The Art of Night – The Photography of Mark Gee

Wellington Boardriders Skins Comp – Sept 09

Ilan Fisher - Winner of the Wellington Boardriders Skins Comp - Sept 09

Ilan Fisher - Winner of the Wellington Boardriders Skins Comp - Sept 09

The date was set & the Wellington Boardriders where to have their first skins contest on the 5th September after a postponement the week before due to lack of swell. I did think for a second about entering the comp, but I hadn’t surfed a comp for years now & that was back home on the Goldy when I was a lot younger & able, so instead I thought I’d contribute in some other way & decided to photograph the event instead.
In the week leading up to the comp there a glimmer of hope that there might just be some swell. A deep low had formed off the bottom of the south island & was tracking north east off the coast. Hopefully it would be positioned nicely by the weekend to push some swell into Lyall Bay. The wind was also forecast to be a 20 knot southerly, which isn’t ideal for surfing at Lyall but at least there would be swell. Saturday came & the forecasts had changed. It was a perfect day, not a cloud in the sky & a light northerly blowing. I had packed my camera gear the night before, but due to some ‘technical’ issues with my water housing, I ended up being half an hour late to the comp.
I rolled into the car park at the corner. The comp site was setup with Rico’s retro 70’s caravan taking center stage. The waves weren’t that big, but they looked fun & glassy. The junior heats were already in progress, so I quicky grabbed my camera & long lens to headed down to the beach to shoot some of the action. The waves were starting to line up nicely along the wall with a few nice sets coming through. Ethan, one of the better juniors, was ripping it up & as I was setting up he pulled of a nice little air – damn it I missed that one! I positioned myself & started shooting away.
The forecast for the day had the wind swinging to the south at about 10 knots in the afternoon with an incoming tide. Hopefully the waves were going to pick up then, but it also meant that if wouldn’t be glassy anymore. I have my underwater camera housing setup in the car ready to go & since the tide was low & conditions good I decided to get out in the water. By the time I got out there the juniors had finished & the first head of the opens had hit the water. I positioned myself in the lineup hoping to shoot some nice wacks off the top. The waves were lining up nicely on the bank & when the sets did come through it was a nice down the line ride.
The heats were man on man, so it wasn’t crowed out there & they had the pick of the waves, but get any decent shots I had to pretty much put it on the line & get bloody close to the surfers. So close in fact that during one of the heats I was asked kindly if I would move a little further down the line as he thought he was going to hit me. My response back was “I’m used to that!” After I showed him the shot I snapped of him he was pretty happy that I did get that close to him. It was certainly one of the better shots I got that day…
After about 50 minutes in the water I headed in to get dry & setup for shooting from the beach & around the contest area. The waves were still breaking nicely but they were getting few & far between with the tide on the way back in now. The wind was light & it looked like it wouldn’t be long until that southerly change came through. I stayed in my wettie just in case I wanted to get back out there. Since the waves were small I found a spot to sit & shoot from down low just in behind the pipe at the eastern end of the beach. I went without the monopod as the light was pretty good & I could shoot hand held with the 400mm lens. During the next few heats the waves were few & far between, & if I rolled up for a surf I’d be wondering what those guys were doing out there in the flat ocean.
I took advantage of the flat spell & went up to shoot some stuff around the caravan. Everyone was up there just hanging out & enjoying the perfect sunny day. They even had a few beach activities for the kids to keep them occupied with stickers & wax as the prizes. Willie from Wind & Kite Magazine was also down there shooting some of the action on the water & was getting some attention with that long lens of his. Its amazing how people will come up & have a chat to you when you are trying to shoot stuff! By this time the wind had swung onshore & the conditions were now slightly ruffled on the water. But the tide had come in & the sets had returned for the final heats of the day. I managed to get a few nice pics of the guys out there in the afternoon sun on some of the bigger ones & Rico was out there in style ripping it apart with his bigger board in the over 40’s heat.
The end of the day had come, and the winners were announced. The good thing about the comp format was even if you didn’t win, you still had a chance of getting your hands on some cash if you won one of your heats. I’d say for the Wellington Boardriders first official event it was quite a successful one. The waves could have been bigger, but the day was amazing, which can be a rarity in Wellington – especially this time of year. The next comp is set for sometime in October. I might enter this one as a competitor, but then again I had a heap of fun just photographing the event. I’d certainly do it again…

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