2004 Year End Review

The Big Picture

Photo of the Year.

The Surfer

You've got to respect Josh Hoyer, a guy who has enormous talent in the water, but doesn't compete on a major pro tour. Instead however he works hard at trying new innovate maneuvers, pushing the envelope of what is possible on a surfboard. Most people think of him as primarily a small wave acrobatic. This photo however silenced those that might have thought big wave surfing was not part of his repertoire. The above wave was one of the bigger waves, on the biggest day of 2004. When the wave showed up at "The Point" it formed into a massive unmakable wall of water. Hoyer however went for it anyway, knowing there was no chance of riding it out, and in the process added the status of big wave charger in the minds of his contemporaries.

The Photographer

Shooting surf photos from the top of a ladder looks stupid, and I'm sure many a pro surf photographer considers me a kook for doing it. However the hurricane that produced this swell was close, resulting in consistent short interval surf that stacked up behind one another. Shooting from the beach at eye level would have resulted in the bottom trough of the wave, and perhaps even the surfer, being totally obliterated from view by the mound of whitewater in front of them. The ladder allows the camera to shoot from a position above and over the preceding wave, thus obtaining a shot of the entire wave and surfer with unobstructed view. This photo proves that while shooting from a ladder seems ridiculous, it is sometimes functional.

The Website

Surfline picked up on Newport's swell and ran an article, along with this photo and a link to This led to introductions and dialogue between this site, and Surfline's editorial department. Additionally it resulted in people from every corner of the globe following the link to, many of whom still frequent the site to see the local surfing action... Translate that to mean people from places other than Newport are checking out photos of you ripping.

So while the shot looks like another one of my poorly exposed photos, it was successful on other levels... and for that reason is's 2004 photo of the year.

The Big Thump

In early spring of 2004, Newport received it's first big south of the season. A double overhead Southern Hemi. These long interval swells end up being really walled throughout the jetties, and make pretty boring photos, consisting of people just racing down the line... I ended up shooting into back lit 42nd St lefts, as it had the best shape in town. Some guy comes out of the water and tells me that CJ Hobgood is at the Wedge. That I didn't know with all my cell phone contacts, that a top pro was out at the Wedge, and this guy while sitting in the water did, is pretty bad of me. Needless to say I raced off to see if I could get some shots. Running out to the beach at the Wedge I heard a loud roar from the crowd, and arrived near the waters edge just as CJ was getting out to leave. Damn, "what happened, what I'd miss" I was asking everyone. Well I think I was the only surf photographer in Southern California that missed CJ taking off on the set of the morning, and pulling into and out of a picture perfect Wedge barrel.

As I set up, the guy above who is from Dana Point, was sitting on the beach looking like he and his little wafer thin beach break board didn't belong there. Surprisingly he got up, walked over to the jetty, waded out, and shoved into a small waist high piece of foam that had rebounded off the jetty. The nothing little piece of whitewater pushed him side ways into a wave that grew bigger, and bigger, and bigger, until it was nearly triple overhead. And when the now monster of a wave reached it's maximum size and power, the shallow bottom fell out, sending him and his little board backwards over the falls.... Hands down,'s worst wipe shot of 2004..

The Big Offshore Day

One Monday in Sept. I dragged myself out of bed, and down to Lowers to shoot the finals of the Boost Mobile. I hate shooting contests, but I hoped if I got some good images, Happy Magazine might us them for their contest feature. The Happy guys have been extremely supportive of's program throughout the year, and I am forever grateful!! A solid south filled in throughout the day, and I shot away from the top of my dumb ladder, bummed I wasn't back in Newport, where I knew the swell would be filling in nicely.

I rarely shoot more than one day a week, so the next day I was looking forward to getting some surf in Newport. Early the next morning my daughter wakes me crying that she is afraid of the loud wind. What wind I thought, there's not supposed to be any strong south wind! I look out and it's howling offshore! Because I wasn't planning on shooting, I hadn't recharged any camera batteries, and was hoping that at least one had some juice. One did, and I was out the door. The surf throughout Newport was fricken epic... and it being the first surf class for NHHS of the year, the school crew was on it, and getting shacked. Everyone was getting pitted, in fact all you had to do was make it to your feet, turn, and you'd be guaranteed a deep barrel. A lot of guys were also breaking their boards, and then combing the waters edge looking for the front half, which more often than not, had been blown back out to sea.

I was shooting all the front lit angles from the jetty, when I caught a glimpse of a big set to my left. I wasn't set up for a backlit shot, but I changed what settings I could as I turned. The anonymous surfer paddled hard for the wave, and somehow got over the windblown ledge. Later I heard Nick J. was paddling to the outside of him, and had to pull back and let him go. Once over the ledge the guy dropped in and turned up into a legitimate stand up barrel. As he was coming out of it, the thing started throwing in front of him again, and he drove through that section also, barely getting clipped as he came out onto the shoulder. He then immediately threw his fist in the air and claimed it. I was jumping up and down on the jetty like a kangaroo, claiming it for him also. I've had so many people ask who that was, but I have no idea. I've heard his name might be Ted, but I'm unsure. Anyway, if whoever it was is out there, shoot me an email, I'd like to burn to a cd the best sequence shot in 2004 for you.

