Surf photographer Ryan Miller at Teahupoo
The New Jersey ice-creamer and surf photographer Ryan Miller captured underwater by the surfer Damien Hobgood. The tuber in the background is the Hawaiian Sebastian Zietz. | Photo: Damien Hobgood

How to Succeed at Surf Photography!

It's so dirty! And your throat will be cut! But such rewards, says New Jersey's Ryan Miller… 

Where do you find success? And, what is success?

Is it bringing thunder to your craft? Is it making money? Or is it, as is the case of New Jersey surf photographer, Ryan Miller, creating a seasonal business lucrative enough to carry you through eight months of travel, including mortgage payments on your crib, every single year.

If you don’t know Ryan, you’ll know his photos. The hard-working ice-cream store owner travels to each event and… works it. His game isn’t the oblique or the abstract but straight sports photography. Ryan doesn’t misfire. And, every single day, his photos are uploaded and distributed. Red Bull is one major corporate client who rain shekels for his work.

I ask Ryan, who is your favourite surfer to photograph and why?

“Good question but fuck, I don’t even know if I think in those terms. I get “where is your favorite place to go?” all the time. I honestly feel like here and now is my favorite place wherever I’m at right then is just fine by me. If you start to think “Oh this place sucks and I can’t wait to get to Fiji or wherever” then you can suck all the life out of that trip real quick. Same logic applies to my favorite surfer. Whoever I’m shooting at the moment is who I’m excited about shooting. I don’t really think in terms of favorites or that would relegate me to thinking if I was shooting anyone other than that favorite person, then I would be having a lesser experience.”

What essential truths has he learned about the pro tour since following it?

“That if you open yourself up to new experiences and learning new things at every step of the way then you really can. I learned more this year on tour by seeking out new experiences than I have learned all other years cumulatively.”

Ryan mixes a solid education (two photography degrees and a fellowship that allowed him to live in Haiti and document that wildly dysfunctional country for one year) with a work ethic borne out of 80-hour weeks at the beachfront ice creamery called Yum Yums he owns with his wife, Cristen.

The pair bought the biz 15 years ago for five gees. Neither had any experience, but Cristen’s parents knew restaurants, and, with a little help, the two 20 year olds made it through the first year. They didn’t make a ton of money, even working from noon to midnight every day, but it was still enough for ’em to take off for the rough east coast winter. The business turned around when they discovered that they both had a natural affinity for small-talk.

“We created a strong bond with the customers. We learnt their names. We remembered their orders. We taught some of ’em how to surf. We even go their houses for dinner,” says Miller.

These days, Cristen is still in the store for the crazy summer, but Ryan, whose photography is starting to pay off, only stalks the counter one day a week.

If you’re on the Jersey Shore (yep, where the MTV reality show was filmed), you find the Millers at 31 John F Kennedy Boulevard. From mid-May to mid-September, the place is absolutely fucking hectic. But then, it’s like France, the place shuts down. The tourists leave. Absolutely everything closes.

As soon as the first of those autumn fronts move in, the pair are riding the gulfstream to more human-friendly climates. It used to be India, Nepal and Thailand, the classic path for travellers chasing adventures in the sun, but ever since Ryan taught Cristen to surf, their destinations now involve sweet beachbreaks.

In a neat twist, Ryan says that his wife Cristen is “responsible for everything. She’s the one who got me into surf photos. It was her initiative to start traveling. It was her initiative to buy the ice-cream store. And, when I taught her to surf, instead of wanting to go to Asia or wherever, she said, fuck India, let’s go surfing on the Gold Coast.”

How good is the gal? Fuck India! Go surf! Four months of work and eight months of fun. It’s a very good definition of success.

Ryan Miller’s 5 tips for success
1. Find your niche: It ain’t easy, but discover what you’re good at, whether it’s running an ice cream store or taking travel photos or being a hellman water photographer, and make your mark. Stand out. Be better than the next guy. Exploit your talent.
2. Bury your ego: Business is so fricken full of being let down. If you carry that ego thing with you, you’ll be buried alive by rejection. Don’t question your self-worth. Keep going! Keep believing!
3. Customer service: Tie up all your loose ends. Answer emails promptly. If someone’s doing biz with you, make it easy for ’em.
4. Be persistent: But, at the same time, don’t be a dick. It’s a fine line. Don’t freak out if your emails aren’t answered within the hour and don’t start sending paranoid shit full of capital letters.
5. Forge great relationships: Be a good guy. You get so fucked, so let down, that it’s easy for the devil to come out. Don’t let it happen. Take rejection in a gentlemanly fashion and keep rolling.

