Monsters of Water (Part one): Daniel Russo!

How many humans on earth would have the privilege of seeing this angle if not for men like Russo?

Daniel Russo, thirty-ish, from Pupukea on Oahu’s North Shore, is the inspiration behind this series. Y’see the opening shot? Classic Russo. Ten-foot Backdoor and the animal is treading water in the fire zone, diving just under the lip and in front of the surfer, in this case Hawaiian Jamie O’Brien. How many humans on this earth would have the privilege of seeing this angle if not for men like Russo?

Russo was born to shoot water photos. His Dad Larry was throwing him into closeouts at Pupukea sandbar when he was three. At five, if there was a swell he’d skip first grade and swim out to meet his pops at Pipe. Aged 10, he bodysurfed a 10-foot mid-summer swell. Over the past half-a-decade, Russo has created a body of work that is intimate and everlasting.

This series of photos, below, are from Daniel’s early years, all shot on film, all using the ancient Canon 630 wrapped in a small housing.

To what or who do you attribute your success?

I don’t try to force anything. I don’t try to direct anything. There are certain surfers out there who like the same type of waves that I like and I make sure I’m there with them when the waves are pumping.

Who are these surfers? 

Nathan Fletcher Reef McIntosh Jamie O’Brien and recently John John Florence. There’s no science. If you have good surfers and the waves are pumping, and you get in the right spot, you get good images. Everyone always trips out that I’ll swim for three, four, five hours, but sometimes that’s what it takes to get a good image.

Why is water photography important? 

I feel like a lot of the surf industry doesn’t take it seriously and doesn’t value it for what it is. But, it’s important because it really captures certain moments and a true perspective. From the land you can get some great shots, but it’s in the water, when you’re hanging in the lip or just out on the flats looking at a surfer on a wave, well, there’s nothing else quite like it.

What kind of drunk are you?

Ha! Depends. I get an angry drunk on. It depends where I’m at. A lot of times, I’ll be having a good time but I then I start chasing all the girls and I start trying to fight everyone.

What are your favourite drinks?

I like Jaeger a lot. And, I’ll definitely get in on the whisky. Black label whisky a lot and then I drink a lot of wine a lot of times.

Ever tried to fight the wrong person? 

A couple of times, in places and with people I’m not familia with. I used to drink a lot and I got myself into way too much trouble. I tried to mature on that level.

People who grew up on islands love to fight. 

There sure is something about it. It’s in my blood, too. My grandpa was a street fighter and he died from a brain tumour from fighting. My dad’s Irish-Italian and he’s a short guy with a temper on him so he was always getting into fights when he was younger. I have his Irish-Italian temper.

What’s your final word on the art of water photography? 

When you’re on the beach with a camera you’re a spectator, you’re a tourist. When you’re in the water, you’re involved. You belong to the moment. It’s like a painter spends hours on a single brushstroke just to get it right. Water photography is definitely an artform. And there’s a very select group of people who beling in this niche, as an artist.

Under The Rail Off The Wall Jamie ObrienUlladulla Australia Daniel FullerTahiti Empty PerfectionLonely Empty MonumentsGreen Monster Puerto EscondidoDSC_5033DSC_5032Afternoon Backlit Puerto EscondidoBig Blue Empty Backdoor

Great Whites Swarm Western Australian Beaches!

Government shoots to kill… 

If you’re easily scared and you live on the western flank of Australia, you might want to avoid reading the twitter feed on tagged sharks there.

Tigers, bronze whalers, great whites, whatever, they’re kicking around in such numbers you’d be inclined to think one could walk on their backs from Cottesloe in the south to Hillarys further north. (But wear shoes. Backs so rough!)

Some sharks a few clicks offshore; others a hundred or less. And they’re just the tagged sharks. 

(Click here if you dare!) 

This morning, the Fisheries Department SharkSmart live feed reminded us that one three-metre white shark had been detected 66 times off a Perth metro beach.

It didn’t take much for the government to react, either. As you read, contractors are on the scene with baited hooks, drum lines and, one would assume, a gun with an order to capture and kill the errant fish which was first detected yesterday.

Nor did it take long for the Greens Party to express its dislike of the Barnett Government’s newish shoot-to-kill policy.

“It is entirely inappropriate for them to be using the tagged monitoring system to then target a shark and kill it,”  Greens spokeswoman Rachel Siewert said. “The Government is responding in an inappropriate manner and they need to rescind this order.”

Just a couple clicks away, live updates can be seen on Surf Lifesaving’s Twitter feed. (Click here!) 

Again, if you’re the jumpy type, best you avoid that, for it’s all bad news this morning, sharks here, sharks there and, ominously, the most recent post: “Westpac Lifesaver Helicopter is currently helping the Water Police in a missing persons search at Scarborough Beach.”

You will recall the governement’s snappy response following the attack on Sean Pollard at Esperance earlier this year. It didn’t waste a second and pulled two whites out of the water just hours after the south-west surfer was attacked.

Some say murder, others rest easy.