Women Surfing Goes Big

Over the past few years there's obviously been more women in the water surfing, particularly during the warmer months. But in 2004 there was a noticeable change. It was the first year that as soon as the water and air started cooling down, the women didn't pack it up, stop surfing, and wait it out until conditions became more desirable. During 2004 and our current winter, there's far more girls out surfing in the cold winter elements than ever before. Additionally there are younger and younger groups of girls riding up and down the boardwalk with boards in search of waves, and sitting along side the guys in the lineup. In 2005 Newport women will have one of their own, local womens surfer Erica H., joining the WQS. Look for her to do well on tour, and be a great role model for local women surfers.


The Big Prediction

When forecasters predicted a south swell in the 20ft range for Labor Day in 2004, I like many others rearranged my entire holiday weekend schedule. Sat. morning "The Point" was barely headhigh, and everyone in town had a different prediction on when the swell would arrive. On Sat. afternoon the forecast from the leading surf forecaster changed, and was stating the swell was over estimated, and would be a fraction of the size. Soon after I got this news, someone from my work called, asking if I'd work that evening until 7am the next morning. I accepted, as I figured the surf wouldn't be that great the next day. That night was busy, and I worked throughout the evening. As I walked out of work the following morning, I flipped on my cell phone, and noticed I'd already received 12 calls. I knew then that the swell must have hit. I ran to my truck, as calls were pouring in, telling me "The Point" was big, perfect, and the best it had been in years. My truck is only a couple years old, and I've never had a problem with it, but when I turned the key it wouldn't start!! After a short time I gave up trying to get it going and went and borrowed a colleague's car, and then raced home. I made it to "The Point" around 9am, where because of the closure of the beaches north of 48th st., due to a sewage spill, the crowd was out of control. People were dropping in on any and everyone and I still can't figure out how no one was run over by someone's else's board, and severely injured. I shot until the light went bad, drove the 40 minutes back to my car, got it started, and then raced back to shoot the afternoon session. I had something to attend that evening, and then after having been awake for over 36 hours, I tried to edit everything, and get it up on the site. My wife found me asleep at my computer within an hour. Without a doubt that was the biggest swell of 2004, and the one swell of the year that wasn't able to get all the photos shot up to the site until days later.

The Big Lens

Early in 2004, I heard the surf magazines were accepting digital images. I knew that if I wanted to get my images of surfers photographed in Newport into the magazines, I would have to make the move up to a high priced lens. I wasn't sure however if I wanted to make that kind of commitment to surf photography. I thought it over for a while, talked it over with a few people, and then decided to go for it. Since the purchase in 2004, NewportSurfShots has been lucky to have landed photos, articles, and ads of local surfers in all 4 surf magazine publications, plus various other projects. goal in 2005 is to continue to shoot from the beach... but to also start producing images from the water.

The Big Dump

Without a doubt the biggest thing in Newport's surf community in 2004 was the River Jetty Dredging Project. Many believed that the city wouldn't actually allow the Army Corps of Engineers to bury the jetties with river silt, and thus destroy Newport's surf. I too was skeptical that local government would let it happen, until I went to the city council meeting about the project. It was there that I heard the assistant city manager say the jetties should be filled in because the beaches needed the sand. I heard a councilmen then give a ridiculous photo presentation of the horrible flooding that might occur if it wasn't done. I heard the ACOE biologist admit that needles, glass and other sharp objects could theoretically end up being dumped on the beach. I heard the contractor say it was their decision to dump on the beach, and not offshore (because it was cheaper), that they had already started the work, and everything was proceeding on schedule. And then I listened to the ACOE kingpin say the money had already been given to the contractor, it was a done deal, and there was really nothing anyone, including the city, could do to stop it.

For a couple weeks became a community activist site, and a steering committee to stop the dumping was formed. We worked hard to understanding the issues involved in the project, and tried to get the word out to the residents, the media and the surf industry about the issue. As Surflines Shaun Collins noted in an email that I distributed, it would have destroyed the surf in Newport for a couple years, maybe even longer. In the end, it was the community outcry, the negative media, our alley councilmen Rosansky, and our environmental attorney's clever maneuvering that buried the project instead of the jetties.

The Big Winter Wave

Those that surf Blackies regularly hope, pray, and patiently wait for a giant short interval windswell to appear. It's the one time the place produces any real waves. This was one of only a couple days in 2004, were Blackies broke big. This beast was the largest wave I shot in Newport all of last winter. When it came roaring out of the ocean towards Adam at Blackies I was elated, because I knew he would go. But because of the lens I was using, I had to manually focus the shot, and was fearful that it would be out of focus. Luckly somehow the photo came out ok. I'm glad because screwing up a shot of the wave of the winter would have been a blow it.

And that was some of the best of 2004

See ya out there in 2005...


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