Notoriously Opinionated Surf Photog Divulges Precious Follow-Cam Secrets - Stab Mag
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Tail high or bust. Photo: Jimmy Wilson

Notoriously Opinionated Surf Photog Divulges Precious Follow-Cam Secrets

Jimmy Wilson’s four-step recipe for high quality GoPro clips.

cinema // Oct 27, 2022
Words by Jimmy Wilson
Reading Time: 4 minutes

Editor’s Note: Jimmy “Jimmicane” Wilson is a man with no filter. The former Photo Editor at Surfing Magazine has made a career of shooting, surfing, and traveling with the biggest names in surfing, and does not subdue his opinions on any matter—negative or not. As such, when he says he likes something, we know he means it, and we listen. Here’s his take on GoPro’s newest piece of technological wizardry.

-Holden Trnka

Stab High: Lakey Peak warm-up surf

If you haven’t noticed, your surfing feed has been steadily increasing in POV follow-clips — and why wouldn’t it? Filming from land is insanely boring, video content is king, and somehow GoPro comes out with an improved product every single year. If it’s user-friendly enough for Nathan Florence to bring out to maxing Pe’ahi and Teahupo’o, us commoners should easily be able to handle a weekend session documenting our friends around home.

Much like drone footage after losing its initial luster, an average follow-clip doesn’t hit the same as times past. Viewers demand a higher level of surfing and documenting skill. Now that I’ve gotten some time with the new GoPro HERO11, I’m going to list some settings and insights to help everyone to nail their best follow-clips yet.

Practicing what he preaches. Photo: Cyrus Navabpour

Step 1: Picking the right board

I’ve tried everything from a 10’0 Drag softie, to a normal 5’10 shortboard. What you’re riding makes a huge difference in success rate. Choose a specific board based on what surfers you’re shooting, and the conditions for that session.

For most follows, I like to ride a twin-fin or quad that has 2-3 additional liters of volume. It gives me the extra paddle power I need, extra speed on the wave, and still has the maneuverability to track down the surfer or re-direct when shit goes wrong.

For following longboarders, I go with the 8’0 Drag Coffin, or even the 10’0 Road Train to match their ridiculous wave catching ability. 

Step 2: Equipment

You’ll want to start with the new GoPro HERO11 Black. The color, quality, and image stabilization is out of this world.

I prefer the Enduro Dual Battery Charger over charging through the camera. It’s faster and necessary to have an extra battery or two ready to swap.

The Bite Mount + Floaty works good if you’re trying to actually surf and have fun while filming. When I’m focused on shooting, I subtract the Floaty and use The Handler + Bite Mount to give me a better grip.

Another not-so-secret weapon is my Hand Drag Webbed Gloves. They add a huge speed advantage and really set the tone for my entire vibe.

Jimmy is also an aspiring hand model.

Step 3: GoPro settings

Anyone serious about photography or video knows, you never go with the settings straight out of the box. The reason most footage looks nothing like what you see on @gopro’s channel and advertisements is because GoPro dumbs down the settings for people with no clue how to use a camera.

Here’s a few tips to instantly increase your footage quality (specifically for GoPro HERO11):

-Use a high speed memory card. This is my MicroSDcard of choice.

-Go to Settings>Video Mode, and set to “Highest Quality”

-Go to Setting>Controls, and set to “Pro”

-Alter video Presets by clicking the video setting, then the little pencil symbol.

Here’s my go-to settings:

RES/FPS — 5.3K @ 60FPS

Lens — Wide

HyperSmooth — Boost

Scheduled Capture — Off

Duration — 5 Minutes

HindSight — Off

Timer — Off

10-Bit — On

Bit Rate — High

Shutter — Auto

EV Comp — -0.5

White Balance — 5000K

ISO Min — 100

ISO Max — 100 (I will sometimes increase if needed)

Sharpness — Low

Color — Flat

RAW Audio — Off

Wind — On

Additional Note:

One of the best new features to come with the HERO11 is its “Full Frame” mode. You can now shoot 4K at 60FPS in an 8:7 aspect ratio. The lens becomes wider than usual and gives you an extra tall sensor to fit better when converting to Instagram Reels or TikTok. For all POV tube shots, use this.

Stab High: Lakey Peak will feature a buffet of high quality GoPro goodies.

Step 4: Wave Types

You will find your own limit as a surfer. Obviously, John John and Jack Robbo have the skill to take these out at The Box, while I would never make a drop there.

If possible, look for spots with minimal crowds, and enough space on the wave for two surfers to maintain speed down the line.

Most of the time you’ll be dropping in behind the surfer, so getting exploded in the whitewater, or into rocks/reef, is a harsh reality. It’s also part of the excitement, and exponentially increases your chances of making it onto @kookslams.

Ready to go over the steps at Shipsterns yet? Have fun! I’m always amped to see what kind of follow-clips people come up with, and I know the future will produce visions most of us could’ve never imagined just a short time ago.

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