"I like how you can feel the raw and beautiful energy of the ocean. It's like the image is alive," says the Hawaiian photographer Brandon "Laserwolf" Campbell. "My friend Casey Decotis, who got me into photography, once told me that a good photographer can bring anything to life through a photo." | Photo: Brandon "Laserwolf" Campbell/

Is this the best big-wave shot ever?

Has a drone reshaped the game of big-wave photography?

Have you seen this photo of smallish Waimea Bay doing the rounds? It was shot a week ago by the North Shore-based photographer Brandon Campbell (aka Laserwolf) and posted on the website SurflineI saw it and felt a twang and I ain’t felt since the daring Rosy Hodge wore underwear for a Stab shoot three years ago. 

Best big-wave photo?

Yeah, I can’t think of anything remotely as filmic, as textured or as spectacularly dramatic. When I asked Laserwolf about it, turned out it was only the second time he’d ever flown a drone (“Call it beginner’s luck,” he says), that he used to think drones were a tool of oppressive governments (“I was convinced it was a government conspiracy to get us used to the idea of them buzzing around all the time before Big Brother really gets in our grill”) and that there’s actually a hierarchy in the sky among the drone operators, something he found out when another photographer’s bird flew under him.

“I’ve put in my time and earned my spot in the hierarchy at Pipeline but what about the air?” he says. “Am I a newbie all over again? Will it be another five years before I’m established and can bark at invasive droners?”

Laser says he got into the drones after seeing the former Surfing magazine gun Corey Wilson’s skill as a pilot.

“Corey Wilson was getting some really cool photos this winter,” he says. “He definitely inspired me to mix it up. A photographer like myself can’t just be posting the same beautiful, blue tube shots all the time on Instagram. Also, a lot of the brands I work with have been asking If I can shoot drone stuff. I think it’s becoming the new standard to have in your arsenal. Full on weapon of mass creation. I broke my hand really bad back in September (Editor’s note: more on that tomoz!) and have to go in for one more surgery so I’m stoked I’ll have something to keep me occupied while I’m out of the water.”

What kinda drone gets you a photo like this? Laser got in close to the entry level with a the DJI Phantom 4 Pro. With a stock 20 meg camera, a few batteries (they last 25 minutes each), a screen and a controller, he spent two-and-a-half gees. A good investment? Yeah, he’s thrilled.

If you look real close at the photo, you can see Mike Ho, Reef McIntosh, Ross Clark Jones, Eden Saul and “the usual Waimea suspects,” says Laser, adding, “I just really like how you can feel the raw and beautiful energy of the ocean. It’s like the image is alive. My friend Casey Decotis, who got me into photography, once told me that a good photographer can bring anything to life through a photo.”

How big is it? This is where the drone angle deceives.

“It wasn’t huge, maybe ten-to-twelve feet, but still plenty of energy,” says Laser.

Not that he’s claiming it deserves to be in the pantheon of greatest big-wave shots. “I’m honored you like it,” he says, “but I think the best big wave photo ever taken was of Sion Milowski by Daniel Russo at one of the outer reefs here in Hawaii. Sion was on a big, vibrant blue gun shaped by rhino chaser extraordinaire Bret Marumoto.  The wave looks one hundred foot and Sion is absolutely sending it. I surf that wave a lot but I’ve have never scored it bigger then twenty feet and I don’t think I want to either. I can’t even imagine it any bigger then that. It must have been such an incredible thing to witness in person.”

Sion Milosky Daniel Russo
Maybe this shot of Sion Milosky at Outside Himalayas in 2010 is the best big-wave photo ever?

Laser thinks for a moment.

“Wait, I take that all back,” he says. “The best big-wave photo ever taken was that iconic shot of Greg Noll standing on the beach in front of a pumping Pipeline, shot by John Severson.”

Greg Noll Pipeline John Severson

Sockie, Biggie and Sabre Norris. Startling! | Photo: Campbell Brown

BeachGrit TV: Sabre Norris’ Sugar Dreams!

Come visit the family who defeated ordinariness!

It was two days before Christmas when an eleven-year-old girl called Sabre Norris gifted me the true nature of family. While my own house of cards was collapsing in a welter of sorrow, the foundations made rotten by poor husbandry, hers was exalting in each others’ complexities.

The mother of the four remarkable kids, Brooke, looked at me at one point, maybe we were talking about home-schooling or maybe it was when I walked into the backyard and was in the shadow of a mega skate ramp and three other smaller half-pipes, and said, “We’re actually very straight. We’re not alternative at all.”

In the surf, I’d asked Sabre, whom you’ve seen on Ellen, Today Show etc, what grade she was in.

“I don’t know,” she said. “I’ve never been to school. I don’t even know what it looks like in a classroom.”

