This photo of Eli Olsen is actually from last winter, the day the Pipeline Masters was called off that the WSL caught a lot of slack for. At the time, it was in the middle of the afternoon and the waves were pretty hit or miss, just out of control. Guys had low heat totals and it looked unrideable. So they called the comp off and after a couple of hours, it cleaned up and became one of the best days of the entire winter.
Right after the contest ended, a lot of people paddled out. I think Koa Rothman got a cover that day, and every person got at least one or two clips from that day as well. Every photographer that was at the North Shore was in the water.
Being from California and coming to Hawaii, you always want to see Pipe look like this and it was pretty exciting. In order to get that shot, I had to deal with couple sets, getting caught inside and washed around. That particular wave I was really far outside and was swimming back into the pack, and had seen the same wave earlier just from different angles.
With the west sets, you could see the sets coming way in advance and if you held your line, if you held your ground you could pick off one nug when everyone was paddling back out. This wave was crazy, I was kicking to be up high and as I went into the wave, I could see it was a good one.
I didn’t know that it was Eli, because it all happens pretty fast. I didn’t know him at the time and when I later saw him, I showed him the photo on my phone and he was frothing.
Looking back, I was further outside at Pipe than when I would normally be. It’s pretty much everything you’d want in a photo for a Pipe shot: a local kid, a backlit huge wave during the last hour of sunlight. It’s one of my best shots from the winter.