French native Ben Thouard is the talented surf photographer who took out the top prize for the Action category of last year’s MC Photo Comp.
The photo of surfer Matahi Drollet going full speed in Teahupoo was not a one-off for Ben; his portfolio is filled with daunting, spine-chilling shots of Teahupoo. Considering Ben’s more often than not shooting in the kind of conditions most of us wouldn’t even get out of the boat for, we’re not only convinced he’s completely devoid of fear, but that he must know what he’s doing. So we asked him to answer a few questions for the would-be big wave photography wannabe, from the safety of our office chairs. Here’s what he told us.
What’s the most dangerous thing about shooting Teahupoo?
Teahupoo is a heavy wave that breaks on a shallow reef! So you don’t want to get caught inside by a big set while swimming. But the wave is so perfect that when it’s good, it mostly breaks in the same place and makes the swim possible. If you want to shoot Teahupoo from the water, be aware of its power.
What’s the best tip you could give someone who’s never shot there before?
Probably shoot from the boat first and see how the wave breaks and how the conditions are the day. Then swim on the shoulder with a 50mm, I do that a lot when it’s big and it’s the most productive way to get a unique perspective.
What’s the number one thing not to do?
Go straight inside on a very west day, you’d be surprised.
What’s the scariest thing that’s ever happened to you out there?
Getting caught inside by a tow size wave and ending up in the lagoon!
What camera do you shoot on, and what kind of housing do you use?
I mostly shoot with my Canon EOS 1DXmII inside my AQUATECH Delphin Housing
Who’s your favourite surfer to shoot out there?
My friend Michel Bourez, we shoot together a lot. I love his style and the person he is…and he’s damn good.
Which photo are you most proud of?
Not sure I have one favourite photo, but I do love my underwater photo of Landon McNamara. I shot it a few years ago, it’s been featured in many places and I still love it.
All photos by Ben Thouard