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North Shore 2017

 

Sync with the Sea

by Marcus Paladino

My peripheral vision must have gotten the best of me as I stealthily watched the other lensmen repositioning themselves for an incoming attack on the horizon. These are guys like Laserwolf, Eric Tomlinson and Hawaii’s own Zak Noyle. To a world within the world, they’re considered gods among mere mortals. Documenting others execute the art of cheating death, all while laughing in the face of the grim reaper themselves, they perfectly time their dives in preparation for an approaching set wave that unexpectedly swung wide into the channel. Though I had already successfully avoided several rogue waves that session, I suppose fatigue was a factor for my indecisiveness and my poorly executed attempt was slightly delayed. I felt the roaring pound of the sea explode above me and gently caress the back of my legs as I swam underneath it, my body arched upward and I began to start surfacing, but felt the repercussions of my failure from the raw power of the Pacific Ocean in full force. It grabbed me by scruff of my neck and ripped me backwards, a definite horse collar penalty. The force simultaneously snatched the camera out of my predominant grip and I began to uncontrollably toss and turn while being dragged underwater. I was repeating to myself the wise words Zak had told me prior to swimming out together, "do NOT panic. The ocean will always let you go... Eventually."

Taking a set on the head was nothing new. I was fairly used to swimming in maxed out beaches back home and powerful slabs along the coast, but never in my life had I ever felt such intense energy like this. The North Shore has been known to make an example out of even the most experienced watermen. Time continued to pass and I wondered exactly when the ocean was planning on letting me go. I couldn’t tell which way was up. When I opened my eyes, all I saw was black. This was concerning, then I hit the bottom of the ocean floor. Thankfully the recent string of North swells had piled up plenty of sand to soften the impact. I was running out of breath, but was relieved to at least feel something limit my descent. I firmly planted my feet and pushed upwards, only to be rejected and sent right back to where I’d started. I regrouped and attempted my projection to the surface once more, but was denied again. Beat by beat my heart was pounding harder. The air was starting to escape my nostrils, bubble by bubble. I frantically pushed my fins away from the sand and started kicking as hard as could, only to continuously graze the toe-edge of my flippers repeatedly, as if completely anchored. I fought to swim vertically and was about to reach my lung capacity. Then, all of a sudden, a very real, unanticipated thought occurred. I’ll never forget the feeling of genuine curiosity and calmness it provoked. Without fear, panic, sadness, or anger, I subconsciously thought the most honest question anyone can ask themselves, "is the how I'm going to die?"

One week earlier, in the middle of the night, I was in the back of a cab at the Honolulu airport trying to recall all of Mike Brophy’s half asleep instructions on how to find the RVCA house. Through the poor service of my Canadian cell phone cutting in and out I remember hearing "just let yourself in." As if a loyal friend or family member, I was granted permission to make myself at home in a place I’d never been, surrounded by people I’d even never met. A few hours later I woke up on the couch to the sound of waves detonating on the beach, I stumbled over to the sliding glass door and pressed my face against it and let my eyes adjust. The world famous Off The Wall came into focus straight out front, steps away from the backyard. I was situated dead centre of the Seven Mile Miracle, all while simply standing in the living room in my underwear. “You get in late?” I had been startled to find a fellow underwear dwelling early riser, investigating me while I had been admiring his everyday view.

"Back in the 60's I use to draw a circle in the sand around photographers and say 'You see see this line? Do not cross it. I'll bring you food, I'll bring you beer, just keep shooting." Herbie Fletcher explained as we drank our morning coffee together. He would ask trivia-like questions, putting my surf history knowledge to the test. As a Canadian, I don’t think he actually anticipated a correct answer from me, nor did I ever end up giving him one. But he would enthusiastically explain to me about the culture his generation created for us and the impact his family had on our sport. I use to think that I knew enough about the history of surfing, the North Shore and the Fletcher family. That is, until I sat down with the man himself and had him explain it to me as thoroughly as he did. RVCA is more than a brand, it’s a family. Uniquely sponsoring all walks of life; Surfers (shortboard, longboard and everything in-between), skateboarders, body surfers, photographers, musicians, graffiti artists, MMA & Jiu-Jitsu fighters, gourmet chefs, the Hawaiian Water Patrol and iconic legends like Herbie. Their presence in Oahu is undeniable, as they spend more than six weeks every winter bringing all of these completely separate advocates together to bond and get to know each other. Masters of their own universe, misfits in another. Outcasts who would never find each other running in the same social circles, living under one roof in one of the most beautiful places in the world. A delicate balance of opposites.

