Sunday, January 3, 2010

Picture of the Week, 5/17/10

5/17/10: Classic; Soulful; SOUL ARCH! That's Blair Markham during the epic "Halloween Swell" of 1991 at Wilderness, Puerto Rico. I'll never forget this swell nor will anyone else who witnessed it. The day before this photograph was taken I was in Palm Beach, Florida when the "Perfect Storm" formed off the northeast United States. Boats were sunk and people died but to surfers it was a time to witness ocean swells of giant proportions and for some a time to test their skills and strength at paddling into and riding seldom seen waves.

The waves off Palm Beach were simply too big and out of control for most but maybe a couple of surfers. The waves were so big that they closed off the island to motor vehicle traffic as pounding waves inundated beach side homes and roads. I knew that it would not take very long for the swell to make its way through the Bahamas and down to the Caribbean. Consequently I boarded a red-eye flight out of Miami and into San Juan, Puerto Rico. I arrived on the west coast of the island at 3:00 a.m. and within a few hours I was preparing to swim out at Wilderness.

Only a few surfers riding their big wave guns made it out that day. One of those, a little known Coast Guard cadet by the name of Blair Markham, was also able to paddle out at Wilderness except he did it on a classic long board; a board more apt for the soft rollers at Waikiki than the monsters hitting Wilderness. To see Blair take off on eight to twelve foot 'Wildo' was inspiring enough but to see him handle the waves with style, class and fearlessness was something totally unexpected and absolutely remarkable. This particular image epitomizes his entire session and will forever be equated, at least for me, with the Halloween Swell of 1991.

I used a Nikon FM2 camera body with an MD-12 motor drive and a 105mm lens attached to it that was all encased in a custom water housing made by Jim Bailey of Sea Research. Fuji Velvia film was used and most likely shot at 1/500 of a second with the aperture set at 5.6. The only other equipment needed was a pair of good swim fins.

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