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Big-Wave Female Photographers of Hawaii









Go behind the lens with the women photogs of Red Bull Magnitude.

Good news and bad news. First, the bad: the COVID-19 pandemic has toppled the traditional competitive season in Hawaii this winter. And the good? A seemingly endless run of swell has kept the Hawaiian Islands cranking for weeks on end.

And the bad news isn’t really that bad, because, despite these unprecedented times and the lack of a “normal” winter, many events have pivoted into something special and fresh, and some new ones have cropped up, too. Like the Red Bull Magnitude event – an all-women, all-digital big-wave competition offering a prize purse of $40,000 for the top charging waterwomen in Hawaii during the course of the winter.

Since the contest is totally virtual, it’s also an opportunity to shine a light on the photographers who document all the action during a Hawaiian winter. And like the competitors, why not have them be female photogs, too?

Below, we caught up with a few of the lenswomen participating in the Red Bull Magnitude event to hear their backstories, highlights of this season so far, and what it takes to break into the world of surf photography.

Ha’a Keaulana

 

Ha’a Keaulana. Photo: Keaulana family

 

Hometown: Mākaha, Hawai’i

Home break: Mākaha Beach

Years shooting: 12

Career path: Been a surf photographer since I was a wahine.

Camera of choice: Canon

Highlights from this winter season so far: Being able to shoot the girls sending it just as hard as the guys in beautiful, perfect big waves on the North Shore and at home in Mākaha from the ski with my dad.

What do you like about the Red Bull Magnitude format? I love that it’s not just one day or one-hour heats. I love that the girls have the opportunity to pick and choose their spots. This format gives them the opportunity to go bigger and have more fun.

Favorite place to shoot: Mākaha, of course. It’s my playground. I love shooting the most talented watermen and waterwomen in the world. You’ll witness anything from four-man canoe surfing, supsquatch, the best longboarders and shortboarders, and traditional Hawaiian surfboards such as the alaia boards and paipo. It’s so special.

Favorite athlete to shoot: I honestly don’t have a favorite athlete. My favorite people to shoot would be my loved ones. I love shooting my brother (Chad Keaulana) and cousin (Brandon Martin) surfing 15-20ft Mākaha and my boyfriend (Jackson Kyne) power surfing and getting barreled at Mākaha and the North Shore. Also, my dad (Brian Keaulana) canoe surfing, tandem surfing, or just doing his thing on the jet-ski. I honestly just love stoking out locals of the westside with photos; there’s so much hidden talent out here.

Advice for up-and-coming female photogs: Don’t do what everyone else is doing. Know your worth. Find your style. It doesn’t matter if you don’t have the same equipment that everyone else has. It’s not the camera that makes a nice photo. Spend a lot of time in the environment that you love. Show everyone how you see the world through your lens.

Hometown: Mākaha, Hawai’i

Home break: Mākaha Beach

Years shooting: 12

Career path: Been a surf photographer since I was a wahine.

Camera of choice: Canon

Highlights from this winter season so far: Being able to shoot the girls sending it just as hard as the guys in beautiful, perfect big waves on the North Shore and at home in Mākaha from the ski with my dad.

What do you like about the Red Bull Magnitude format? I love that it’s not just one day or one-hour heats. I love that the girls have the opportunity to pick and choose their spots. This format gives them the opportunity to go bigger and have more fun.

Favorite place to shoot: Mākaha, of course. It’s my playground. I love shooting the most talented watermen and waterwomen in the world. You’ll witness anything from four-man canoe surfing, supsquatch, the best longboarders and shortboarders, and traditional Hawaiian surfboards such as the alaia boards and paipo. It’s so special.

Favorite athlete to shoot: I honestly don’t have a favorite athlete. My favorite people to shoot would be my loved ones. I love shooting my brother (Chad Keaulana) and cousin (Brandon Martin) surfing 15-20ft Mākaha and my boyfriend (Jackson Kyne) power surfing and getting barreled at Mākaha and the North Shore. Also, my dad (Brian Keaulana) canoe surfing, tandem surfing, or just doing his thing on the jet-ski. I honestly just love stoking out locals of the westside with photos; there’s so much hidden talent out here.

Advice for up-and-coming female photogs: Don’t do what everyone else is doing. Know your worth. Find your style. It doesn’t matter if you don’t have the same equipment that everyone else has. It’s not the camera that makes a nice photo. Spend a lot of time in the environment that you love. Show everyone how you see the world through your lens.

See more of Ha’a’s work here.

 

Christa Funk

Christa Funk. Photo: John Reiter


Hometown: Grand Junction, CO. Currently reside North Shore, Oahu.

Home break: Secret spot, so secret you can see it from the road.

Years shooting: Started with film in 2003. Shooting in the water began in 2014.

Career path: Unconventional. Graduated from the Coast Guard Academy in 2012 with a Bachelor’s of Science in Marine Environmental Science. 5 years Coast Guard Active-duty from 2012-2017. Photography was part-time for me until I finished my service in 2017. I have been shooting full-time since.

Camera of choice: Canon 7D mkii, Canon Eos Elan II

Highlights from this winter season so far: Pipe has had some gorgeous moments, but this last swell at Waimea was pretty heavy and hectic. There are very few photos that convey how gnarly that wave is when it’s proper Waimea.

What do you like about the Red Bull Magnitude format? The window of opportunity with this format is much better than the waiting period for Queen of the Bay (Oct 1st – Nov 21st ). The women have an actual chance to step-up and make the most of the big wave swells during the best months of the winter season.

