RYAN: With the beach and the water so crowded, I’d been thinking about renting a helicopter for some time. And when the forecast looked good for this day I called up the heli guys and they were super nice and willing to give it a shot.
I was terrified for the first couple of feet after lifting off. There were no doors and the thing was the size of a mini car. I was touching knees with the pilot, relying on an old 1970s seatbelt to strap me in. When we got to Pipe, the waves were good but the pilot didn’t understand how the ocean worked, so I had to tell him when the sets were coming. You couldn’t hover in the same place because of the trade winds, which meant we had to keep moving at all times. We were about 500 feet up and I was shooting with a 70-200mm with a 1.4 converter on a full frame body. This moment was just a bigger set that had everyone scratching for the horizon. I didn’t even shoot it being surfed because it was so big that it didn’t tube on the reef. I got a lot of cool shots this day [including this month’s cover]. Every minute on the helicopter was like 20 bucks, but it was well worth the hour and a half for the images I came back with.