Ebb and Flow by Drew Heald
Swimming a solid day at Pipe is a calculated risk. While my heart pumps out of my chest, I assess the strength of the current. Before I start to swim out I look back to align myself with my trusty landmarks. Too far one way or the other can result in swimming directly into Backdoor, which is the last place anyone wants to be, or drifting down to Ehukai taking sandbar sets on the head and possibly getting denied. Once I’m out I try to settle in as much as possible.
One eye in my viewfinder, the other glancing out to sea in case of a wash through set. As the sets align it’s a constant struggle to stay in place. There is a hierarchy of photographers and I’m somewhere near the back. I kick around trying to find a possible angle that looks different from the other 20 or so photographers out. We sometimes tangle in each other. After a good ride you can hear hoots and nervous laughter erupting from my fellow photogs. It’s an ebb and flow of emotions. Golden hour at Pipe is simply magical and justifies the violent hold downs and possible death. The winds ease and the lineup goes silent. Vibrant backlit barrels stand tall over the shallow reef while a simple hand drag can cause the face of the wave to burst into beaming sharp lines. Every quality wave is etched into my mind as if I rode it myself. I swim when I feel confident and believe I will end up with quality images. Other days I pass them up and encourage my friends. Somedays it’s easy to find an excuse and go surf instead, and that’s ok!
My brother likes to say the north shore is like Groundhog’s Day. Wake up, pour morning coffee and check the online cams to decide whether to surf or swim the camera out. Things around here typically end with a barbecue or some sort of gathering, sore muscles, sunburn and a couple slightly exaggerated stories. It’s not a bad way to live and spending our lives based around the ocean is what most of us water people do to stay somewhat “normal”. My name is Drew Heald. I am 34 years old and currently reside in Haleiwa, HI. I have been a freelance photographer for four years and swim with a Sony Alpha camera, SPL waterhousing, and use Surface skin products. Photography isn’t my only profession which I believe helps me to keep my passion alive. I also work with the Coast Guard, basically a dream job for any surfer/photographer. Not everyone is located in such a prime location but there is always the healing of the ocean close by.
While I do appreciate the exhilaration of swimming out in risky conditions, I equally enjoy documenting small wave riding and underwater images. During smaller conditions is the only time my mind seems to be completely at ease. Whether I’m free diving, spearfishing, or taking underwater pictures the ocean becomes my safe haven. My everyday stress is finally absent and I can completely enjoy each moment. Much of what I find gratifying as a photographer is helping document and expose underground surfers and talented artists that reside here in Hawaii. I am not sure what the future holds for me however I hope to continue to live a meaningful life and make genuine connections with people around the world.