Surf photographer injuries

Surf photography debate

What is the worst injury you have picked up shooting from the water? Surf and water photographers quite literally put it all on the line (for a living) to bring you the breathtaking images you see in surf magazines. Sadly, some great men have lost their lives in their pursuit for that perfect wave or shot, and others have picked up an array of injuries in the process…

Lee Kelly

I was shooting at this really shallow reef and got caught inside by a thick little wave and just got slammed feet first on the reef and all my weight plus the power of the wave came down on my right knee and it just twisted and the burn was paralysing!!! I couldn't get back up the rocks because I only had one arm (camera in other) my leg was rotted and I was too proud to ask for help, haha! I was out of the water and off my feet for 8 weeks and its still not 100%, might not ever be.

Jack English

I am lucky enough to have no injury's to date. I have come close to death on the day that I shot the infamous photo of pro surfer Liam McNamara. To this day they're calling it the biggest wave ever ridden and photographed at Pipeline. When I got to the beach I could not feel my legs.

Greg Martin

I had a fat guy in a wave ski go over the falls and land on my shoulder as I tried to dive out the way. His oar cut the back of my head open. As I hit the bottom I realised I couldn't feel the upper left side of me. I managed to get myself washed in and somehow drove myself to casualty one handed (not in an automatic!) I also scraped most of my forehead off in Hossegor, but apart from that I've been pretty lucky so far I guess.

Steve Fitzpatrick

Many moons ago while shooting with my super wide angle and trying to hang in the barrel at Chatarra a little too long I was pulled over the falls and hit the reef knee-first. It took a quarter-sized chunk of flesh out of my knee and left nothing to stitch up. I wasn't able to walk the next day and was off my feet for a few more.

Sean Scott

While shooting in the middle of a barrel, it closed out on top of me and the power of the wave put me in a spin, and dislocated my shoulder.

Lee Kelly

I was shooting Chopes fisheye one 'in between' day where its too big for the inside shelf but too small for the outside part, like 6-8ft, and I had been caught by some sly ones that had hit the outside part, and I just sailed right under looking up and around at all the wash, no dramas, and I got cocky about it thinking this place is a pussy cat. Then this one came through and I was even more of a smart arse, and when I went under it was just all black, pitch black, and it picked me up and threw me around onto the reef, I almost lost my rig. I got washed over the whole reef and had 45 minutes to swim back to the boat. I was held under for ages and was sooo out of breath, it kicked my arse!!!

Dean Dampney

No injuries but somewhat dehydrated and a couple of cramps :-)

Thor Jonsson

Worst injury… probably had worse from surfing, cause, touch wood, I've never been run over, but I once got sucked down onto a lava boulder in the Canaries and broke a rib, and I could'nt sleep on my side, paddle or laugh for a month.

David Pu'u

Never been hurt shooting. Never a scratch. I did manage to catch a fin with the housing one time, snapping the lens in half. Saved my life. Oh I did get knocked out by a bodyboarder once. His heel to my temple. Woke up after awhile. No biggie.

Mickey Smith

The worst injury I've personally had is from timing things wrong and as a result getting exploded and bounced bare back across the reef into the lagoon in Tahiti one evening. To me it felt like I'd been beaten up by 3 bouncers with claws, but everyone in the family house just laughed at me when I walked in, then gleefully got out the limes. I was pretty stoked I saved my housing and my camera though.

Elizabeth Pepin

Luckily I have only been hit once in my ten years of shooting in the water. It was in Mainland Mexico four years ago when I was shooting for a women's surf company who runs a surf camp. I was photographing in rather shallow water and the women had only been surfing a few days. I was getting shots of the interaction between the instructors and the new surfers as they were being coached into waves. A woman stood up, then fell and I couldn't duck under the water because it was too shallow so I moved to the side. Unfortunately at the last second her weight shifted and the board suddenly went the opposite way towards me. I had a helmet on but the board hit my right cheek before I was able to get my arm up all the way to guard my face. I got a bruised arm, two black eyes and a fat lip. Not very attractive when you are a woman! It could have been a lot worse if it hadn't been a foam doyle board. For several weeks afterwards I told everyone one it was my husband's fault, which he didn't like too much!

Shannon Switzer

Getting my body slammed directly into the ocean floor (luckily sand) by a heavy beach break in Costa Rica that tore several ligaments in my right shoulder which absorbed all the impact. Not fun - but it was when I first started shooting in the water and taught me a good lesson without too serious of an injury!

Clark Little

I have been very fortunate up to this point and hope to keep it that way. I love to shoot sand bottom, which is a little more forgiving.

Ben DeCamp

Worst injury I had was hitting my tail bone on the reef and my legs going numb, that was an eye-opener.

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