The television got completely harassed with profanity and applause, as we watched our fellow advocate Ricardo Christie battle for his professional competitive life at Sunset Beach. Exhaling with him on every maneuver, as if we were surfing with him at that very moment. We were opinionated with critique for the judges and other competitors wave quality in comparison, but Ric fell short in the final minutes and just like that, his QS year came to a close. Coming short of re-qualifying for the CT, after falling off ‘The Dream Tour’ last season. He joined us on the porch when he returned from the contest site, and we all gathered to acknowledge his presence. He was greeted with gestures of embrace but no words were said, none were needed. "The best things in life are when you commit" he explained as we celebrated that night. Whether it’s paddling into a steep wave, telling someone you love them, or following your dreams. Commitment is the first step in achieving anything worth pursuing, sometimes you have to take a chance on yourself. It’s what got him on tour, and it’s what got me to Hawaii. Dedicated to capturing high-performance surfing and pushing myself to show my value and gain experience. Taking the risk of swimming out at one of the most dangerous waves, because I was invited to join one of the best surf photographers in the world. People don’t get these kind of opportunities every day, and I wasn’t going to leave with any regrets. I was committed. Though, it may have been my lack of commitment as to why I ended up uncomfortably underwater in the first place...

The answer to that grave question was no. I was released from my underwater prison and finally given room to breathe. When I looked back and saw a second wave approaching, I knew my swim that night was done. As a right of passage, I took my well-deserved beating and was quickly washed up on shore. Giving the lifeguards on duty the thumbs up as I walked out of the water, I decided to take a minute to myself, and so sat on the sand watching the sunset burn up the sky. In that moment, I realized exactly how lucky I really was. To be healthy, loved, accomplished and most of all, truly happy. To be there, in the paradise I thought only existed in the movies and magazines. Being mentored by an icon like Zak, one of most genuine and down to earth human beings I’ve ever met. Supported by this incredible company and invited to be surrounded by like-minded individuals who I’m proud to now call friends. I laughed to myself and couldn’t stop smiling. When we walked back to the house, I was awaited by my newly acquired family on the porch with cold beers probing a question of their own... "How about that set Marcus took on the head?!"

Canadian Nationals 2018

This past weekend Wickaninnish beach played host to the 2018 Canadian National Championships and I'm honoured to have been asked by the Canadian Surfing Association to document the event. Out of the 8000+ photos I shot, 600+ were selected for the CSA but here I present you with a mere 40+ images. This gallery isn't actually a very good interpretation of the entire contest, these are simply a few of my favourites for you to view and enjoy.

The Other West Coast

Sitting down on the couch to sip my morning coffee, my horoscope reads, “Leap before you look, go for gold, and make your move! Most people live their lives as if they have another in the bank; but not you, not now!” This is exactly what I need to hear an hour before starting my drive from Tofino, B.C. to Santa Cruz, California. With my 2002 Subaru Forrester as my home on wheels, I begin my journey with two friends, convoying behind their van full of surfboards.

Highway 101 has a reputation of taking almost double the time of the I-5 freeway, but is also one of the most scenic drives you can do along the coast of North America. As we continue our descent I can’t help but notice the subtle change in trees along the road, shifting from the Douglas Fir and Cedars I grew up with to the Red Alder and Hemlocks of the Oregon coast. One familiarity though is the rain. Apparently we’re in the storm of the century, but in reality the amount of rain seems equivalent to an average winter day back home. However, when a region doesn’t get precipitation like this for decades, something usually has to give. People are being evacuated from their homes – in the Santa Cruz area alone there is an estimated 40 million dollars in road damage from landslides and floods.

Californian locals warn us about surfing during and after storms, how all the sewage drains into the ocean adjacent to popular breaks. That’s definitely different from home. This amount of rainfall provides more flow from the city and potentially causes illness and/or sinus infections. Maybe it’s the fact that Tofitians always surf in the rain (when else would we surf?) or because my friends and I haven’t surfed in days, either way we decide to take the risk.

As the storm finally passes through, the California I imagined reveals itself: sunny skies, point breaks and salty crowds. It’s overwhelming how many breaks there are, every nook and cranny hiding a wedge or a peak. It’s amazing to see how much diversity there is along the coast from just Santa Cruz alone. But interestingly enough, the locals don’t seem to have any burning desire to take advantage of surfing a plethora of different waves...

“I really only surf one spot when I’m here.”
“I haven’t surfed in town since I was, like, 17.”
“It’s like a 20 minute drive, you boys don’t want to go all the way there.”

(continues below slideshow.)

