On Wednesday night, famed surf photographer Clark Little joined GrindTV for a Talk Story session at the Turtle Bay Resort on Oahu’s North Shore ahead of the release of Shorebreak, the new Peter King documentary about Little’s life.
Set for wide release on October 4, the documentary profiles Little’s pioneering efforts in shooting heavy, dangerous shorebreaks and his unlikely rise to prominence as one of the premier water photographers in the world.
Little spoke with host Rocky Cannon and got personal while discussing his upbringing in Hawaii, his close bond with his late brother, big-wave surfer Brock Little, and some of the more unusual aspects of his career.
Here are the five most interesting tidbits you might have missed.
He moved from California to Hawaii at a young age and learned to surf at Haleiwa
After moving to Hawaii from California, Clark was hassled less than his brother Brock. Host Rocky Cannon brought up that, when he was growing up, Brock had a big blonde ‘fro and tended to stick out more than his younger brother.
“I was a little more tan and got along with people more, my brother, he was the scrappy one,” Little told Cannon. “I would call on him to do my battles … my brother was always there for me. Throughout my whole life it was me and my bro.”
While Brock charged big Waimea, Clark gravitated toward surfing the shorebreak
There’s a reason why Clark Little was among the first to photograph the inside of the Waimea Bay shorebreak: Having heavy waves pound you into the ground isn’t for the faint of heart.
But according to Clark, his love of being in the shorebreak stemmed in some part from a fear of big-wave surfing with his brother.
“[Brock] loved the big waves; I don’t like going out where it’s 30 feet deep and 25-30-foot closeout sets,” Little told Cannon. “I can get tumbled and tumbled in the shorebreak, but I can push off the bottom.
“It’s a trip, [Brock] would just look at 30-foot closeouts and say, ‘Okay, what the hell,'” Little continued. “I remember being out with him one time when it was like 20 foot, and I was crapping my pants. And I think that was the last of my big-wave surfing.”
He was nicknamed ‘Turbo’ as a kid for being so hyper
While Little exuded a calm coolness during his talk, Cannon revealed that growing up in Hawaii, he developed an interesting nickname: Turbo.
According to Little, that’s because he’s always been super hyper.
“I drove off-road — not on the road — fast. [Driving through] mountains, four wheeling and doing all kinds of stuff,” said Little. “So my nickname became Turbo because I used to just have a blast, and of course because I’m a hyper guy.”
His previous career was working in a botanical garden — for 17 years
While it might be easy to look at his work and assume Little grew up groomed for a life in surf photography, he didn’t start his renowned career until he was almost 40.
Instead, his first career was working in a botanical garden.
“I had a green thumb; I always had that angle with nature,” Little explained. “I got this job when I was 22, and I started from the bottom. I was mowing lawns, weed-whacking and taking care of 27 acres of native and tropical plants. I was a supervisor and I had like five workers with me. It was 9-5 Monday through Friday. It was a great job, I loved the botanical garden.”
His career got started because his wife bought a picture he didn’t like
One day, Little’s wife brought home a photograph to decorate their house. That photo ended up launching Little’s career.
“My wife brought home a picture of a wave that she bought at Pictures Plus,” Little told Cannon. “I said, ‘Honey don’t bother going out and buying a picture of a wave, I will go out and shoot one.’ That’s the true story of how I got inspired to go take a picture and get something incredible from a big shorebreak wave.”
The Crown Prince of Dubai is a big fan of his work, and asked Little to skydive with him
Turns out that one of Clark Little’s 1.8 million Instagram followers is Hamdan bin Mohammed Al Maktoum, the Crown Prince of Dubai.
In fact, the Prince is such a big fan of Little’s work that he paid to fly him out to Dubai.
“So the Crown Prince of Dubai loved my Instagram feed. I got this random email from my manager saying, ‘Hey, this guy the Prince wants to meet you, he’ll fly all of us up first class or whatever,'” Little said. “So I went to the Prince’s palace and I met the Prince. He loves freediving, he loves jumping out of planes and he wanted me to do that — and I said ‘No, I stick to the water activities.'”
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