The Photographer Series: Ryan Craig

Introducing TransWorld SURF’s newest senior photographer Ryan “Chachi” Craig from the mean streets of Santa Cruz…

TransWorld SURF: Years shooting:

Chachi: I've owned a camera for almost 11 years now but started shooting the surf about 7.5 years ago.

Favorite place to shoot photos:

There are definitely some nooks and crannies around SC but the most exciting times are in bigger waves; Pipeline and Mavericks both come to mind.

Favorite surfers to shoot with:

This is an ever-expanding list but my go-to guys back at home are Sundaran Gillespie, Darshan Gooch, Kyle Buthman and Tyler Fox. These are the guys who have been there since I first started dabbling in surfing photography and are still ready to shoot in all conditions. Thanks boys for all the patience over the years.

Best Trip:

I'm glad this category isn't worst trip because I wouldn't have an answer. So far, there has always been something to leave each trip with but a couple of my favorites were Ireland for the amazing camaraderie within the surf and bodyboard community paired with unbelievably waves, Iceland for its one of a kind geology and Chile because it has a feeling of raw openness that I imagine California had a few generations ago.

Ireland Ryan Craig

Ireland. Photo: Ryan Craig

First photo you had published:

My first season on the North Shore I scored a spread of Kelly Slater in Water magazine as well as the cover of Australian bodyboard magazine Riptide (the poster-book issue). Both images were published at the same time.

Preferred camera:

My preferred camera has yet to be purchased. Hopefully I'll get my hands on a Canon 1D mark 4 shortly.

Water housing of choice:

CMT water housings. Not only the lightest housings on the market, Jay (owner) is a great guy to work with and completely reliable. A great working relationship work the manufacturer is huge in my book.

Sketchiest experience while shooting:

My first season on the North Shore provided a couple sketchy moments in the course of a few days. I got caught inside at rather shallow 1st reef Pipeline and watched a set land about ten feet in front of me. I thought that I would be able to catch the bounce but the energy of the wave was still moving downward; the wave picked me up (in what felt like slow motion) and threw me backward onto the reef. I was wearing a helmet but I wasn't wearing a top and I ended up with some pretty nice cuts all over my back. About five days later I was in a similar situation out at Pipe. Again, I didn't feel like I could be in a worse situation then where I was. I was shooting a surfer and only just started to duck under the wave and got lipped. This particular moment was far more violent. My camera blew out of my hand; I bounced off the reef butt first and finally came up facing the shore completely dizzy. Thankfully my camera leash didn't break and I let the next few waves wash me to the beach. I stumbled in and more or less collapsed onto the sand. I guess the lifeguards had kept on eye on me because one of them came over and asked me how I was after getting caught inside on that set. All in all it was a pretty rough week over there but the type of beating that happens to everyone. It was my first two but definitely not the last.

Best photography advice you ever got:

I don't know about advice but shooting film for a couple years was the best way for me to take time to compose my shots as well as have patience. Having a good understanding of the zone system and light is a great foundation for photography.

What photographers work do you admire:

That's a long list but the first photographer whose work fascinated me was Chris Van Lennep. He was the fisheye guy before Aichner who was also a complete photo wizard. This was long before I owned a camera and before I even knew what a fisheye lens was. There are so many talented photographers out there but maybe subconsciously those guys inspired me the most.

How did you get the nickname “Chachi”?

Nicknames stick and that was the case with Chachi. Not some crazy story (although I suppose I could lie) but I apparently I looked a hell-of-a-lot like Scott Baio from the TV show Happy Days when I was younger. Maybe it was the half bowl-cut mullet I was rocking at 16, I don't know, but almost everyone stopped calling me Ryan and thus the nickname stuck.

Ryan Craig

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