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The Inertia


Brandon Sears has always loved skateboarding’s distinct follow-cam style. So much so that he’s been thinking of ways to incorporate it into his own camera work, which eventually gave him the idea for one special shot – one that he’s been contemplating for at least two years. What did he dream up? Following somebody launching off the lip of a wave in the shore break…all filmed from above that same wave. And without a drone.

“I’ve tried over the years, (thinking) ‘Ok, what’s the best angle?'” Sears told The Inertia. “We’ve attempted different things. I’ve been smashed by the lip, front flipped, just total chaos trying to get it.”

It turns out Sears’ vision came with a laundry list of factors that would need to be worked out in order to pull it off, making the final product that much more impressive when he shared it with us this summer. It shows the grit and dedication of executing something fresh and creative. And hearing him break down the X’s and O’s of nailing it all is like getting a crash course in both the complexity, and recent history, of skimboarding. Skimming’s popularity has grown recently thanks in part to social media, but also because of the talent and creativity of guys like Blair Conklin, Brad Domke, and Austin Keen, all of whom blur the line between surf and skim and make it look easy.

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Coincidentally, he needed a talent of that caliber, so he and Blair Conklin would occasionally team up for sessions where the conditions were just right to execute (or at least attempt) his shot. And since Sears is a professional skimboarder-turned-photographer himself, the pair make up a pretty short list of people that could pull this off.

“I’m a couple feet right behind him, and we’re running full speed into this shoulder-high wave that’s breaking right on the beach,” Sears explains. So he’d need somebody he could trust to have the body control and awareness to hold onto his board while Brandon launched and filmed himself. He’d need somebody who could pull it off in a tight space, essentially side-by-side with a cameraman on the wave. And then there were the necessary wave factors to consider:

“I have to time the wave,” Sears said. “There has to be a shoulder, because if there’s too much of a section then I get smashed by the lip.”

As for Sears’ task, well, he’d have to approach the same wave as if he were going to ride it too. What you can’t tell in the GoPro footage of their wave is that Sears is skimming the same wave, not just running behind or standing in the shore break. He needed to launch from the shoulder, making sure he’d fly above Conklin to avoid any spray blocking the camera, all while staying within just a couple feet of his subject through it all.

When he posted the final result online, the product of years of scheming and a handful of sessions waiting for the right opportunity, Sears says people thought he’d shot it with a drone. And that mystery of just how he made it all come together is something he’s enjoyed.

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“We definitely think we can get an even better one,” he says now. “We’re definitely not done.”

Editor’s note: The All-Time series showcases images that stop us in our tracks, from sessions we’d like to have experienced. Only on rare occasions do nature’s infinite variables align. It’s even more unusual that photos capture the essence of that moment. If you’re sitting on an image (or two) from surf or snow that you think fits the description above and you’d like to be featured, send your photo with a few sentences about the day to contribute@theinertia.com

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