and at times, like here in this image, front row seats to the best live performance in Waco.
The guaranteed interval wave count, unique stage like atmosphere of the venue and full 360 degree accessibility for both spectators and the surfers, allowed for a surfer/artist like Dion to put on a performance even greater than what you would see in any perfectly edited video or traditional surfing event.
That extra edge – waxing your board, waxing your traction pads, even waxing the tops of your feet.
Wrapping your ankles tighter, over chalking your hands, what elite performers will do, what they need, moments before performing, for that extra bit of edge, or peace of mind.
7. “Curtain Call”
Getting into that head space before the curtain opens.
What place did Dion get? Was he in the finals? Does it even matter? The more I observed, I questioned whether Dion was even there to compete, but rather to perform and present his art in a stage like venue.
8. A Second In Time.
Shooting the worlds best aerialists at 14+ frames per second, your eye can’t process more than a few random images in real time, the rest is a blur. Point, shoot and hope the auto focus isn’t fooled.
There was a different level of effort and thought placed into Dion’s maneuvers, his wetsuit, his board color, the graphics, his arm placements, these were his props.
His entire performance seems to be coiled then released at perfect moments.
My camera and I were there every time Dion was up on stage and in the water. There is a certain intensity and deliberateness to his actions that carries over into his surfing and airs. He seems to be playing to the crowd, performing and feeding off it.
10. “Spears and Flames”
Only when skilled technically and finely tuned, can you truly explore your creativity.
Far from the free spirited soul surfer creative stereotype, Dion portrays a very different type of creative, a finely tuned performer out to provoke, entice, and challenge the very definition of what we call surfing.
11. “White Guy Dance Moves 1”
This shot fits between images 3 and 4 of the next sequence. One of the gifts of still images is being able to go back and study in great detail what is missed in the blur of the movement.
In this frozen still, it is hard to tell whether Dion is performing, or caught up in the moment and jive of feeling his landing. Either way, highly entertaining for the viewer.
12. “White Guy Dance Moves 2”
Motion and still sequences are entirely not the same. Motion alone would never allow you to fully appreciate all Dion’s subtle moves.
Every frame offers a slight different movement of his arms and makes for an entirely new stand alone visual, demanding a new and different response.
13. “Acid Drop Frenzy”
Dion, and the Wave Architect, fellow performer Cheyne Magnusson collabing for photographer Corey Wilson.
As much about entertaining the crowd than successfully completing anything, in the frenzy of the acid drop you could see Dion’s creative mind and energy going into overdrive.
Up on the crowded deck, stepping over boards and
cables, squeezing through people, and having cameras crammed microns from smashing his face, Dion blurs out all, and moves towards the water.
He seemed to thrive on the intensity of the crowds and the audience, but at other times, seemingly retreated to perhaps some isolated locale deep in Tasmania.
15. “Black and Grey”
Black boards, unsettling graphic, artificial waves,
Waco, unique aerial stances, all means to illicit and provokes an emotional response.
16. “On Fire”
Overcast blanketed most of the event, which help hide that creepy water color.
I saw light subtle hues and greys contrasted by Dion’s burning sleeves.
Stepping it up and taking it to the next level. Like a juggler switching from clubs to torches, performers for centuries have used fire to entertain and demonstrate complete command of their craft.
17. “End of Act One”
With the threat of lightning, heading in, Dion rides out his last performance at the end of warmup day.
For most of the surfers the warmup day seemed exactly that, a chance to get to know the wave and loosen up. For Dion it was Act one of a two day live performance.
You can see all the clips of Dion you want and I strongly suggest you do. Until you catch his act live though, you will miss a part of what make his surfing so unique and good. In fact, you will miss a part of what makes Surfing so unique and good. How diverse our sport/art is and how many different ways it can be betrayed and acted out.
In a time when surfing is being digitally packaged more and more for mass consumption, we need more and more alternative and creative views of what surfing is and can be.
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