Follow Ryan on Instagram here (click!) or dive into his archived hot tub here (click!). 

At least he still has his teeth?
At least he still has his teeth?

Bustin’ Down the Door II

Another Australian takes one on the chin in Oahu. Did he deserve it? Maybe.

Reminiscent of the beating Wayne “Rabbit” Bartholomew was handed some 25 years ago, another Australian has been shown Hawaiian justice. Multiple news outlets report that, last night, Melbourne native and PGA bottom-dweller Robert Allenby was kidnapped and beaten after missing the cut at the Sony Open in Hawaii.

Allenby, 43, said he was at a wine bar in Waikiki when he was abducted at around 11 p.m. local time, placed in a car, driven 6½ miles away and robbed.

“I didn’t think I was going to survive this one,” Allenby told the Australian Associated Press.

“I was separated from my friend (Anthony Puntoriero) in the bar after we had paid the tab at 10:48 p.m., and he went to the bathroom and next thing you know I’m being dumped in a park miles away.”

“I only know this part because a homeless woman found me and told me she saw a few guys pull up and throw me out of the car. That is where I got the scrapes above my eye from the sidewalk.”

Law enforcement officials are busily following leads but I have only one question.

Wine bar? In Waikiki?

Weekend Read: The Little Surfer Boy at Number Ten

Rejection ain't easy! It's especially hard when it spikes the heart of a little boy… 

The married couple liked to “jog.” The husband had been to America and had brought back an enthusiasm for the new fad years before it was to reach the isolated suburbs of Western Australia. (He imported a thirst for “swinging” too, although his wife was uncooperative.)

Just before the sun rose every morning, the couple would circle the 500- metre crescent where they lived six times.

Every Saturday, as they passed number 10, they would wave at a boy whom they estimated to be seven years old, but who was actually 10, squatting on top of the cream brick letterbox, as if ready to spring an attack on an unknown enemy.

Sometimes, the boy’s shivering was visible and this wasn’t surprising with his uniform of boardshorts, singlet, visor and thongs, even in winter. On the coldest mornings, he would be wrapped in a towel that had the words Ocean and Earth written across it in large block letters. Other days, the towel would be folded on top of the surfboard that leaned against the letterbox. If you were to stop and watch the boy you would see that he checked the large yellow plastic watch on his wrist every few seconds.

Most Saturdays, they would see the boy still sitting there even after they’d jogged their six laps, had gone home for breakfast, and were now taking their Afghan – another American influence – for a walk.

By then, the sun was well above the horizon now and the boy’s shivering had stopped. His freckled face would be cut into a grimace as the sun hit his eyes. If the couple had ever stopped to see what happened next, they would’ve seen the boy’s mother hurry up the driveway in a dressing gown that ballooned in the morning offshore, whisper in the boy’s ear, help him down from the letterbox, and hold his hand as she led him inside, the boy’s surfboard hanging from a strap on his shoulder.

The boy would walk back into his room, prop his surfboard against the wall in the corner, nose down, just as he’d seen it done in the surf shop, and lay down on his bed, looking at the trees outside his window and waiting for the onshore change that always came by nine am.

He would have liked to call his friend, but he was afraid, so afraid, of a definitive rejection. Because, even now, even two hours after the appointed pick-up time, his ears were attuned to any sort of crackle that might signal the arrival of a VW.

Rarely, perhaps once ever six Saturdays, the couple would see the boy climbing into a bright orange Volkswagen station wagon, an older boy smiling at him as he shifted into the back seat. A bearded man would tie his surfboard onto the roof with short lengths of rope.

The boy’s failed vigils disturbed the husband and he often spoke about it with his wife.

Why does the Rielly boy wait for a lift that hardly ever comes?

His wife would shrug and liken it to their passion for “jogging.”

But, it upset her, too.

He was too young to be rejected so blithely.

For the boy’s part, he never felt rejected or ignored.

Of course, he felt sad. And sometimes the sadness was so overwhelming he pushed his face into his pillow until it was damp with tears.

But, only because when you live in Perth and your surfing is limited to weekends and you miss that early offshore window, fuck, wouldn’t you cry too?

Mambo Jesus
What happened when Mambo waded into Jesus?  “There were letters to the newspapers, a half-hearted boycott of a country surf shop and a couple guys threatened to fire bomb a Mambo outlet but it all blew over pretty quickly,’’ says Reg Mombassa, the great Australian artist. “I do occasionally get nervous about some of my work and to some extent it wouldn’t be allowed in some countries, but overall it always only a pretty mild objection… though it is hard to predict what is going to happen.”