... these are just a few common quotes from established local surfers. It seems that surfers here stick to their zone like how people choose a particular grocery store. I thought home (with the 2000 people that live in Tofino) was unique because everyone knows everyone else in the water. Turns out the same can be said for a town of over 50,000 residents, so we obviously stick out like someone who’s wearing suspenders with a belt. Thankfully, trading the set waves of our mushy/messy beach breaks to surf the so-called ‘scraps’ on the inside and shoulders of sets on perfectly peeling A-frames is an acceptable change to our wave diet. No one’s gotten sick yet.

Driving along the CA-1 highway, having a friend point out different breaks every five seconds, eventually gets me thinking about home and the potential of not only Vancouver Island but the entire British Columbia coastline. If we could get an accessible road that goes along our entire coast, the possibilities of undiscovered waves will be endless. Yet, would we lose touch on how important the natural world around us is? This hypothetical road could end up being harmful to the beautiful environment that we’re known for and love. So maybe we didn’t get ill from polluted rain water in California, but something about knowing there’s familiar faces and clean, cold water in Tofino has me a little homesick nonetheless. I know there’s a cure for that back north - the other west coast.

Return to France

Almost one year after my first trip to France, I returned to the land of baguettes in hopes of a new euro experience with Pete Devries, Noah Cohen and Adam Chilton. Instead of driving up and down the coast living in an RV, we settled into our humble beach house in the heart of Hossegor for 2 weeks. This trip was featured on Surfline, but I had so many other photos that I couldn't help but share. Enjoy!

Check out "Dune Days" on Surfline.com

To see Adam's edit of Noah click here!

16 of 2016

2016 was a roller coaster of emotions, taking on some the worst and best moments of my life. I'm proud to say that I made it through the year, smiling from ear to ear. Thanks to the love & support of my family, friends and fans I've been able to continue this journey as a professional surf photographer. Action sports photography is delicate balance of secrecy and promotion. To get a shot published, a photo holds its value higher if it's never been seen or posted on social media. Amazing images could go years without seeing the light of day, until all of sudden they're considered out of date. With that, I'd like to present my favourite 16 photos from 2016. Not necessarily "The Best" but they stand out in my mind. I have a connection with these images and want to share them with you all.

 

 

 January 5th - Tofino had some crazy dry spells in the month of January, the lack of rain and sub-zero temperatures caused anywhere that didn't get hit by the sun (or lack there of) to freeze over. Hence all the frost in the background on the beach. Surfer: Pete Devries   This image can be found in the winter issue of Coast Mountain Culture.

January 5th - Tofino had some crazy dry spells in the month of January, the lack of rain and sub-zero temperatures caused anywhere that didn't get hit by the sun (or lack there of) to freeze over. Hence all the frost in the background on the beach. Surfer: Pete Devries

This image can be found in the winter issue of Coast Mountain Culture.

 January 7th - When I first moved to town, my good friend Derek Westra-Luney taught me everything I know about surfing. I can never thank him enough for that.

January 7th - When I first moved to town, my good friend Derek Westra-Luney taught me everything I know about surfing. I can never thank him enough for that.

 January 15th - While the coast guard was hard at work, I was standing in the rain praying that somebody would line up in front of this scene. The fog eventually rolled in and I settled for an empty left.   This image was featured in an online interview with  Surfing Magazine.

January 15th - While the coast guard was hard at work, I was standing in the rain praying that somebody would line up in front of this scene. The fog eventually rolled in and I settled for an empty left.

This image was featured in an online interview with Surfing Magazine.

 February 26th - After my housing smashed and the GoFundMe was a success, Michael Darling and I tested out my new equipment. This was one of the first photos I shot this session. Even though it was only 1 foot and raining, this is still one of my favourite images because of it's significance. Thanks again to everyone you contributed!   This image can also be found in the winter issue of Coast Mountain Culture.

February 26th - After my housing smashed and the GoFundMe was a success, Michael Darling and I tested out my new equipment. This was one of the first photos I shot this session. Even though it was only 1 foot and raining, this is still one of my favourite images because of it's significance. Thanks again to everyone you contributed!

This image can also be found in the winter issue of Coast Mountain Culture.

 March 5th - While shooting stills for Reef during the filming of 'Common Ground' I spent 6+ hours straight at the beach this day. The waves were pumping, the sun was out and the boys were ripping! When this wave came through, I couldn't believe there was no one on it. Mind surfing at it's finest.   This image was used for The Wickaninnish Inn, Surfing Magazine Instagram and an upcoming issue of Carve Magazine.

March 5th - While shooting stills for Reef during the filming of 'Common Ground' I spent 6+ hours straight at the beach this day. The waves were pumping, the sun was out and the boys were ripping! When this wave came through, I couldn't believe there was no one on it. Mind surfing at it's finest.

