Billabong XXL Big Wave Awards 2011 – Keala Kennelly

puerto escondido mexico. surfing huge waves. biggest female wave. xxl awards. pacific ocean. mexico surf travel.

So many things are all about being at the right place at the right time. Cliché but so true. Last May 2010 I was in Puerto Escondido Mexico with Tom Petriken in hopes of scoring some of the Southern Points that are supposed to magically light up (oh they do!) when Puerto is ginormous. While I was in town I got to witness some of the craziest surf I’ve ever seen. Now I’m not the most well traveled (yet to see Hawaii, Oz, France, etc) and seeing Playa Zicatela in video and mags is one thing, but when you are there in person it is jaw dropping.

I woke up early, Tom and I got down on the beach to have a look see. It was bombing. I quickly set up my camera on my old shaky tripod and sat far back from the action, just looking for a different angle on the day. Photographer Rich McMullin and Jersey’s 2010 Grudge Champ Zack Humphreys were staying down the road and also came down to check it out. We stood around watching it for awhile and I remember pointing out someone racing into a mountain of a wave. Like way down the beach, left field, out of nowhere. My face was instantly glued to the back of the eye cup on my Canon 7D and I held the trigger down not letting go.

Admittedly, I’m still relatively new to surf photography and I was even more green then. I wish it had dawned on me to enter Keala Kennelly‘s Puerto Escondido sequence in the Billabong XXL Big Wave Contest, but se la vi. I was very indecisive as to what I should do with the photos. Send them in to a mag, send it in to Surfline? I tried a magazine, waited a day and then sent it over to Surfline. I was pretty excited about these photos, but I don’t think I quite understood what the sequence represented; how monumental that ride was. It ran on Surfline with the headline “Best Ever Tube By A Woman” and wound up with about 87,000 views (which can be seen here). It also ran as a double page spread in Carve Magazine and in SurfGirl magazine as well. My first double page runs ever, both international magazines. Thinking back patience might have won out for it to run in one of the big three in the USA. However, I am happy with my decision to send it to Surfline. I do have a better idea how to handle such events in the future though (I think?!) if it ever unfolds in font of me again somewhere. Edwin Morales had it run in Surfer’s big photo issue in 2010 displaying the gaping hole Nogales whipped Kennelly into. An awesome angle that gives the viewer a good perspective of just how massive the wave was.

I’m some random guy, with no affiliation to anyone surfing, photographing their talent. It doesn’t attest to my photographic skills, it just means I’m lucky to have been there. I broke the sequence first. I am pretty sure that often counts more than other variables (“If yer not first yer last!”). I may be biased, but when I think of Kealla Kennelly and her Puerto Escondido wave I think of the Surfline sequence. I am thankful the photos are running again online, especially as a visual reference to such a prestigious annual event and her well deserved award. And an even more historical wave. Sometimes all you have to do is show up.

Nice work Keala.

About Ryan Struck

I am a self-taught Brooklyn based photographer. Earning a BA in History allowed me to investigate the things that have occurred in the world of which I knew nothing about. In that same spirit, photography allows me to be curious about the world and what surrounds us. I enjoy saving poignant moments through a visual medium, documenting lifestyle often fulfills this need quite nicely. I love what I do. When not at home shooting I can be found traveling in search of surf and inspiring natural lighting. My desire to capture images that help viewers imagine the instant the shutter clicked fuels my passion to combine beautiful light, people and places.
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1 Response to Billabong XXL Big Wave Awards 2011 – Keala Kennelly

  1. Pingback: Billabong surf pictures

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