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Rising Tide: Honolulu’s Next Wave of Surf Filmmakers

Tommy Pierucki
Tommy Pierucki

Local boy, Zak Noyle is recognized as one of the best water photographers in the world.  His shot of trash arcing overhead in a wave in Indonesia is featured in National Geographic right now, and you’ve seen his work in Sports Illustrated and on ESPN.  He was senior staff photographer at Surfer magazine by age 25, but he’s seen the business change. He’s hoping this year’s Doris Duke Surf Film Festivalwill put a new generation of surf filmmakers on the map.

Noe Tanigawa
Credit Noe Tanigawa / Hawai'i Public Radio
Hawai'i Public Radio
Water photographer Zak Noyle

Zak Noyle’s Rising Tide of Hawai‘i surf filmmakers opens Friday  and runs Saturday and Tuesday, 7/19, 20, and 23, 2019. It’s part of the Doris Duke Theatre’s Honolulu Surf Film Festivalthrough August 4th.  

Are you looking at that surf video on your phone??

“I want to change that.”

Zak Noyle wants Hawai‘i’s surf filmmakers to get what they deserve.

“I want to give them a massive screen, with surround sound, and hundreds of people there.”

He’s talking about tonight (Friday, 7-19-19) for the Rising Tide, a collection of fresh film shorts by promising local image makers. Noyle put out a call for digital submissions on Instagram, and got about twenty submissions. He chose eleven with the most potential, then assigned them to make 3 minute shorts that say it all.

How does it all start?

“I swim out with a pair of fins and a water housing for my camera.  I wear a helmet too for sun protection and because boards are flying everywhere.” That’s photographer Tommy Pierucki, you’ll see him in the water shooting at Queens in Waik?k?.

Noe Tanigawa
Credit Noe Tanigawa / Hawai'i Public Radio
Hawai'i Public Radio
Photographer Tommy Pierucki covers subjects of all kinds through his site, PineappleSunrise.com

“I didn’t know it until I started doing surf photography, but I really really enjoy shooting longboarding,” says Pierucki. “Watching people walk to the nose, what’s called hang ten, when they’re hanging ten of their toes over the front of the board on the wave.  Even talking about it, I’m starting to get chicken skin.  It’s one of those things I’ve come to love so much.”

Note the moment Pierucki caught at the top of this story.  He is combining moving and still images for his three minute short film in the Rising Tide.

Noyle, a third generation photographer, works with his internationally recognized dad, Ric Noyle, to run workshops and conventions in Honolulu to boost the art form. Doors may open, but you don’t get recognition in the incredibly competitive field of water photography without hard work.

Noyle says experience tells a photographer where to be, and what to anticipate, which could mean positioning yourself just a foot to the left or right under churning conditions.

“What I did was I’d go to Sandy’s. I would learn how the wave was breaking and it taught me real quick were to be and were not to be and how to read a wave. That helped me so much going on to shoot Pipeline and Waimea Bay, and everything else. That set my foundation.”

Noyle’s foundation is his ability. That’s why his career has managed to grow while the image industry convulsed.

“Three, four years ago I was senior staff photographer for Surfer. Twelve issues a year, send me around the world, anything we wanted, go where we needed, what we needed to do” says Noyle. 

“Gone are those times,  the magazines have sort of disappeared, but content is at an all time high in demand.  For that, it’s just how you structure yourself, and where you use it and what you do with it, that it still can be a possible career…”

Noyle says a career in surf/water photography is still possible if you position yourself. In the audio he describes how great water shots can capture sponsored surfers or just great lifestyle images that brands want to buy. Noyle says the demand for content now is insatiable.

I mentioned, I saw a shot by Noyle of a wave, and you think you’ve seen waves, and most of the ways a wave can look, but for some reason, this wave was thick and juicy and sparkling and alive. 

“Thank you.” Says Noyle, “Thank you very much. That’s what we want to do.  We want to transport people to that moment.”

There wasn’t even a surfer on it.

Noe Tanigawa covered art, culture and ideas for two decades at Hawaiʻi Public Radio.
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