This image was used for The Wickaninnish Inn, Surfing Magazine Instagram and an upcoming issue of Carve Magazine.

 March 17th - Jamie O'Brien and Team Grom came to Canada to film an episode of 'Who Is JOB'. The surf was horrible, so they went up on Sunset Point to take in the view.   This image is now available for print in my  online store.

March 17th - Jamie O'Brien and Team Grom came to Canada to film an episode of 'Who Is JOB'. The surf was horrible, so they went up on Sunset Point to take in the view.

This image is now available for print in my online store.

 March 24th - I was keeping my eye on the line-up, waiting for the next set to come. When out of the corner of my eye I saw Isaac Raddysh pulling into a hollow little insider. This was a really fun session to shoot, it ended up being one of the last decent days at this spot for the winter.   This image was featured in an online gallery for  SURFER Magazine.

March 24th - I was keeping my eye on the line-up, waiting for the next set to come. When out of the corner of my eye I saw Isaac Raddysh pulling into a hollow little insider. This was a really fun session to shoot, it ended up being one of the last decent days at this spot for the winter.

This image was featured in an online gallery for SURFER Magazine.

 April 3rd - I always notice myself breathing when I look at this photo, it reminds me of the late great  Blair Polischuk.

April 3rd - I always notice myself breathing when I look at this photo, it reminds me of the late great Blair Polischuk.

 April 18th - If I was a rich man, I would hire a helicopter to get this shot. Instead, I just hiked to the top a mountain. Surfer: Pete Devries

April 18th - If I was a rich man, I would hire a helicopter to get this shot. Instead, I just hiked to the top a mountain. Surfer: Pete Devries

 April 25th - My friends and I found this shipwreck the day before, the following morning I came back to shoot it at sunrise. I set up my tripod, shot with a variety of lens, long exposure, HDR, etc but couldn't quite find exactly what I was looking for. While walking back semi-satisfied, I had once last glance and found the angle I had been looking for.   Check out the another angle in my  online store.

April 25th - My friends and I found this shipwreck the day before, the following morning I came back to shoot it at sunrise. I set up my tripod, shot with a variety of lens, long exposure, HDR, etc but couldn't quite find exactly what I was looking for. While walking back semi-satisfied, I had once last glance and found the angle I had been looking for.

Check out the another angle in my online store.

 May 2nd - With summer quickly approaching, Michael Darling and I were looking for some extra curricular activities. We decided to do some free diving just outside of town, but it felt like we were on another planet.   This image was featured on  Stab Magazine. 

May 2nd - With summer quickly approaching, Michael Darling and I were looking for some extra curricular activities. We decided to do some free diving just outside of town, but it felt like we were on another planet.

This image was featured on Stab Magazine. 

 July 15th - While shooting one of many amazing summer sunsets in Tofino, I ran into a friend of mine from Storm Surf Shop.   16x24 canvas print available for purchase at  Storm Surf Shop.

July 15th - While shooting one of many amazing summer sunsets in Tofino, I ran into a friend of mine from Storm Surf Shop.

16x24 canvas print available for purchase at Storm Surf Shop.

 August 11th - Fact: The summer sucks for waves. But I hadn't swam in weeks and couldn't convince anyone to come grovel on there shortboards. I found a pack of longboards and said "Can you do me a favour? Try and hit me." Surfer: Alex Morrow

August 11th - Fact: The summer sucks for waves. But I hadn't swam in weeks and couldn't convince anyone to come grovel on there shortboards. I found a pack of longboards and said "Can you do me a favour? Try and hit me." Surfer: Alex Morrow

 October 31st - Swimming with a camera in France is challenging to say the least. That's why I'm so grateful for lining up with Pete Devries on this shot, it made all the knee chaffing worth it.   This image was a part of a feature on  Surfline .

October 31st - Swimming with a camera in France is challenging to say the least. That's why I'm so grateful for lining up with Pete Devries on this shot, it made all the knee chaffing worth it.

This image was a part of a feature on Surfline.

 December 1st - Every time I shoot here, I always have a moment where I say to myself "I love my life." This was one of those moments.

December 1st - Every time I shoot here, I always have a moment where I say to myself "I love my life." This was one of those moments.

 December 6th - My girlfriend Nora and I went on an early morning hike to catch the sunrise. On our way back we stopped to admire the view. I'm so honoured to call this place home.

December 6th - My girlfriend Nora and I went on an early morning hike to catch the sunrise. On our way back we stopped to admire the view. I'm so honoured to call this place home.