Photos And Captions: Ryan Craig
View more of his work here: https://www.facebook.com/RyanCraigPhotography
The swell in Santa Cruz was absolutely pulsing while the 49ers were playing one of their playoff games in January, I stopped by one of my favorite restaurants on the Santa Cruz Wharf, Olitas, to snap a few photos of a relatively un-crowded Steamer Lane through their windows while most of the town and bar patrons were inside, glued to the TV.
A poor man’s alternative to shooting with a drone is to find a wave that breaks below a gigantic cliff. Luckily for me, there are quite a few surf spots close to town that offer this vantage point. Here’s Austin Smith Ford with his low-key red shark repellant suit carving up the mornings surf.
I went up to Maverick’s this morning and it was just awful. Conditions were rough with strong onshore winds. I assumed I wouldn’t have much luck shooting, but when I got back home [to Santa Cruz} I saw it was howling offshore. I snapped countless lineups and I was a little overwhelmed with how good the conditions were at every spot. I was calling every person I knew to get different reports, but ultimately I stayed put on the Westside. It wasn’t until later when I realized it was Kauai's Alex Smith.
I think it’s safe to say all the guys in the lineup were happy to see a curved dorsal fin surfacing this close to them. It’s definitely still shark season up here in Central/Northern California and this area is known to be one of the sharkiest. That said, few things are as surreal as a pack of dolphins sharing the lineup with you. It’s fun to photograph and see nature up close and personal.
Ocean Beach is such a fickle wave. I have really mixed feelings about it. You could get the best wave of your year, or you might not even make the paddle out. It’s really tricky and so much harder to surf than the photos would lead you to believe. This was the first wave that Ricky Whitlock caught this day; he had literally only been surfing out there for five minutes. Although he continued to surf for hours after this shot, this wave was his best by far.
It has been a really slow year for Maverick’s and most of the big days have been pretty windy. This day was magic though. The angle of the swell produced much bigger waves than most people were predicting. I think a lot of people were surfing out there for the first or second time assuming that it was going to be fairly small and therefore moments like this photo were common. This guy was caught off guard and if I recall, he took off his leash to dive under this one.
Parker Coffin was in town last week and it was a pleasure to watch. I was a little late to the session this night and while I was looking for a better angle to shoot from, he did this massive air. Parker surfs incredibly well and I was happy to line up with him for a few days. Thanks buddy!
If I didn’t know any better I would think this water color is from some tropical zone, not California. I’m still pretty envious of the vision that Kyle Thiermann is about to get.
One surfer and about thirty eight-foot waves to choose from. This guy was the guinea pig for all the other surfers wondering what sandbar to pick and what board to ride during an early morning session in San Francisco in January. With that many waves coming in, it’s a bit more daunting and difficult surf then simply waxing your board and paddling out with dry hair.
This is a fresh image of Nat warming up for this coming year’s WCT. It’s really cool to have someone of Nat’s caliber to shoot with here in Santa Cruz on a semi-regular basis. I know that all of Santa Cruz is beyond excited for all his success. Nat will be mid-flight to Australia when this features launches; good luck over there and have fun my man!
I’ve been injured since the day after Thanksgiving and have been avoiding my normal hikes and swims for most of the winter because of it. This walk was long and arduous with my current knee pain but it was too beautiful of a day to not go explore. Late fall and winter are my favorite seasons to live in California; this day was a perfect example of why.
This session was one of the hardest days of swimming in my life. After days of shooting from land I decided that I had to give swimming an attempt. I inched my way out onto the reef and did my best to time the sets, but got swept into a mini river of current and pulled down the beach, taking wave after wave on the head. Swimming with one leg, not being in great shape anymore, and taking the pounding I did made getting this photo of Kyle Buthman much more rewarding.
Maverick’s was particularly ugly this morning with strong NW winds. It was a dying swell and not really that good by Maverick’s standards. In between feeling seasick and freezing cold, Bud Frietas (who was driving the ski) and myself drove way out past the break to shoot some of the offshore spray blowing off the waves. It’s crazy how much water is moving over that reef during a swell and even crazier to think that this wave is considered an insider and no one even paddled for it.
The Lane can be a tricky place to shoot from the water some nights. When I do shoot there I like to get at least three or four people together so the chances of getting a descent shot improve. It looked like the sunset was going to be unreal when I hopped into the water and I kept telling Willie Eagleton to “go tail-high” with his airs and “one more, one more.” Everyone else went in but Willie stayed out and we got this photo right before it was too dark to shoot anymore.
Ryan Craig has been on the surf photography radar since his first stint as a finalist for the Follow the Light Foundation back in 2008. He’s always been a tireless worker and never scared to swim in some of the gnarliest waves on the planet, but during the Hawaii season of 2011 I feel like it all really clicked for the guy they call “Chachi.” He sent over a batch of photos I would put up against anyone’s during that same time period. We were impressed.
Since then, other than a short spell at TransWorld before they were shut down, it’s been a non-stop barrage of emails filled with photo gold from all over the world. Ryan is easily one of our most valuable contributors and someone we can count on to nail any possible shot, zero holes in his game.
This past season in Hawaii he was a man on a mission, ready to prove to the world that his work could stand up against anyone’s and hopefully score one of the limited staff roles in the industry. But, after an 8-hour session shooting Pipeline on Black Friday, disaster struck. Ryan and his girlfriend were nailed by a car while riding their bike home along the Kam Highway. Both were hospitalized with serious injuries. Ryan’s ACL was torn, as were his dreams of swimming his ass off, shooting Pipe and Backdoor for the next month.
As of today, Chachi’s still waiting to get surgery and somehow hasn’t missed a beat being crippled by the injury. Getting cleaned up on a boogieboard while shooting the Mav’s contest, swimming out to the sharky reefs north of Santa Cruz with basically one leg, and making a point to be at every notable session around his home region… The guy is unstoppable!
Here’s a small sample of his recent work that we at SURFING absolutely adore. –Jimmicane