INTRO - 20 years as senior staff photographer for Surfer mag, and more recently as a full-time kite shooter, JB has travelled the world with the best riders in tow. He's one of our most regular contributors and there's always a hoot and a whoop whoop in the office as we gasp at his latest visual reports from the front line on what the best rippers in the kiting kingdom are up to. JB is truly commited to the cause.
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Where did you grow up?
Barnegat Light, New Jersey.
Where do you live?
Sunset Beach, Hawaii
How old are you?
What was your first camera?
A Yashica TL-Electro range finder
What is your current camera set-up?
Canon EOS 1D MKII, 14mm, 15mm, 20mm, 50mm, 100mm, 70-200mm, 300mm, 100-400mm, 2x Ext
Sony V1U, Century .5x
Essex Surf Housings
How did you get into photography?
My best friend, Steve Waskow had a darkroom when we were about ten. We developed negatives, made some contact prints and that was it. I was hooked.
When did you become a professional photographer?
I began assisting pros in San Diego while I went to UCSD. I began submitting surfing photos to SURFING Magazine with Rob Gilley in about 1981. We split the cost of the equipment and kind of teamed up. He went on to become a legendary photographer and photo editor of Surfer and I have been a senior photographer at SURFER for almost twenty years.
When did you get into shooting kiting and how did it come about?
Living on the North Shore of Oahu the crowds of surfers get old. Plus I learned to windsurf at Backyards at Darrick Doerner's suggestion one summer. After that I would sail Backyards everyday when I wasn't shooting surf photos. Some of the biggest rushes in my life have been on huge waves out the back there. When it's right, you can sail all the way through the end bowl at Sunset. We had a tight crew, Craig Yester, Steve Villager, Larry Cass, Richard White and Robby Naish would come too when it was good. When Cory Roeseler visited with a kite and water skis once we never imagined that in a few years we'd all but have forgotten windsurfing. 'Python' and Dan Moore first gave kiting a crack with 4.9 Blades and paid dues daily, going downwind to Pipe and hitching rides back. Chris Wyman contacted me a few months later to do a shoot for Slingshot kites and Pat Rawson's kid, Ryan, doing some tricks. We went to a spot on the east side of Oahu and without any idea what he was up against, I had him jumping in the worst possible spot. He pulled it off and we got a cover. Soon kiting was a whole other job!
When did you start shooting kiting full time rather than surfing?
When I met my wife in Hatteras in 2002 we started doing more and more kite jobs and trips, and pretty soon I'd almost forgotten about surfing. The industry in surfing meanwhile got huge and ugly, and the stoke of doing surfing photos with twenty five other guys in the water next to me soon wore off. When I shot kiting it was always new – like the first time anyone rode a spot or got barrelled for example. It was like being a surfer in the 1950s I think.
Can you remember the first shot you got published?
A postage stamp of Mark Bukich at Black's Beach in Surfer, 1982.
Which is your favourite ever shot?
The next one. It's like music; there are songs that hold your interest at the moment, though you still love all your other music too. And then you move to something else. I love that process.
Who is your favourite rider to shoot with and why?
That's another simple question without a simple answer. Almost all the pros are my good friends and I respect all of them. They blow my mind regularly. I enjoy shooting anyone pushing forward what is possible.
Where is your favourite place to shoot and why?
I love warm water and big waves. The beer is good in West Oz, the waves are big in Hawaii, but Tahiti on a good day would have to be the best.
Where is the most terrifying place you've ever shot?
I've been scared most at Backdoor Pipe and Waimea. At Backdoor the lip penetrates all the way to the reef leaving nowhere to go if you get out of position. Waimea is all good until it starts to close-out, then the Bay gets really small. I just squeaked over the back of a close-out wave out there on my ski once. I've never been so scared in my life. I was thrown into the air and if another wave had been breaking behind it, I was toast. Fortunately there wasn't another wave. I have big respect for the guys who surf that stuff.
Do you have any advice for aspiring kiting photographers?
Work with the best riders you can. Find what you like and make it happen in front of you.
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