Are GoPros Surfing’s Stone in the Shoe?




Are GoPros surfings stone in the show?

The accessibility of waterproof video cameras has sparked a revolution in amateur surf photography. No longer is it exclusively the right of the pros to have footage from deep inside the barrel, or evidence of making “that drop”– Go Pros have transformed the ability of the amateur surfer to record their sessions. But just because we can, does it mean we should?

I may well be alone in this thought, but nothing conjures up four letter unprintables quite like the sight of someone paddling out with a camera strapped to the deck of their board, four inches from their chin. And the waterproof pole type thingy, clearly invented by the camera manufacturers themselves to ensure a high level of repeat customers after countless cameras and poles are deposited on sea beds around the world. I’m not even prepared to discuss the attachment to grip the camera in your mouth.

That being said, I do see the appeal of the end result. Finally, the chance to be the star in your own surf movie, in all its glorious 1080p HD goodness! Is capturing some of your finest moments in the surf worth sacrificing a little dignity once in a while?

It was with mixed feelings, although not ungratefully, that I took ownership of a Go Pro 4. A beautifully packaged and cleverly designed piece of kit. “Be a Hero,” it said. “We’ll see,” I thought.

My first dilemma was which filming method to adopt. The pole was out. I would absolutely, without doubt, drop it, never to see my shiny new camera again. And I’m not willing to be that guy with the camera attached to the front of the board, so I finally settled on a wrist strap. Discreet enough when sat in the line up, not too cumbersome when paddling.

Yet it still ruined my session.

Until something slightly alters what you have been doing naturally for years, you don’t realize just how much of the fundamentals of catching a wave rely on instinct and muscle memory. The simple act of pivoting and turning for an approaching set suddenly felt awkward, simply because I was pressing the record button on the camera on my wrist, ever so slightly changing my usual routine. And despite its negligible size, I just couldn’t shake my awareness of its presence. Split seconds before getting to my feet, when normally I don’t think I’m thinking about anything, I was suddenly considering whether the wide-angle lens would appreciate the arc of my bottom turn, and I caught a rail.

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Can you surf your best when concentrating on filming?

And this wasn’t a one off, I spent a thoroughly frustrating few hours being out of position, slightly off the pace, and generally off my game.

More than I realized, surfing is all about instinct. The expensive black box strapped to my wrist was, to me, surfing’s equivalent of having a stone in your shoe.

I’m sure with a bit of practice and perseverance it would begin to feel more natural. But I’m not sure I’m prepared to put in the effort, instead leaving it as the name suggests, to the ‘Pros’. “Be a Hero?” Another time maybe.

Tom Keyes

Recently returned to the UK after several years chasing waves in Asia, Tom takes inspiration from living on the doorstep of Cornwall's finest beaches to write articles and features on all thing surf related. Regularly featured on Surfing Sections and The Inertia his work has been viewed and shared by... Read more

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