Favorite place to shoot: Pipeline. There’s nothing like looking into a massive heaving barrel, it’s terrifying and stunning.

Favorite athlete to shoot: I have a few favorites: Flynn Novak, Ulu Napeahi, Hank Gaskell, and Leah Dawson. They’re the surfers I’ve connected with the most over the years and they all have had a significant impact on my growth as a photographer. Flynn, Ulu, and Hank helped me with understanding fast, powerful surfing. Leah has a grace and natural femininity that is unique and in stark contrast to shooting male surfers.

Advice for up-and-coming female photogs: My advice to any up-and-coming photographer: Don’t limit yourself to one field. Variety is the spice of life and branching out pays the bills. Regarding surf photography, start small and work your way up to bigger swells. Shoot from land on big days and observe. Know your entry and exits for each break before you get in the water, have back-up plans in your head when everything goes sideways. If you don’t think you can swim in from a break, don’t go out. The last thing you want is to be a liability to someone else’s safety. Listen to OG’s and lifeguards. If you get asked to not shoot or name a break, follow that. Find somewhere else to work or take out any identifying landmarks. Also, be mindful of other photographers/filmers that have put in their time. That may mean dealing with their heads in your shots because you are sitting behind them. If you put in your time, exercise patience, and show respect, everything will come together.

See more of Christa’s work here.

 

Jackie Fiero

Jackie Fiero. Photo: Matt Heirakuji


Hometown: I was born and raised in Honolulu, Hawaii.

Home break: I grew up surfing Kewalos and Ala Moana Bowls with my uncles who taught me how to surf and some of my close friends.

Years shooting: Since my mom has been shooting since as long as I can remember, I was interested in photography as well. I wanted to combine the ocean and photography so that’s when I began to pick up water/surf photography. I’ve been shooting for roughly seven years now, and I’m 22.

Career path: I worked at Duke’s in Waikiki before this pandemic started, but since COVID hit I’ve been selling some of my photography prints and booking photo sessions here and there. I would love to make photography my full-time career because that’s what I really love to do. And who wouldn’t want to travel the world exploring all the best surf breaks and learning about the different cultures?

Camera of choice: My camera of choice is the Canon 1Dx and my favorite lens is the 16×35 f2.8. Although, most of the time I use my 50mm at Pipeline. I absolutely love the look of the 16×35.

Highlights from this winter season so far: My ultimate highlight from this winter has the be my trip to Peahi. That was the first time I’ve seen Jaws in person and it was such a sight to see.

What do you like about the Red Bull Magnitude format? So grateful that Zak Noyle reached out to me and asked me to document the Red Bull Magnitude event. I love that Red Bull is highlighting all the incredible women of the sport of surfing and photography.

Favorite place to shoot: I would have to say Pipeline. I’ve always had a special place in my heart for Pipe. Whether it’s two-foot or 10-foot out there, I will always have butterflies in my stomach before swimming out. It’s a mix of fear and excitement for me. And that’s what makes me always want to come back for more.

Favorite athlete to shoot: Since I grew up in town, I photographed some of my good friends who surf really well. Anthony Obrien is a good friend of mine who I’ve been shooting since I was 16 years old. As for right now, Mahina Maeda is my girl who I’ve been photographing recently. She’s so easy to work with and always a fun person to be around which makes shooting that much easier.

Advice for up-and-coming female photogs: I remember helping Zak Noyle out with one of his aquatography workshops he had at Sandy’s and all of the girls asked me if I had any advice for them. My answer was simple: Don’t be afraid to ask questions, train hard and learn the ocean, and most importantly believe in yourself. The one thing that’s stuck in my head from when I was growing up was that I would tell people I wanted to be a water photographer when I grow up and their response was “oh that’s a very hard business to get into…” The last thing I would tell these young women is to not let anyone break you down. You’re stronger than you know!

See more of Jackie’s work here.

 

Roxy Facer

Roxy Facer. Photo: Connor Guest


Hometown: I don’t really have one, sadly.

Home break: Velzyland

Years shooting: four, professionally.

Career path: A bit of a hot mess…still trying to figure out what I do exactly.

Camera of choice: 1dx Mark ii for photo, Krasnogorsk 3 for film

Highlights from this winter season so far: I’ve been able to film Moana Jones surfing Pipe quite a bit this winter for an upcoming project with Red Bull, and it’s been so mind-blowing. I usually only shoot girls on longboards in waist-high surf, so this has been an exciting change.

What do you like about the Red Bull Magnitude format? Love it, love that Red Bull wants to recognize and give a contest to all those crazy ladies.

Favorite place to shoot: Sandbars…turquoise water, no reef to dodge, all your friends, short swim from shore.

Favorite athlete to shoot and why: Tie between Rosie Jaffurs and Honolua Blomfield. They’re both so beautiful to watch, but they also catch so many waves each session. And when you’re shooting, that’s the dream.

Advice for up-and-coming female photogs: I was really intimidated for years to even get into the water. It’s always been so heavily dominated by men, and I weirdly figured they’d be territorial or annoyed with me. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Nine out of 10 times, the men you interact with out in the water are stoked to have you there. I’ve had so many male photographers go above and beyond with teaching me everything from gear to positioning. All those years I spent worrying were years I could’ve been out there learning. So, if you’re like me, and you’re intimidated by the prospect of being the only girl out there in your local lineup, don’t be. I can almost guarantee being a woman out there will be to your advantage.

See more of Roxy’s work here.

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