STU GIBSON: Surf Photographer Extraordinaire
Stu’s epic ride – from baby waves to leading surf photographer
Born in the early 80s by the beach in Tasmania, Stu Gibson’s family album features him on a surfboard in nappies. Today, he’s an internationally recognised surf photographer.
For brothers Stu and Adam Gibson, Park and Clifton beaches were their backyard. Their father, a keen surfer, would push the boys onto waves at ‘nappy age’ and they’ve been surfing ever since. Both have gone on to successful careers in photography and continue their wave-riding love.
“I had a string of injuries when I was about 18. When you’re laid up, you look for something else to do and for me that was photography. It was around the time that Shipstern Bluff (Shippies), was getting a lot of attention and my mates were into riding big waves,” explains Stu.
Shipstern Bluff is a world-renowned surf break on the south eastern coast of Tasmania, accessible only by boat or foot. With its namesake towering cliff, it’s remote, cold and unforgiving. Waves can reach over 12 metres in height. For a surf photographer with camera and courage in tow, this edge of the world locale had the potential to catapult a young photographer’s work into surf magazines worldwide. But not without plenty of hard work.
“I was fascinated by the movement of waves, so I was drawn to surf and underwater photography. I did whatever job in those early days so I could follow my passion. The surfers and I would work all night at the Mercury, stuffing thousands of catalogues into papers, then with little or no sleep we’d drive down the peninsula and walk 1.5 hours into Shippies carrying our gear and spend all day in the water,” smiles Stu.
As Stu’s reputation grew, so did his playground. This year he’s off to Fiji, Tahiti, and Baha among other locations. As well as being a famed surf photographer, Stu is equally adept with a drone and covers landscape and aerial photography too, often capturing footage and stills for Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Service.
“Shippies is big and scary! When we arrive by boat the cliff is like a skyscraper and you see ants (surfers) on these massive boulders waiting for us. It’s like land of the giants. The wave itself is even more frightening and it’s often freezing cold and windy.”
“There are huge rocks everywhere and a massive swell. At neck level I’m the last to know a big wave is coming. The first to see it are the surfers out back towed in on jet skis. Usually the guys in the boat will whistle or squeal, next the jet skis start buzzing. Your heart is in your mouth when a huge one comes. The spray off the first wave makes it hard to see what’s next. When the spray subsides, there’s just a huge dark line. You’ve got to kick really fast to make it. The horizon just goes completely black, there’s a big wall then someone comes screaming along it,” he explains.
“It’s rare that Shippies breaks which makes it so special when we are there. As a group of friends, it’s like we’re coming back together. When it’s on, it’s all on. When you’re inside the wave with your friend shooting with a really wide fisheye lens it’s as much fun as surfing the wave,” he adds.
Despite trips to Mexico, Indonesia and plenty to Hawaii, Stu always returns to his Tassie home base. Why? “Mainly my girlfriend, friends and family – I have a big group of friends here. Also, the quietness of it and how genuine Tasmanian people are. Tasmania has everything for me – sports, good work, scenery, and the people are second to none so if I can manage to base myself here I’ll keep doing it.”
“You might call it work but it never seems like work to me. Being able to have fun and look forward to work is so fortunate. In the process, I love capturing a moment in time, to keep forever.”
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Find out more about www.stugibson.net.
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