8 Best Surf Photographers of All Time

Surf Photography is an art that takes time and patience to learn. Spending a sleeping night just to capture that one perfect moment or diving underwater to shoot a perfect wave…now that demands some serious dedication.

Surf Photographers see everything through their creative lens. They have the power to transform a normal scene into an extraordinary shot. The field is quite challenging and may take you a lot of time to build a BIG name for yourself, because it’s not just about pressing that little button on your camera or buying the most expensive equipment in the world, it’s about knowing when and how to create a magical shot.

The photographs taken by these masters make you believe as if you're livin' the moment. The beauty of these pictures will remind you of your most memorable time surfing at the beach as these surf photographers know how to freeze an epic moment.

There have been many talented surf photographers over the years, and it’s challenging to pick the absolute best. So, let’s check out some of the award-winning surf photographers in the industry.

1. Russell Ord

Source: fujifilm-x.com

Talk about being the daredevil of surf photography. Russell is a man who is not afraid to put himself in dangerous places to get a perfect snap. His passion, dedication and creativity can be seen in his photos.

Russel Ord, the Aussie lens legend, swapped rugby, and firefighting for surf and shutter. In 1999, after injuring his knee surfing he decided to take pictures of his friends ripping the waves instead of just sitting there watching the seabirds. The passion grew and he became a superstar of surf photography.

Being a surfer himself, he enjoys experiencing the moment rather than just shooting it. You can spot some of his amazing work in Tracks, The Surfer’s Journal, and Australian Surfing Life. Ord is now a mentor of photography for many aspiring surf photographers.

2. Chris Burkard

Source: theguardian.com

Chris Bukard is a man of many talents. Not only is he an amazing photographer but also a creative director, speaker and author. He has worked with some of the biggest names in the industry including Apple, Toyota and Microsoft. He is an explorer who loves discovering places and capturing them with his camera.

Every time you see Chris Burkard’s masterpiece, you feel like you're being transported to that place. Because for Chris, it's not about just shooting some random landscape pictures-it’s about letting others get connected with nature.

Bukard’s surf images not only showcase the athletic prowess of the surfers but also highlight the breathtaking natural beauty that surrounds them. Since 2006, Bukard’s been winning awards like crazy. His commitment to surf photography has totally shaken up the game and fired up a fresh wave of surf photographers and fans.

3. Leroy Grannis

Source: independent.co.uk

Leroy Grannis a.k.a “Godfather of Surf Photography” is a true legend who worked tirelessly towards his passion in the 60s and 70s era. Born in Hermosa Beach, he was practically a beach kid from day one. In 1943 he was a part of the US Army Air Corps but later retired to follow his dreams.

In the swinging 60s, he took some of the most iconic shots of the surfing world. His unique vision and creative innovations sets him apart from everyone. He truly felt that the sport should be documented in a perfect manner.

He has been a trainer and mentor to many famous surf photographers out there. His legacy lives on in Stacey Peralta’s hit documentary, “Riding Giants”.The legend passed away on February 3,2011 in his hometown.

4. Clark Little

Source: hawaiipublicradio.org

Clark Little has his own fearless ways of capturing a shot. He was born in Napa, California in 1968. He was always a wild surfer riding and craving scary shorebreak waves and barrels before getting smashed. He became quite popular among the local crowd with his surfing skills.

He started surf photography in 2007 by capturing the Hawaiian waves. You can check out the level of risk from his photos. These shots are taken from angles that most photographers wouldn’t dream of, often pushing the boundaries of safety. Due to his dedication and death-defying shots, he has gained multiple awards in a single year.

5. John Witzig

Source: dickersongallery.com.au

John Witzig is a guy who redefined surf culture and showed some of its modern aspects through his pictures. Born in Sydney, Australia in 1945, he was a kickass surf photographer of the 60s and 70s era. 

Witzig was also an exceptional writer and the co-founder of Tracks Magazine and became its first editor. Along with surf journalism, he continued his passion for photography and showed images of surfers as free-spirited individuals looking to dive into the adventure of a lifetime. You can find his work in several exhibitions and galleries that are considered a true work of art.

6. Morgan Maassen

Source: morganmaassen.com

Morgan Massen is an award-winning filmmaker and photographer. Born in Santa Barbara, California, he is a new name in the surf world. Morgan quickly gained hype through his dramatic imagery of waves using his unique technique of messing with the shutter speeds.

You can find his work in many top magazines like National Geographics, New York Times, Surfers magazines and so on. At such a young age, Morgan became a big superstar in the world of surf photography.

7. Jeff Divine

Source: cnn.com

Jeff Divine is another big name in the surfing world. He was born in 1944 in La Jolla, California where he started off by taking snaps of his mates. His originality and creativity truly captured the essence of that era portraying a care-free surfing style and a love of the sport.

When he made his way back to Dana Point in 1981, he quickly became the Photo Editor of Surf Magazine and the Surfer’s Journal and served there for an impressive 35 years. He traveled to many places in pursuit of stunning surfing images and received multiple awards for his awe-inspiring work.

8. Ted Grambeau

Source: stafmagazine.com

Ted Grambeau is an expert photographer who is known for capturing the scariest moments in surfing. He is an aficionado of big waves and loves to shoot these powerful, monstrous gifts of nature.

Being a commercial photographer, with an experience of 40 years, the guy has built a good reputation in the industry, working with BMW, Apple, Quiksilver, Nikon and Red Bull. According to Ted:

“My passion is to create visually powerful and emotionally evocative imagery.”

Conclusion

When it comes to surf photography, there’s a rad crew of folks who’ve taken it to a whole new level. These thrill-seekers know how to turn waves into art. Whether you’re talking about Russell Ord, the guy who fearlessly dives into the gnarliest spots, or the legendary Leroy Grannis who set the bar high in the ‘60s and ‘70s, and even the modern-day genius, Chris Bukard, they’ve all left their mark.

Surf photographers do more than just capture waves and surfers; they immerse you in the moment, redefining the experience of the sport and the ocean. They are not just photographers but storytellers inspiring a whole new generation of wave enthusiasts and lens artists, in their own innovative style. 

James Davis

Written by James Davis

I'm a true California local, and I've spent my life riding the waves along our stunning coastline. Surfing has always been my greatest love, and in my writing, I try to capture its genuine essence. My words aim to transport you into the heart of the surf culture, where the ocean and surfers come together in perfect harmony.

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