Greg Gyselinck is a 19-year-old surf photographer from France who interned at SURFING over the summer. This winter Greg made his very first trip to Hawaii and stayed for three months. With a backpacker’s budget and a wide-open schedule, Greg immersed himself entirely in the core North Shore experience. Foodland dinners. Meeting girls on the beach. Trekking into the mountains with his machete. The photos Greg sent us midway through his maiden North Shore voyage surprised everyone back in the office. More than just beginner’s luck, they were an authentic first look at surfing’s most photographed stretch of coast. —Leo Maxam
SURFING: Where are you staying over there? Greg Gyselinck: I’m staying in Haleiwa at my buddy’s house. When I was an intern at SURFING this summer I met Jay Alvarez. We became super-good friends in Cali, so now I stay at his family’s place in Haleiwa for free. I do some media stuff for him in exchange and it works out well.
How are you getting around? I have a scooter. At first I had a bicycle, but I didn’t know it was that far between Haleiwa and Pipe. And I was trying to do it twice in one day.
Holy shit, Lance. That’s really far. It was so far. So then I got the scooter. I ride one in France, so it’s perfect. I can drive pretty much everywhere with it. I can even take it to the West Side.
You mean you take that thing on the freeway? No, you can ride out to Kaena Point and then walk the scooter around the point. It’s a dirt track, so it’s kinda sketchy, but it’s cool.
So did you get off the plane and swim straight out to Pipe and get smacked? The first week I rode my scooter to the beach at Pipe and got there at 6 a.m. I’m thinking, “I’m gonna cruise out there and shoot water.” It was 4-to 6- foot, sometimes 8, and perfect for fisheye. And, dude, there were like 40 photographers shooting water — like 15 guys fisheye and 30 guys on the shoulder shooting with 50mm and longer lenses. And I’m like, “What am I gonna do, get the same shit as all of you?”
So what did you focus on shooting? I was more focused on what the local kids are doing here: diving, hiking, shooting shorebreak — all these fun things. For surf photos it’s crazy because everything has been done here. To try and get something nobody has done here is really hard. You have to try to think differently and don’t do what everyone else does. Try to look for new angles. So I go high. I show Waimea from the back. I go hiking with my machete to look for a new angle. You have to think different and work really hard for it.
What do you think of the food in Hawaii? Food for me is a challenge. I don’t have a lot of money, so Foodland is my best friend. You can get fried orange chicken for like two dollars. Seriously. Most of the time I eat at Foodland. I love it. It’s really good.
How much do you budget per day? In general, I try to spend $12- $20 dollars a day, between gas and food. Mostly I can get by on $12 — three meals a day at Foodland, each for $3 or $4 — sometimes more if I get an acai bowl.
You have to spoil yourself every once in a while. Yeah, like, if I sell a photo… acai bowl! [laughs]
Last question: Who are all these beautiful women in your photos and how did you convince them to let you take photos of them in their underwear? I don’t know. Maybe the French accent? [laughs] I don’t have any problem talking with girls. The good thing is I think I have some more friends to stay with when I come back next year.