Photographer Richard Podgurski heard about the swell coming in to Mavericks from his friend Jamie Mitchell. The annual winter event that brings huge waves south of San Francisco will draw some of the best surfers at a moment’s notice. “He gave me the heads up that it would be pumping on December 8th with great conditions, so I drove up to Half Moon Bay from Manhattan Beach early on the 7th,” says Richard. “The whole ride up you have butterflies of anticipation.”
Richard woke up at 5:15 a.m. to get on the boat by 6. The conditions on that day were particularly unique, with warm winds negating the need for extra layers. But the waves were groomed to perfection. “They were calling it the best day in 10 years,” he says. “It was easily 40-feet with the occasional 50-footer coming in. It was truly a sight to see. But the sounds of those waves are even crazier. The clap of that lip can be piercing.”
Richard clocked a full 12 hours on the boat and about 3,500 frames between two cameras. “I had two Nikon D850s with one loaded with a 150-600mm lens and the other with a 70-200mm lens. I’d say the biggest challenge was mostly the other boats and jet skis in the water. There’s always a big rotation of different support boats and sometimes they float in front of your frame. But we had a great driver that usually kept us in a really good spot to get the gold. He really knew what he was doing. I could have easily shot more frames, but you have to be a little more conservative with the frames when there’s a constant train of sets coming in ALL day long. Every set had somebody charging hard.”
Richard recalls there were a few sets that cleaned up the entire line up. “They were just awe-inspiring. Then you see a set so big that you couldn’t even imagine anybody getting it, and then all of a sudden, somebody was turning and burning. Kai Lenny, Peter Mel, Ian Walsh and Twiggy, all had some INSANE paddle-in waves. There were a few wipeouts that kept people on edge for a while.”
One of the most popular shots he captured that day was of Kai Lenny’s wave (above) that got around on Instagram. “When I woke up the next morning seeing my big wave surfing heroes posting my pictures, it really gave me a sense of accomplishment,” Richard shares. “It really makes you feel like part of the community.”
You can check out more of Richard’s pics from that day at @RichardPodJr on Instagram.
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