For the Norris kids, Nazzie, Biggie, Sockie and Sabre, family is a shelter, the walls steeled with respect and love. Each kid has a role, each parent has a role (Brooke is the firm matriarch, pops Justin the juicy clown), and the pack just… succeeds.

My spirit was lofted into the air when Sabre wrote her own version of our day together. 

I figured a story on Sabre would make a slight diversion in our Like Bitchin‘ TV series. I brought along the director Luke Farquhar and photographers Stefan Hunt and Campbell Brown to spotlight, in documentary form, the path the family has taken, and Sabre’s virtuosity at everything.


Gerry Lopez: Rekindling the Flame at Uluwatu!

Thirty years later, a surfing legend returns to an entirely different Bali

Gerry Lopez is a living legend. He was a Pipe Master before that was an official title, was one of the first Americans to surf the storied Indonesian reefs, and he’s Bendier than a day-old Twizzler. That was an obscure dual reference to his yoga proclivities and current place of residence in Oregon.

Back in June of 2015, Gerry took a trip back to Bali — his first time in thirty years. As you can imagine, much has changed since his initial sojourn to the Spice Islands, wherein the Bukit Peninsula was only sparsely populated and surfers had just began to discover the wonderful waves on Bali’s southern tip.

Gerry’s return was sparked by a yoga convention that would be held atop the cliff at Temples and led by Gerry himself. The program was presented by Project Clean Uluwatu, an initiative that encourages local people to keep the sacred temple immaculate through proper sanitary and waste management techniques. So far, they’ve succeeded in construction bio-septic systems and creating wastewater gardens for the Uluwatu region.

The More Things Change (below) was made possible by Patagonia, a company that seems to do everything right — ethical manufacturing, maintaining stringent environmental standards, donating copious cash to charity and providing exemplary customer service — and still manages to stay afloat. I’m not sure how they do it, but more power to them.

The film is beautifully filmed and produced, and offers direct insight to the mind and body of a surfing hero. Take a half hour out of your day and give it a watch. Regret this you will not.

Question: Is WSL discriminatory?

Does the World Surf League reflect our diversity?

Let’s get right to the point today. Let’s not come in with some sort of pithy lead, some sort of vaguely clever, but only vaguely clever in the moment, introduction. Let’s just put our heads down and ask a very difficult question.

Is the World Surf League discriminatory?

Think of all the waves on tour and when they occur. Snapper (summer), Maggies (summer), Bells (fall), Rio (perpetual summer), Fiji (tropics), J-Bay (winter), Tahiti (tropics), Trestles (indian summer), France (fall), Portugal (fall), Pipe (Hawaii).

And how many of them are cold-ish?

One. Maybe sometimes Bells and Portugal too.

And how many of them are proper cold?


Does the league think that fine waves don’t break in proper cold water? Does the league believe that “surfing” only happens warm?

For shame. And let’s stand behind our brothers surfing in the upcoming Cold War in winter New Jersey. They say you will not experience a colder cold. Very freezing etc. Let’s stand behind them and glare at the draconian, discriminatory World Surf League. Let’s shout NOT MY PRESIDENT! I mean…. ummmmm GO TO HELL PAUL SPEAKER! Or….. wait. Something angry but pithy.

Crème: Noa’s Lost Archives

One last hurrah underfoot the fabled R Dot

Do you know what is probably the worst part of being a pro surfer? It’s not the airports or the reef rash or the inability to maintain any semblance of a normal relationship, but rather the putting on and peeling off of stickers.

Have you considered the density of modern pro’s quiver? It’s close to a million surfboards. Do you know how many sponsors they possess? If you’re Adriano or Medina, it’s about three hundred-thousand. And what’s three hundred-thousand stickers by one million surfboards by two sides per board? A fucking death sentence.

I actually heard that Gab’s boards come pre-rigged with laminated cut-outs below the resin. This means less drag in the water but more importantly, he’s not spending hours every week adorning his foamy crafts.

But what happens if he loses a sponsor? Does he throw the boards out? Or does he give them to a little favela fella, in hopes of inspiring a life-altering dedication to a far-fetched dream? Chances are he throws them out. Can’t risk spawning the next Gabriel Medina. Could be his competition in fifteen years.

Well, Noa Deane recently faced this conundrum with his shift from R Dot to V Stone.

The video below shows Noa flexing, hard, on some Rusty-nosed foam. He surfs a well-known set of points in Mexico, performing a series of tubes, carves, and very much only straight airs. Literally not a rotation in sight. He must’ve taken Christian Fletcher’s air-rev shots without a hint of lime nor a grain of salt.

But back to the point.

When 2017 came a-knockin’, do you think Noz spent the time to de-Rusty his bevy of sleds, or did he simply place Stone directly atop R Dot? These are the questions that addle my brain!