Mick Fanning of Tweed Heads, NSW, Australia (pictured) has won the Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach for the third time in his career defeating Taj Burrow (AUS) in the final in Australia on Wednesday April 23, 2014. Fanning defeated Burrow by 16.83 to 13.46 (both out of a possible 20.00). | Photo: ASP

Candid: A Love Letter to the World Number Two!

Mick Fanning! This samba is for you!

My dear Mick Fanning,
Oh how we have just entered a brave, new world. The cutest little man from a country called Brasil is now surfing’s champion and what a fine champion he is. Undeniable!
But can I take a few moments, before caipirinha burns my eyes, and just say how much you mean to me? You fought like a gladiator this year. Like a blonde Vandal swinging a battle-forged axe. I used to think you were boring. Remember that? Remember how it pricked your heart and forced troubling words from your mouth?
Well it turns out I was the prick. Yes, the years have treated you so well. The hardness, the angularity, of your face screams “Daniel Craig!” And while I really despise him as James Bond, he makes for a wonderful surf champ.
Mick Fanning and Chas Smith
And here we are presented with two great champions, one a master of the ocean (Mick Fanning, left), the other of keystrokes. (Chas Smith, right). “The friend in my adversity I shall always cherish most,” says Chas. “I can better trust those who helped to relieve the gloom of my dark hours than those who are so ready to enjoy with me the sunshine of my prosperity.”
You ride the barrel without fear and, of course, with a slight hunchback. But maybe it is hunched with the weight of expectation? With the hopes of a nation?
You surf with a working class ethic that is missing in today’s spoiled youth. Kolohe Andino, is that you looking over my shoulder? I can smell the champagne, caviar and Pizza Hut on your breath. Could you do me a favor and be a touch more like Mick? It is scary out there, what with North Korean agitation and all and we are in desperate need of brave and tough heroes. Kim Jong Un is that you peeking into my private correspondence? I can smell the kimchee and soju on yours. Beware! The man to whom I am writing may be down, but like free market capitalism, he is never out.
What I didn’t know, couldn’t know, during your initial Micktory, I learned when Lightening Struck Twice and Thrice. You are worthy. You are more than worthy. And so, as the earth sambas tonight, and as I samba too, know that part of me sambas for you.
Here is to 2015. Here is to revenge.
Your friend Chas Smith

Kolohe Andino frontside finner
"I like when they come deep off of the bottom. Dane does that real good," says Kolohe. "Always have a wide stance when going into this. It gives you more control over your board. About three-fourths of the way up, start your pre-twist." | Photo: ASP/Kirstin

Technique: How to punch out a frontside finner

This holiday season, learn a new trick with Kolohe Andino!

Try to picture a modern world without the frontside finner. It ain’t easy. Can you imagine Ev Gieselman’s game if he wasn’t a master of kicking out the jams? Marzo? Or Reynolds? Our favourite exponent of this particular innovation, however, is Mr Kolohe Andino, the son of ’90s pro Dino. Watch his frontside kicks at Trestles and beyond for a textbook how-to. Ain’t no creased face or fixed jaw in Kolohe’s sublime fin toss. Perfect timing. Perfect placement.

Now, let’s set our own faces to crease and learn the why, where and how of the frontside finner.

BeachGrit: Who was the very first person you saw stomp a frontside finner?

Well, the first movie I ever fell in love with was Montaj (Released in 2002. Kolohe was eight). I can’t really remember if he was really kicking the fins all the way around into the flats or not, but I just loved it. The first person I saw do a proper nose pick was Clay Marzo. It was in 2005 at the NSSA Nationals open men’s final. Remember when he got two 10s and shocked the world? Yep, one of those 10s he does one. I was 11.

What effect did this have upon you?

I had just came out of my open mini-groms final, my first-ever national title. I felt on top of the world. But, then I see Mason (Ho) and Clay and these kids paddling out for their open men’s final. And, you know when you are like in first grade and you see a fifth grader and think they look like giants?. That’s how I felt looking up to them. I was in awe. They seemed so pro, with everything dialled. I wanted to be just like them. Really, they were only 16, 17 years old. When I sat on the point after watching Clays 10s, I just remember thinking to myself, that looks really fun and I want to do that.

Did you mention what you saw to Dino? What was his reaction?

My Dad was down at the contest at the time. He thought Clay’s surfing was incredible. Some years ago, we went on a Super surfboards trip to the Mentawai islands with Clay and my Dad said that’s the best surfing he has ever seen in real life. But, at the time, when I was 11, if I had tried one of those in front of him, he would’ve  been, like, “What are you doing? You cant even do a turn yet?”

Were you initially confounded by the mechanics of the turn?

Yes, at the time it seemed very difficult to me.

How long did it take you to decipher the mechanics of the turn?

I’m not really sure. When you are only 18 years old you really have spent only maybe three years of your life knowing what’s going on in this world. I just remember thinking that it looked so cool that he could throw his board into the air and catch it on the nose with his feet, turn-spin around, then shuffle back. At the time it seemed like acrobatic shit.

Did anyone help y’out, advice wise?

Yeah. I mean, I don’t really remember my Dad helping out with that particular thing. But I know he did. He helped with everything.

