Guilty Pleasures: Follow-Cam Surf Filming - Stab Mag
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Guilty Pleasures: Follow-Cam Surf Filming

Jimmy Wilson tracks Coco Ho, Dylan Graves, and Tanner Gudauskas with the GoPro Hero 10.

Words by Jack Mutschler

Jimmy Wilson is an enlightened wizard in the world of surf photography.

He spent over eight years working for Surfing Magazine, where he held titles such as senior editor, social media manager, and photo editor. Today, he serves as the online content editor and social media coordinator for Vans Surf.

With 15 years of industry experience, Jimmy has seen it all and has the full hard drives to prove it. He’s recently mastered the art of the follow-cam, wielding a GoPro and a soft top in the wake of elite surfers. 

After watching his methods at Vans Stab High, Central America, presented by Monster Energy, we’d figured there would be no one more qualified to give the new GoPro Hero 10 a trial run.

We sent Jimmy the product and asked him a few questions about his special methods. Read below:

Stab: When did you start shooting follow cam footage?
Jimmy Wilson: I for sure had a GoPro as early as 2010 because a friend just texted me a video she found on Facebook of us slamming inflatable beer bongs on the train to a Padres game. I know I messed around with a couple of follows back then, but nothing legit until about 2017.

What inspired you to do so?
The first surf time seeing it was in Logan Dulien’s Snapt in the early/mid-2000s. Chad Towersey was filming Bruce Irons and a few others out at Lowers, which was impactful to me as a grom.

I got re-inspired by a few others later on. Laurent Pujol’s photography, pulling into tubes behind people, was so crazy. He nailed all kinds of covers. Then came Leroy Bellet, who took it to the next level, getting spit out of barrels with guys like Russel Bierke and Scott Dennis. Even sending on a tow day at Teahupo’o. Insane shit.

But from a video standpoint, Spenny, aka Gimbal God, really got me fired up. What he did in snowboarding might be the single most mimicked shooting style ever, and for a good reason. 

What makes the GoPro good for shooting follow-cam?
There’s no way to match its functionality when surfing on a wave behind someone. You need a wide-angle lens—something as small as possible and great in-camera stabilization.

John Florence and Jack Robinson did some follows with a RED at The Box a few years ago, and I think it did them a disservice. Still amazing, but the wrong tool for the job.

What’s the hardest part of shooting follow-cam?
My own ability as a surfer. I’m average at best. No doubt, someone like Yadin Nicol (who’s already doing it a bunch with his son Corona), or any pro could crush me at follow-cam if they wanted to work at it a bit.

Not to completely write myself off. I know how to use cameras, prefer party waves, and I’m always self-critiquing.

There’s plenty of obstacles, though. Space on the wave, a limited amount of angles, syncing up with a pro surfer in a thick crowd, fatigue, and falls by the subject. So many “almost a clip!” moments out there. One keeper per session would be considered productive to me.

What other ways have you found the GoPro useful?
Anything where you need to be right up in action, POV, or for use as a cutaway angle. There’s nowhere you can’t put these things. I also love using GoPro to shoot videos of my daughter.

What’s new about this GoPro Hero 10? (Frame rates, settings navigation, bonus features etc., battery life)
Water spots on the lens were an issue in previous versions, but they put a coating on the lens cover that water doesn’t stick to. It’s a game-changer.

Also, the HERO10 shoots 5.3k at 60fps, 4K at 120fps, and 4k at 60fps in a 4:3 aspect ratio which is way better for showcasing vertically on social. 

What differences have you noticed in the footage you’ve shot?
The stabilization is noticeably better to the point where you could run full sprint down the beach, and it looks like you have the thing on a gimbal (see my seagulls clip above).

Image clarity has stepped up too. There were times in the past where I wanted to shoot 120fps, but you’d lose so much quality dropping to 1080 HD. Having the additional 5.3k means, I can crop in further during post.

Any funny or interesting stories from shooting with Coco, Dylan, Tanner, Chris?
The most entertaining sessions are usually with Coco. We already hang a lot, and she psychs on shooting follows, so it makes things easy.

Last year during the most crowded day ever at Lowers stands out. Also recently, when we shot longboarding at Cardiff Reef. I was wearing a long-sleeve spring suit, Vans Surf Boot Mids, webbed gloves, and a Drag Board Co surf hat –– while riding a rasta Wavestorm. Imagine almost literally running into Joel Tudor looking like that! She was so embarrassed. Par for the course with me!

Click here to check out the new and improved GoPro Hero 10.

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