Happy St. Patrick's Day, my loves! If you have a knack for extreme sports, today is your lucky day! Tara from Arrowood Photography is known for her amazing wedding photography but when she was invited by Jeff Clark, a famous big wave surfer, to capture a surf event in Mavericks, California, you bet she said yes! This breathtaking destination hosts some epic waves and fearless adventurers as they participate in the invite-only competition. Head over to the gallery to see all the action and then check out our Q&A with Tara about her experience!
MW: What made you go shoot Mavericks?
AP: I’ve known the founder of Mavericks, Jeff Clark, and his wife Cassandra for a number of years. My husband Travis and I are both active on the water as stand up paddle boarders and Travis in particular follows surfing as a sport. Jeff invited me to go out on his son’s boat to watch the competition and take photos out on the water. You can’t see the location from the shore—it’s about 2 miles outside Pillar Point Harbor north of Half Moon Bay—so to be invited out into the water with an experienced captain piloting your dinghy is an opportunity you don’t pass up!
MW: The waves are huge, I mean like really really huge, what did they look like to you?
AP: Huge. Absolutely huge. When you ride out to where the wave breaks, you can see why for years, surfers and sailors considered the area a hazard instead of a playground. Very few people even believed waves like this existed in California. Mavericks is only for very daring, very experienced big wave surfers. Those waves are serious and unreliable.
MW: Can you describe what it is like be out there?
AP: Once we got out there, it was actually calmer than I thought. There’s a place behind the buoys where the spectators and photographers hang out so we were not sitting on big waves. But the ride out, 15-20 minutes long, is so rough and choppy that when we hit the bottom of each wave, my jaw clamped my teeth together so hard that it stung. Not to mention, you’re getting drenched from bouncing up and down on the waves.
MW: What was the most inspiring part of the day?
AP: Everywhere I looked, there was something to photograph. From spectators to other photographers to actual competitors, and obviously the giant waves, there’s just always something awesome to catch through the lens.
MW: What gear did you take out there? Describe your set up....where were you sitting, what were you wearing, etc?
AP: I was wearing a wet suit and a life jacket, which is the most important thing to be wearing! I had to sit on the floor of the dinghy because if I had sat on the sides of the raft, I would have bounced right out. I took 1 camera body and a 70-200 lens with a 1.4 extender with me.
MW: Weddings or surf competitions? Which would you choose to shoot?
MW: Anything you would like to add?
AP: I loved shooting Mavericks as a photo journalist. For me, it’s about covering the event from start to finish, from all angles. And not just to capture the event but also to tell the whole story of the competition. At 5am I was with Jeff on the water starting the competition; later I covered the heats, semi-finals and finals. And of course, Jeff’s interviews with the media and the festival celebrations. I wanted to make sure Jeff and sponsors like Red Bull, got photos to use for future branding and promotion.
My spirit is adventurous. As a photographer I seek new adventures and I’m always up for new experiences and challenges. Whether it’s being out on the waves watching Mavericks or shooting a couple’s engagement session on paddle boards, the water is a familiar setting for me. Any opportunity to combine photography and being on the water is ideal.
Wow, completely mesmerizing! I hope you enjoyed this little surf escape, Maharanis! We'll be back to platinum rated weddings tomorrow!