For people with real basic skills, can you give a real basic (but profoundly helpful) description of the mechanics?

I like when they come deep off of the bottom. Dane does that real good. Always have a wide stance when going into this. It gives you more control over your board. About three-fourths of the way up, start your pre-twist. I was always taught to really twist like Mick Fanning on every turn. So, if you look at mine I’m twisting way too much. Okay, then stomp on your front foot and let that back foot hang loose. It’s almost like throwing your board out the back but then catching it with your feet on the nose. Once you’ve caught your board, keep the pressure on your front foot and spin down the wave backwards. Then, when you’re down the wave,  slowly release the pressure, like the clutch of a car. Now the fins do the work and the board spins around. Shuffle back and go into your next turn.

 Who’s got the best frontside finner in the biz?

Dane, Clay, Dusty, Taj, John, Medina.

Wade Goodall in a barrel
"Drugs are bad shit. Changes people. Drugs can make you like, and your body to respond to, electro music," says Wade Goodall. "Ain't nothing good about that." | Photo: Courtesy Vans

Wade Goodall on drugs, the tour, the brevity of fame

The sweetest and brawniest of pro surfers. A little bit Ozzie Wright, a little Dane Reynolds… 


Teahupoo when it’s big is a siren of sorts. It lures you in. It must be a woman. When you see it, you want it but it scares you. She will either give you the ride of your life or kick you in the nuts. My favourite wave in the world for sure.


I haven’t had it too bad so far. I can’t hold my breath for very long at all so I’d be in a bit of trouble if I had to spend some time at the bottom of the sea. I’m a catch-and-release fisherman  80% of the time so if it did seem like I was staying down for good I would just relax and wait for those fish to repay the favour and return me. What goes around comes around.


The Tour de France is boring. I don’t like cycling. I get nervous when i have to pass a cyclist. One time I was walking home after a night of leisure and a flock of about 100 cyclists came riding down the road towards me. The leader hit a rock and flipped. Then it was just stacks on. Or would it be spokes on. Whatever, not into it.


Amazing creatures. Seeing my girl make a baby human has been unbelievable. What their body goes through in the process is just incredible. I can’t imagine having to do all that. The makers of life. You go, girls.


When it comes down to it they are bad. But every now and then I have one. With coffee or wine. After a few drink, sure. But I don’t like them. I find the action of smoking is what allures me. I just like blowing smoke out.


Fame is something I don’t think about. Unless I see someone famous and I feel nervous and do something awkward even when I really don’t care that they were in some movie I can’t remember. That feeling of thinking you know this person but in fact you have never met is strange. I don’t know why it happens. If fame is brief then I bet some people are stoked. Finally some guy isn’t coming up to them in the street and pointing saying Eyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy (insert catchphrase from that show they did here).


Bad shit. Changes people. Drugs can make you like, and your body to respond to, electro music. Ain’t nothing good about that. Drugs that are beneficial in a medicinal way are good. Drugs may cure cancer. Drugs as a whole are both helpful and devastating to the human race. Please use responsibly.


The shittiest. I don’t know why I have broken both my legs in the last two years on the same beach, surfing with the same crew, driven to the hospital by the same ambo and operated on and cared for by the same doctors and nurses. Maybe I have gotten away with a lot of things in my life and my luck is running out or maybe I was Hitler or a termite in a past life and I’m getting what I deserve. But it’s not terminal. Time heals and I’ll be surfing again.


Inevitable. Doesn’t bother me in the slightest. Actually, going bald is a bit scary. I know it’s in my future. Let’s just say my Dad isn’t rocking an afro. But he’s a legend so I don’t care and I love hats.


It looks fine to me. I feel I can embrace change a lot better. I’m more comfortable in myself and am learning to back myself in new things. Having a go instead of not trying because I’m shit at it due to my non experience. I don’t feel like I am in some mature club now though. I’m definitely not getting one of those OK over 25 stickers for my car like those youth-hating lemons. I will try to stay young at heart forever.


I don’t mind the Instagram, especially when I’m injured. I like to see my friends doing cool things and I follow artists I like. I have been hitting it pretty hard while I’ve been laid up. It’s been nice to live through my friends. I like photography more then rants or sentences stating current moods so that’s why I use Instagram and think Twitter and Facebook are dumb.


Who cares? I don’t give a shit about staying relevant. I surf because I love it. If your main concern is staying relevant then you’re on the cow’s tit and milking it hard. I don’t want to do that. Even though more milk would be good for my bone strength.


Good and bad. It’s a bummer the true quality films that come out on the web are forgotten extremely fast because of the constant uploading of fresh content. It’s cool, though, to see things not long after you heard they went down. Web photos as well as print photos and web clips all come out simultaneously, which is cool. But I like the idea of having a hard copy of something. I loved watching Dad’s Mad Wax or Rad Movez VHS tapes everyday when I was little. An MP3 download doesn’t have the same appeal to me.



Will be a learning curve. I don’t think I’m better then anyone for being a sponsored dude or feel I’m above working. When it comes time to move on and get a normal job I’ll do what I have to do to support my little family. The world will be my oyster, really. Fresh starts aren’t a bad thing.