An Operator’s perspective
I am just in the door from Maverick’s. We had quite an adventure up there.
This trip I was a part of the K38 Mavericks Water Rescue Team.
I joined K38 long ago, on the heels of shooting the 2000 Tow Surfing Championships at Jaws. I realized in the course of my process, that I had a debt of responsibility to both my subjects, the sport, and myself, (being a sentient human being) to be prepared and accountable as a responsible participant in documenting and filming surfing.
My motivation in seeking out K38 training, was to be able to respond appropriately and professionally in an emergency.
One of my mentors taught me early on, that a photographer is responsible for what he creates. I looked on in horror after my tow surfing imagery helped Surfer, Billabong XXL, Towsurfer, etc…. launch the new sport into the main stream, and realized that what I had created, could potentially contribute to someone that I care about perishing.
My mentor explained that when you point a camera at someone, they may do things not ordinarily embarked upon, should the camera be absent. I felt responsible for what I helped to create. (Bruce Brown had told me that he felt the same way about Cape Saint Francis, after shooting Endless Summer.)
So I had eventually sought out Shawn Alladio, and K38 Rescue. Though I never gave her the entire story on my motivation, she graciously accepted me into her program. In the course of several years I have participated in her training programs on various levels and received certification as a Rescue Boat Operator.
Lately, I find Shawn and myself working shoulder to shoulder a lot. The message is always the same: educate, be prepared, no one dies. Being on a team is sort of a strange concept for me. Having been a competitive swimmer, cyclist, professional surfer et al (There are more solo sports on my list.) I found that my biggest challenge was to throttle down, or “stand down”, as they say in the military. After many years, I am finally beginning to “get” that concept.
K38 training exemplifies and endows discipline. So these days, I bite my tongue, hold my Hawaiian temper in check, do what I am told. I am learning to serve, at last. I have placed myself under another’s authority.
Mavericks Rescue Team Background Story, as provided by Shawn Alladio:
“We were up at 4:20am getting ready for the 2009-2010 Mavericks Surf Contest the day of the historic event. We broke at midnight the evening prior after our PPE/gear checks and briefings.
The K38 crew provided the water rescue and assistance for the 24 athletes competing during the February 13, event. I’m very proud of the K38 Rescue team. They came together focused, did their job and did well. They took leadership values and incorporated them into a work ethic that produced results.
This was Ryan Augensteins’ first event. This team is committed to training and endorsing the K38 Way and standards for the future of water rescue during big wave events. I’ve had the honor of training a stellar team in South Africa who really set the bar professionally for big wave safety coverage. This team I am working with will have a minimum 3 year training timeline to perfect the necessary skills to be ‘rescue qualified’ on this level.
So K 38 was given the mission to assemble a team comprised of certified Rescue Boat operators and the local crew. An invitation to participate was sent out to a hand picked group of candidates. A select few people stepped forward.
The Mavericks K38 Rescue Team:
Vince Broglio (Captain)
Photographer, Camera Operator:
We used Kawasaki ULTRA LX models, K38 Rescue Boards and our K38 boats/helmets were outfitted with GoPro HD cameras.” Alladio
The new acting interim Harbormaster for Pillar Point is Mr. Robert Johnson. Deputy Harbor officer Cary Smith was the point of contact for the PPHD for the Mavericks Surf contest operations.
The Pillar Point Harbor Department offered generous and steady support.
Circling overhead was a USCG Helo and on the outskirts of the surf break, two fully manned USCG rescue vessels watched. The legendary 47 MLB, http://www.uscg.mil/datasheet/47mlb.asp and the 87 foot Rescue Class Cutter: Protector, the Pike.
Further peripheral support was provided by the HMB FD. I had the pleasure of working along side two of their men in the course of the event. Steady professionals.
It was an honor to be in the first line of defense, supported by various public safety agencies with men and women of this caliber. The large asset deployment at this event was primarily to manage the huge amount of boating and spectator traffic. NOAA had issued media warnings in an effort to cut down on traffic at the event this year.
It worked for the most part. Still, it was difficult not to notice things like an obviously out of place person aboard a PWC which was labeled with the name of a surfing publication and who, when questioned by authorities, could only keep repeating the words “I am with S— magazine”, as if that gave him license to have the PWC in the lineup.
What I saw this day:
A large, building, 290 degree NW primary swell, that peaked in the course of the day with 22 feet at 17 second buoy readings, and two other swells. The combination of swell size, angle, and interval created a unique top wave that allowed for the surfers to ramp up to speeds not normally possible, which assisted entry into an exceptionally clean and concave wave face.
The ocean conditions this event day are exceptionally rare to experience, and in my 42 years of surfing and ocean activities as a waterman, and 12 years as a photographer, I am shocked to see such a rare meteorologic occurrence happen on an event day.
What transpired, was a best case, designer conditions day. With superior competitor support, the measure of confidence on the part of the athletes, contributed to the establishing of a new bar in surfing performance at size.
So many athletes rose to the challenge this day, that I am a little dumbfounded. What I saw, exceeded anything prior in the context of my experience, in terms of ability, courage, bravado and success.
I produced a detailed stills image list of iconic Surfing and Rescue Community support documentation, and shot 7 hours of motion and time lapse capture for a documentary that will focus on the event from a behind the scenes point of view.
The title of the film and the magazine feature that I am working on is “The Road Home.” It is a sequel to a piece I wrote, that was first Published by Alex Dick Read for The Surfers Path , which is a personal account of my coming to terms with the death of Mark Foo, who I had known from when I was first on the Professional Tour and in the many years which followed, spent time with when I would be in Hawaii.That story was entitled The Road To Half Moon Bay.
I did not return to Half Moon Bay to shoot surfing. I came to serve. But what I experienced, is one of the greatest gifts a Photographer and Journalist could have: being at a point in time where established paradigms shift with the tick of the clock.
Rigged to work Rescue, while holding a camera (well actually probably around 8 cameras, thanks to Go Pro) once more, the Canon 5D Mark 2 system allowed me to exceed all possible prior production potential for a single camera operator. We truly do live in the future. 24 surfers (and a LOT of support) just proved that.
Here is a piece of music that is remarkably pertinent and descriptive for us. It was recorded a long time ago.
Below is the gallery. Click on the images for a full view and to read more about that image.
This edit contains a small cross section of a large file that is illustrative of the event safety coverage at Mavericks and a little bit of the day and night preparations the team endured, in order to be ready. We worked long hours. We all came back safe.
No one dies.