When Mambo Spoofed the (Other) Prophet

"You should be able to mock people without being slaughtered," says the artist Reg Mombassa.

And here we find the great Australian artist Reg Mombassa pondering the question suddenly screamed from the bloody streets of Paris.

Je suis Charlie Hebdo? 

Reg made his name as an artist when he drew for the clothing label Mambo, once a hot-bed of satire and bitting commentary.  Religion, sport and, in particular, Australia and its inhabitants itself were all openly skewered by the label, occasionally to the ire of religious and political figures.

“Satire is incredibly important and it has been throughout history,” says Reg.  “It’s a very vital way for humans letting off steam and expressing their objection to a range of things from religion to systems of government.”

Mambo was taken to task for a depiction of Jesus Christ as a mouse nailed to a cross and one of Reg’s works again of JC, this time as an overweight caricature. “There were letters to the newspapers, a half-hearted boycott of a country surf shop and a couple guys threatened to fire bomb a Mambo outlet but it all blew over pretty quickly,’’ says Reg. “I do occasionally get nervous about some of my work and to some extent it wouldn’t be allowed in some countries, but overall it always only a pretty mild objection… though it is hard to predict what is going to happen.”

What might provoke, apart from the obvious?

“There are some topics and mythical figures where you are just asking for trouble. In Australia for example we have Anzacs (returned service men and women) and it would be foolish to mock that legend,” he says. “But the artists in Paris would have known that the people they were goading were capable of doing what they did, but they believed in what they were doing and the outcome was shocking and horrible.”

Reg believes the implications of the tragedy in Paris are far more wide-reaching than a body count. “I feel sorry for those who were slaughtered and I feel sorry for Jewish and Muslim people, who will continue to be vilified because of the attack,” he says. “Tragedies like these also gee up the far right factions and stir up anti-Islamic and anti-Jewish sentiment and a whole host of other unpleasant stuff that isn’t going to go away in a hurry.”

Should freedom of speech be pursued and defended at all costs? “Freedom of speech is incredibly important but we obviously don’t have that and it’s just not true to say we do. Having said that we are still incredibly fortunate to live in a country like Australia that is generally very tolerant,’’ says Reg. “That said, nothing should be excluded from comment or observation… you should be able to mock people without being slaughtered, violence against people in any form is just not acceptable.”

Dusty Payne

Candid: The dumb things that drive Dusty Payne insane

Kelly Slater for one, fashion, mushrooms ('cause they look like wieners), booze, tatts, the complexity of sex…

Let’s get oiled in the grooviness of Maui’s Dusty Payne. Generous of spirit, tight of spin and with a beard that makes gals of a certain ilk (New York) melt like popsicles. But, still, he’s human. He loves, he hates.

And he really hates… 
Australia: There are not that many reefs around here. I miss the reefs at home: how it breaks in the same spot and you get the same section over and over.

My best friend: Granger Larsen is always pissed at something. Like we’d be sitting here cruising and he’d be like, “Brah, I am so pissed right now.”

My family: My mum’s cooking. She can only do simple things like fish. She probably couldn’t make lasagna.

Today: There’s four hundred feet of swell and we can’t surf anywhere. I’m just sitting in a room looking out at windblown scuzz. It fucking sucks.

Politics: That I don’t know much about them. I haven’t found a need to study up on them.

Travel: You always miss home no matter what. It’s hard leaving warm water, good waves and the freedom of being able to do anything you want whenever you want. When you’re on the road you can’t just go and golf when you want to.

Exercise: I dread the moment you wake up and realise you gotta go to the gym. It’s so much pain. Kahea Hart is coming through Europe with me to train me.

Food: Mushrooms. I hate the texture, I hate the taste, and I hate how they look like a little wiener.

Alcohol: Waking up the morning after and having that feeling of regret. I hate what I do when I’m drunk.

Fashion: Unless I’m Luke Stedman, it doesn’t really matter to me. I just wear what is given to me. The whole image thing in surfing is funny but you can’t judge someone for what they wear unless they look like a complete fag.

Music: Death metal. It’s too loud and in your face. Reggae is where it’s at. It suits the vibe in Hawaii.

Kelly Slater: Where to start? That he poled Pamela, Giselle and then Bar Rafaeli.

Tattoos: That you can’t take them off the next day. (He shows me a shaka tattoo on his toe) I would never take that off.

Sex: Why can’t women just think like men? Why can’t they rifle us and just be like, “Peace! I’m out.”

The media: You need the media but all the stuff – the interviews and the commitments, tires me out.