Intermediate

Leroy Bellet, what is your KeyMission?

In the barrel from a surfer’s perspective

Glossary

Action sports are a beautiful thing. They show the world just what the human body and mind are capable of. The impossible feats and intense moments have everyone on the edge of their seat. Everyone has this desire to feel in awe occasionally, it’s as intrinsic as our need to breathe.

However there’s room for progression in the field of action sports photography. As technology advances and the capabilities of athletes progress, I believe there is only one way to go—closer. After all, what is more spectacular to the viewer than feeling like they are right there in the moment? Furthermore what is going to give them that impression more than if the camera was right there to capture it? Nothing. Simple. This is my philosophy, allow me to explain in context.

For decades surf photography has been held back by technology. The pinnacle moment of surfing has and always will be surfing the barrel—a situation in which a surfer is completely surrounded by the wave. It only makes sense that the pinnacle of surf- photography be documenting the exact same thing. Lots of surf photographers have captured it from the outside, looking in, but to capture this from the inside has been near impossible. However now that cameras are shrinking in size but increasing in capability and durability, it’s more than practical to surf and operate one. This is my 360 mission; to capture surfing the barrel, from a surfer’s perspective.

The technique I have adopted to do this is known as the ‘double tow’. The general idea is that two surfers hold onto a towrope, behind a jet ski and get pulled into the wave from behind. I am at the back of the rope and hold the camera + housing in one hand and the rope in the other. As soon as we're on the wave I've got to pay attention to the surfer in front, following their lead and preparing for if they fall. When the lip of the wave falls next to me I begin to look for the right time to intentionally wipeout, as safely as possible. Most of the time I hit the reef, sometimes it's really painful but generally I just bounce a few times and resurface after 15-20 seconds. I’ve broken surfboards, been stitched and stapled back together and lost plenty of equipment to the depths. There's definitely no instruction manual to the technique and I think it's something that can only be learned through repetition; slight adjustments, composure and muscle reflexes; they can't really be explained.

As far as I know, nobody has successfully captured this in motion at 4k, 360 degrees. The footage will allow viewers to hear the sounds of roaring water, see the translucent details in the ‘roof’ of the barrel and feel the motion of the wave under their feet. They’ll see all the drama and struggle of the surfer riding in front, as well as me trailing behind. In theory this concept can go all around the world. I look forward to bringing you along for the ride. Beautiful barrels await!

I’m Leroy Bellet, at 17 years old I’m lucky enough live on the South Coast of NSW, Australia. Not knowing whether I will roll out of bed and into a regular High School day or some of the most raw, dangerous and beautiful situations mother nature has to offer is what keeps me on my toes. I reckon drowning in paperwork would be the worst way to go.
 
To see more of Leroy's photography, check out his website at www.leroybelletphoto.com.

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