The World’s Most Daring Surf Photography!
Leroy Bellet chases Russ Bierke down the throat of monsters in South Australia. We go behind the scenes.
Leroy Bellet is one of surfing’s most daring photographers: He’s 17, from the South Coast of Oz, and made an instant name for himself by taking the double-tow POV tube angle over reef. The tired line of ‘skill beyond his years’, in this case, comes with greatly renewed vigour. Here we grip the rear tow handle with Leroy during a session with pal Russ Bierke at a mysto vortex…
It was our second trip down to that wave this year. We got it smaller, earlier in the year, nice conditions, clean, and we tried to double tow it but didn’t get the shot we were after. We had a vision of getting a crazy big wave in front of the cliffs and it didn’t happen. We got eight double tow waves that day and I made all of them somehow. It’s an A-Frame peak that you can make if you do it properly. The boys were laughing at me afterwards, saying ‘You got off easy.’ Because I didn’t wipe out on one it felt like I didn’t do what I went there for. The next swell was bigger and yeah, I got to wipe out the second time.
The day before, it was amazing, clean and offshore, the biggest waves I’ve ever seen. We weren’t sure if the slab would be holding the next day. It only holds 12 foot and under. We slept in later than we should’ve, drove over in the morning, and there were a couple of tow teams out so we drove up the top to watch and saw the best wave we’d ever seen there, so we launched straight away. The other boys were taking ages and when we spoke to them we didn’t know if they were gonna go out. They’d seen 20 footers closeout through the whole bay and nearly clean up everyone. We thought maybe we should watch it for a bit longer but we bit the bullet and went out. That’s what we were here for.
There were a couple of tow teams out there so we were competing, which was a mission with the double tow. We shoulder hopped the first one – we didn’t wanna blow any as there were other people out there. I towed Russ into a few, he got a few good ones and then we got out and waited. The tide got better and we got our mate Benny Serrano to tow us in, but he’s not a very experienced driver so we missed four. (Mark) Healey was sitting out there on the back on a ski so we figured, Mark has to know how to drive a ski. We asked him and he got us into two crackers straight away.
The first one, I knew I was too deep and there was that panic moment, like oh! oh! and we just let go and went. Russ was off balance and smacked his hand into the wall and sent spray back at me, so we just got flogged and didn’t get the shot. It was pretty bad. I ended up falling on the worst spot of the wave, right on the inside where all the impact centred in the one spot. From the trip before, when Russ had hit the bottom, we worked out it was pinnacles of reef, like apostles. Underwater, Russ hit something real shallow, real quick and then slid down the side of it into deepness. The whole time I was going over backwards in the lip, I was just going, please don’t land on a pinnacle. I went deep real quick, so I don’t know whether I slipped between the pinnacles, but I went way deeper than I thought. It was pretty intense and dark down there.
Then the second one came and we lined it up perfect and got the one we wanted. I almost even came out but didn’t get quite there in the end.
(See the two sequences of these waves up top)
As for how long I’m happy to do this… I dunno. I feel pretty good at the moment. I suppose being young helps. I’ve got a lot of life ahead of me so I’m pretty energetic and enthusiastic about it. We have a lot of plans for other places we can do it. I can’t say much, other than… we might go left.
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