This a collection of images that I shot from the water at Ocean Beach in San Francisco from January 23 through January 25. I live on the Great Highway so I consider myself lucky to be able to check the beach almost every day. These were no ordinary days at the beach. I was out of town when the MLK swell of 2013 came through, but back then I had a six-week old baby by my side and I was in no shape to swim or surf in those conditions. But I felt like I had it in me. I made a pact with myself then that the next swell of that caliber I would try to swim out with my camera and test my skills as a water photographer.
I started shooting from the water years before I ever picked up a surfboard, back in 1996 when I bought my first film camera and custom water housing while living and working in Tokyo, Japan. As a life long body surfer and competitive swimmer with a budding interest in photography I knew that water surf photography was something that I wanted to try after watching a documentary about Aaron Chang as a young girl growing up far from the coast in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Childhood summers were spent at the beach in Dana Point with my extended family (my parents are originally from the Los Angeles area) which helped to spark a life long relationship with the ocean. The first time I swam by, and shot a picture of a friend standing up in a barrel at Lakey Peak in Sumbawa in 1997, I was hooked.
Since then, the water photography dream has been put on hold at various points by jobs that paid the bills like working on the sets of Hollywood feature films and graduate school at UC Berkeley where I studied documentary film and journalism. I finally had the opportunity to put this collective experience to work on the surf beat that I love while on staff at the Los Angeles Times when I produced, shot and edited a video series called Chasing the Swell about the then small band of big wave surfers including Greg Long and Mark Healey as they follow a swell across the Pacific during the first Big Wave World Tour. I have since left that job to drive across the Americas along the Pacific for a year with my husband to start a family and pursue new adventures. Today I am happy to be back at Ocean Beach with a tenure track job as a Professor of Multimedia Journalism at San Francisco State University, a job that gives me the flexibility of schedule to get in the water often.