A Look Behind Morgan Maassen’s “Jungle”
A dense offering of imagery and narrative from four years on the road with Steph Gilmore, Noa Deane and the like.
How often do we look behind us, back down the long slide, and realize those were the days?
Scrolling through images from trips that at the time felt panicked, or that flew by too quickly, a blur of taxis and lost luggage, or in the case of Santa Barbara lensman and all around talented guy, Morgan Maassen, of high profile shoots with surfing’s most visually appealing surfers, like Maassen’s longtime muse Stephanie Gilmore, whose charm and subtle sultriness he’s captured in and out of the water for years.
On the release of “Jungle,” Maassen’s longest surf film to date—a compilation of both seen and unseen footage from the last four years of his travels—we asked Morgan to dive into his archive and share some moments from these trips.
Stephanie Gilmore, Salina Cruz, June 2013.
I’ve still to this day never seen surfing like that. She spent the majority of her time in the barrel, only coming out to race sections and throw down the odd turn. This was the fourth day, we were hanging out at perfect head-high Chivo, and at high-
she pulled out this DHD single fin and proceeded to blow everyone’s minds. I took these photos from under a tarp in the most dogged heat, while Tom Curren sat next to me, slowly and silently eating an apple but watching so intently. This session punctuated my time as a surf photographer more profoundly than any other moment in the last seven years I’ve been shooting.
Luke Davis, same trip, Salina Cruz, June 2013.
This was my second of four back-to-back-to-back trips to Mexico over two months, marking a summer of incredible surfing. This day we rocked up to Escondido and it was absolutely firing. Beastly barrels rifled down the point, snapped boards littered the shore before the sun even rose over the mountains, all the local fishermen watching dubiously. I filmed Noa, Dillon, and Sterling out here for a couple hours, who all collectively had to tap out because of the ridiculous paddling and floggings the wave entailed. I was there to film, so I only snapped a couple photos when the guys were finished, poaching this one of Luke off of Ryan Craig, who were on another magazine trip simultaneously.
Noa Deane, Sterling Spencer, Dillon Perillo, Salina Cruz, June 2013
Day 7 of insane waves and the session that finished off our trip. The boys surfed for about ten hours this day, at a secret point break that was a hybrid of sandspit’s bowl and Rincon’s length. We were pretty far north of Salina Cruz, and had a ridiculous drive back to our house, so everyone wore their exhaustion on their sleeve… but we were stoked.
Noa Deane (above three photos), third trip to Salina Cruz, June 2013.
Noa and I flew home, spent two days in Santa Barbara shooting BB guns and shotgunning Four Lokos, before jumping back on a plane with Dane, Craig, and Taylor Knox. This time I was shooting stills, as Mini came to film for Dane’s “Loaded.” I was gobsmacked by Noa’s surfing on the previous trip, and even more so when several days later he raised the bar again. I shot more photos on this trip than any other— think I had a lot of built-up energy to exert going back into the photography at that point. While Dane and Noa’s approaches and skillsets are quite different, they fed off each other’s energy and would spar in some sessions, hitting each wave harder than the last.
Nat Young, Mentawais, September 2013.
I was already in Hong Kong, having just flown there from Tahiti with all my gear, when Dane hit me up to tackle “the swell of the decade” as the reports were calling it. Not 48 hours later, we met up at the airport and raced down to Macaroni’s land camp. For the first several days, we got really fun Macaroni’s, and Nat was sitting up the point picking off some proper barrels while Dane and Droid tore the inside apart. I’d seen Nat around since NSSA days and always knew of his competitive prowess, but watching him surf good lefts in person really put him on the map for me.
(When the marquee swell arrived, it ended up being too strong, Dane broke his wrist trying a rodeo, we couldn’t get a boat to Greenbush, and a massive storm was approaching, so we pulled the plug, entailing an obscene journey home.)
Alessa Quizon and Bella Nicols, Maldives, June 2016.
That June was spent in the Maldives shooting a combined surf & lifestyle/fashion trip for Billabong Women’s. Laura Enever, Alessa Quizon and Bella Nicols were out for the first week and a half, and we got royally skunked. I don’t think it was ever over thigh high. It pissed rain daily. We still had a blast, but it was the day after they left that it started firing… overhead, sheet glass, not a cloud in the sky, light offshore, crystal-clear barrels rifled down Lohi’s.
Myself, Brent Beilmann and Will Adler stayed on to continue shooting, and so aside from the odd Brit or Ozzie (I think there were three surfers on the island total), we were the only guys out. It was insane!
This photo of the girls is from one of the smallest days, goofing around on longboards at a wave called Ninjas, which I never mind shooting and always try to make the most of… but damn, that was both such a frustrating and gratifying trip.
Same trip, Maldives, June 2016.
Several days later, shooting the lifestyle portion. The surf was still firing, bigger and cleaner than the previous days even. Check out the wave in the background, Chickens. This day was smoking and we were on the beach swapping out swimwear until heatstroke set in on that sweaty little island. Redemption came every morning, as before shooting, we would wake up and surf in lieu of eating breakfast. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.
Stephanie Gilmore, Hawaii, December 2016
A Red frame grab of Steph in Hawaii last year. We were staying in a beach house on Pupukea, and while those two weeks weren’t rife with amazing surf, Hawaii still never ceases to deliver photogenic opportunities. Steph had this small twin-fin Darren made her, and she was surfing Pupukea with this freakish energy.
I normally lose my mind standing on the beach filming, but I had no qualms on this trip. I’m actually a pretty bad filmer—often disinterested in baking in the sun staring at bobbing heads, only to miss clips while filming tourists doing stupid things or changing songs. But I reflect on those times feeling more enthusiastic than ever shooting “surf action.”
Marlon Gerber, Keramas, March 2017.
I snapped this photo right before swimming out and shooting the black and white intro segment of Jungle. While the video is just of rain and surfing, we were actually there to document the plastic pollution on a two-month long, around-the-world documentary project for Corona and Parley. We arrived early in morning, stoked to find some waves, but more importantly to document the daily trash the surf would wash in before the hotel staff would sweep it up. Bali is so polluted, its mind-blowing.
Gold Coast, June 2017.
Just a photo of the sea and sky above D’bah, June 2017. I was in Australia for a couple weeks, trying to chip away at a commissioned film project about jungle and ocean textures, but instead found myself chasing waves with Steph. The sunrises in Australia never cease to disappoint. Every morning I’d wake up and snap a couple pictures before heading out.
This was the morning I filmed Steph at Kirra, from the beginning of her section, an incredible day of surfing on a tight window of swell.
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