This shot is of Ventura Surfer Adam Virs. It was taken in Ventura California, just south of the Harbor. You can see Two Trees, a landmark, in the background. If you are from Ventura, this image is pretty cool. It is a frame from the second or third roll of film that I ever shot from the water. The surf was terrible this day. When I came in, I ran into my friend and soon to be colleague, William Sharp. We were both shooting for Surfing Magazine and being edited by legendary lensman and mentor, Larry “Flame” Moore.
William laughed, and shook his head at me. “Dave, Dave, Dave, what were you doing out there? The surf is absolute crap.” “Um, shooting a cover.” I answered, with my typical, aggressive candor. “Really. You think so?” he asked. (I HATE it when people say those words) “Yea, saw it when I hit the shutter.” William smirked and remained silent.
So later that day, when I got my film back, there the image was, just as I had seen it. Since I was such a novice, it was not till many years later that I learned this was not the norm for most photographers.
When Flame got the shot in the mail, he rang me up, and was very enthusiastic. “Dave this image of Adam is remarkable. Trust me when I tell you, that it will stand the test of time.” I was pretty amped. I mean Larry was a bar setter in surf photography. He had shot me in my Pro Surfing career, and it felt remarkable that here we were years later, together, and that he had become a proponent of my work.
So the magazine came out, and Larry ran the shot postage stamp sized. William laughed, and tried to be encouraging. “Oh, that is just Larry trying to motivate you.” “Geezus William, I just got kicked in the nuts. This is how it works?” “Yep, that is Larry”.
I shot this photo using a water housing made by a well known surf photographer, and close friend who also happened to be a housing builder.
I used my wife’s Minolta X700 body with a Minolta 28mm lens and RVP 50 film. The water housing was hers as well. Veronica was one of two female surf photographers working for Surfer magazine when I became a professional surfer. Quite a ground breaker that way.
She was my wife, friend and photographer. It was a great excuse for us to travel together. She rarely used the water housing, Ronnie swam like a rock. I knew this first hand from having pulled her to the surface before.
Larry called me into the office shortly thereafter, and asked me to bring my housing. I made the drive down to San Clemente, and as I handed the housing off, I could see what looked like anger on Larry’s face. “F ing —–“ he said, saying the photographer-housing makers name. “What?” I asked.
Flame told me that the 3/8 inch thick plexiglass port that my lens looked through, ruined optics, and that it was the housing makers means of sabotaging his competition. “Fix it” were his sole words of advice. I did later that week, taking the port to a plexiglass fabricator and having him glue 1/8 optical grade glass in place after milling away the 3/8 inch thick plex that was ruining my lens view.
I was still shaping boards at the time that I shot this image. I have pretty much always been a board builder. I started when I was 12. The board Adam is riding is one of the first ones that I built for him, after he had come to me, and asked if I would coach him. I was shaping and building boards for a lot of pretty good surfers at the time. All of them were highly motivated. Adam, Bobby Martinez, Mary Osborne. A long list actually. But these are my close friends to this day.
The net result of Adam’s commitment and our joint efforts, resulted in him becoming one of the winningest amateur surfers in US history. In 12 months time, he won multiple regional, and two National titles, on both short and longboards that I built for him, start to finish. If anybody has won so many events in such a short time frame, coming from out of nowhere, so to speak, I am unaware of it.
I tagged along with Adam on his adventure, shooting, shaping and coaching. But his strength was really rooted in motivation and desire. I simply believed. He did it all.
The other people’s stories, will need to wait till I unearth another image with a song to sing.
That was Flame’s terminology for imagery. Photos are the songs, and tell stories. Photographers were the singers. And that image, well, time has passed… My mentor died of brain cancer. I miss him. Adam has had a long career as a Professional, and the photograph remains contemporary for the most part. I bet Larry is still smiling about that. Last month, Ronnie borrowed a water housing from me. Motivation really is everything.