This photo was another fairly easy pick for us. Shot with a Hasselblad by one of the original TransWorld SURF photographers, Steve Sherman, this photo was an instant classic and drummed up more praise than nearly all the other shots in our 2004 Photo Annual. “I was shooting on the beach with a 600. It was pretty much the best I’ve ever seen it in Oceanside,” remembers Sherman. “I had been shooting for a while when I saw this surfboard graveyard. I loaded up my Hasselblad [large format camera] and hiked up into this yard. I waited for a few good ones and only shot about twelve frames from that spot.”
Back then, people still shot film, so the photographers had to actually wait to see what they got when their film was developed. “I had an idea in my head that the shot was going to be good,” says Sherman. “But it wasn’t until I developed it in darkroom that I saw the actual shot. I knew right away it was one of the best surf photos I had ever taken.”
The praise rolled in from every angle when that shot made its way around the surf world. The biggest question was: why wasn’t it a cover? “I asked the same thing,” laughs Sherman. “The coolest thing was seeing legendary surf photographer Jeff Divine and having him tell me that it was the best surf shot he’d seen in a long time—that was a special moment.”
A big part of a photo becoming iconic is staying power, and this photo has it. Even now, seven years later, you can find this shot on T-shirts, posters, and no doubt on the walls of many surfers around the world.
“This was just one of those perfect days in Indo,” laughs Bosko. “I knew we were going to score the minute I woke that morning. Sheet glass, great crew of surfers, and perfect waves—it doesn’t get much better than that.” More often than not, nature dictates whether or not you’re going to get a good surf photo. Going out on a boat trip in Indo helps stack the odds in your favor, so does working with a talented surfer like Marlon Gerber. The sharpness of the photo, the colors on Marlon’s board, the fin trail, the textures in the lip, and the action frozen perfectly helped make this photo one of the most talked-about covers of TransWorld SURF’s history.
This photo speaks to you when you see it. It says, “Holy Shit, what is that guy thinking?!” Tim Jones has been shooting mutant waves like this for years and has become one of Australia’s leading slab-shooters, putting himself into intense situations to get the shot. For this one, Tim sat back and let the surfer do the risk taking. “Damien Wills is a mad c—t,” laughs Tim Jones. “He’s a dream to shoot with ’cause he’ll just go on anything.” And as you can see here, he did go, much to the chagrin of his mates watching in awe as he got to his feet, and gave it his all. This shot making the cover was controversial for the fact that he didn’t make it. We didn’t care, though—sometimes the attempt is what makes it, and this was an attempt from hell. Seconds after this frame was taken, Damien Wills got folded up at the bottom of this beast and took the beating of his life—his friends up in the lip were laughing until the wave behind this one smashed them too.
In the early 2000s, TransWorld SURF was perfecting the art of flash surf photography. Dave Nelson in particular was pushing the limits of what could be done with flashes in the water. “I always wanted to get as many flashes out there as possible,” says Nelson. “For this shot, I put a flash and a slave unit in a plastic bag and duct taped it up. This was actually the first time we ever tried this. We worked on this shot for a few hours. It’s super hit or miss because the surfer has to be holding the flash at just the right angle. The timing is crazy. I was about two feet from Rocky, Cory was standing on the sand about six feet inside where Rocky is. We’re all within a ten-foot radius of each other in the dark just hoping for the best, and it worked! After a while the bag let some water in and flooded the flash. That cost me about a thousand bucks, but it was worth it.”
Dustin Humphrey was one of the original TransWorld SURF staffers, and when it came to Indonesian exploration and documentation, nobody came close to D Hump. In April of 2002, Dustin booked a trip to a far-off and nearly unsurfed area in Indo with a crew consisting of Mikala Jones, Daniel Jones, Cheyne Magnusson, Adam Replogle, and Bol. His quest to shoot this fickle and insanely desolate right-hander had been a longtime dream, and on this trip, it was to become reality. “We had been hunting that wave for years,” remembers Dustin. “I just had the feeling that we were gonna get it on this trip, and at the very end of it, we did. This day was one of the greatest days of my life as far as shooting photos goes.” Dustin, shooting from a dingy on the shoulder of this beast, had run out of color film a half hour prior to taking this shot. Luckily for Mikala and the rest of the world, he had a few rolls of black and white film left in his bag. He loaded his camera and waited, Mikala stayed out long after the rest of the crew went in, and his patience paid off. This wave, which was the biggest wave they saw the whole trip, came to him like a gift from above. “The thing came up from behind him, and I just took a deep breath and held the camera steady,” Dustin recalls. “I knew it was going to be a special shot the second I started pulling the trigger.”
This silvery gem wound up as a spread in the magazine, and when viewed by the public, became an instant classic and is still regarded as one of the best surf shots ever taken. “The reaction was great. The only question people asked me was, ‘Why wasn’t it a cover,’” laughs Dustin.
As with many photos on this list, sometimes the best photo in the magazine needs to be a spread to show the full magnitude and scale of what’s happening, and this shot is one of them. “It’s the best surf photo I’ve ever taken,” says Dustin. “One of my best friends on one of the best waves I’ve ever seen in all my years in Indonesia. I still get goose bumps when I see it.” So do we, Dustin, so do we.
HEAD TO THE NEXT PAGE FOR 13 MORE ICONIC IMAGES THAT DIDN’T MAKE THE CUT IN THE MAG. AND LET US KNOW IN THE COMMENTS BELOW YOUR THOUGHTS ON THESE AND MORE—DID WE NAIL THE LIST? WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR FAVORITE TW SURF IMAGES OF ALL-TIME?
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