Thanks Leslie, its been a great ride!

Pool water barrels.

Day 5:  As we come to find the peak of our bodies physical capabilities in serious distress, we all arise on Day 5 with the aches and pains from the day before.  Personally my arms  are jacked from running the jet ski and shooting from it, along with my legs from over 4 hours of shooting in the water.  Gathering around the coffee machine is first concern getting going every morning.  The night before we had made the decision to leave early and most likely head south again, as the wind was clocking around to the west.  Willie joined us again as we packed the truck with boards, food, drinks, and 5 very tired dudes.  We check the usual spots to the north as indicators of where to go for the rest of the day.  We make our way down to Skips and launch the skis to offshore winds and perfect peeling barrels.  Smaller than the day before but perfect.  The water is clear as glass. We went out to a remote break, with no one else out.  There we anchored the skis outside and I shot fisheye for nearly 3 hours while the guys traded off sets.

Little paddle out for Mike.

Before we all went our ways on the skis, Willie had brought the ashes of a recently passed away friend, Mike and we spread them our over the break…..perfect waves.  Pretty cool.  The day before we had seen some sharks but nothing today, although we knew they were still there. Conditions couldn’t of been any better.  The sun was blazing and it seemed sunblock was no match for the continuous harsh rays.

Nader duck dive.

The sand was pink on this beach.

The tide started to rise and fatten up the waves and we were starched,  ready for some food and water.  We jetted back to the beach with the skis, loaded them up, ate sandwiches on our way and headed to the southern end of the island with the hope that the newly redirected winds to the west would light up the left.  It too was a nearly impossible spot to get to without a boat or ski as we were on the outer most reefs.

Nader feeling out the outer reef afternoon session before nailing some barrels into his archive.

We actually had a crew of about 9 guys in the lineup with the others coming on a boat.   It was firing, 1-2 ft overhead.  I hadn’t  shot here before, which meant the options were open but it could also take time to figure it out.  After dropping the two guys  off on my ski, I headed into what I thought was a channel.  I was shooting with my 70-200 in the housing.  With the blowing offshore winds, along with the constant monitoring of incoming sets, that turned out to be much harder than I had expected.  The spray constantly got onto my lens, cleaning it after every set or move I made on the ski.  Nearly getting caught inside on a set, made me rethink where I would shoot.  With the anticipation of something like this happening I had also packed my other lens and port to swim fisheye.  It seemed like a pretty hard spot to swim fisheye with the changing peak and sketchy inside section.  The guys were getting caught inside with set after set on the head.  After constantly struggling to get the anchor to grab on the ski I finally was ready to change my lens and swim into the break.  It was not easy with 10k in my heads dangling above 25ft of water trying to switch lenses and ports.

Three peaks yet to be surfed.

Swam in to the break to discover how I would get pounded for the second session of the day swimming.  Nearly everyone was getting barreled but it was all over the place, sometimes on the takeoff and often on the nasty inside end section.  I went to the more likely consistent end section and quickly found the current to be stronger than my legs.  The inside reef threw me around like a rag doll but still managed to get a few shots.

Cappy carving his way on another one of Leslie’s gifts to the Bahamas.

After about an hour of that I decided to go shoot the takeoff barrel instead to hopefully stay out of the inside section.  It turned out to be much easier to swim!  After two hours we called it a day at about 5:30, loaded everyone up on the skis and headed back to the launch beach where we had parked the truck and trailer.  My ankles and newly punchored hole in my foot from stepping on a conch where shot but relieved to be done!  After loading everything up and not getting stuck in the sand we hauled the skis out and met up with Skipp and his family for our last meal.  5 days of shooting takes as much or more of a toll on me than surfing.  Every night when everyone else is resting or long asleep I am up editing the days photos and working to keep up.  Good times but also a lot of hard work!  The drive back at night we all struggled to keep our eyes open.  The trip turned out to be a score and Leslie delivered after all.  With some good local knowledge and patience you can score a hurricane by yourself in a lot of places on the East coast.  This was another great opportunity to shoot the guys on the trip and get some great images for them.  Thanks again for following along on another one of my adventures to photograph the waves of this crazy world!  Special thanks to Cliff, Nader, Cappy and everyone else that made my trip possible.

© 2012 Ben Hicks www.BocaRatonPhoto.com

Day 4: Mother Nature comes through, with a little patience

Slab.

 

Cappy still punitng.

Willie checking his turn.

Day 4:  Feeling all out of shape and beat up from the past three days of constant chasing, this morning came way too soon to get up.  After a couple phone calls, rehydration rounds and an intake of carbs we were off to see the rising reports throughout the island.  First check revealed the swell had hit, finally.  Just a day late.  After making our way back to the southern end of the island, about a 35 minute drive, we launched the ski and headed out on the incoming low tide.  I started taking everyone out into the lineup two at a time.  The past two days Nader and I kept looking at a spot about 500 yards to our south.  The locals were certain it wasn working.  Finally, after shooting for a whopping 5 mins, I took the ski and explored.  What I found was an empty slab, churning out perfect spitters.

 

Raced back on the oil glass conditions and picked up Nader and Willie to throw some guinea pigs out there to shoot from the ski.  Upon the first couple of sets it was hard to find the lineup, but they eventually got it.  It was a firing right hander with an unforgiving reef to remind you, hesitation is not aloud here.  They got a couple and were all smiles.  I then decided to go get the others and in 10 mins everyone was now at the new spot, which I will keep unamed.  Jet skis are pretty obnoxious, annoying and horrible polluters but for discovering wave conditions and using them to shoot for they can be priceless.  After I settled in looking directly into the barrel since I couldn’t get anymore inside the channel, as risking getting caught inside on a set was too dangerous, I was inspected by the local “men in grey suits.”  The water was so clear, they would dart up to the surface and then fade back away, wondering what the heck was floating on the surface.  They were only about 4-5 ft and were just curious.  The guys started to get the hang of it and were getting pitted more than ever before on the trip.  Problem was they were inside of my channel, so it was super hard to get the shot on the ski.  But we still got some gems.  After about 3 hours out there, everyone was exhausted and the tide was starting to make it fat.  We hauled everyone in on the ski and headed in to get a late lunch at about 2:30.  After filling up we needed a little rest so Skip invited us over to eat some more and get a quick snooze.  We all woke about 5 and headed back over the break.  It seemed the tide was still not low enough yet and we were still all shot, so we headed home to save our energy for the morning.  We also had to stock up on some more supplies.  After returning home, I was still determined to shoot some more with the beautiful conditions in paradise and also was taking up the opportunity to check out Willies awesome little shack.  Cappy and I hopped on the quad and checked a couple spots.  I was still glassy and good but we were to tired to make the trip down to the lineup without eating dinner.

Went over for the grand tour of Willies “mansion” and then headed home to eat.  He was totally self sufficient and was off the grip.  Rain barrels for water and plumbing.  Screens all around with an awesome view and no electricity.  Truly a Bahamas surf shack.  Stocked with over 15 boards and everything you really only need to survive.  After downloading all the days images and getting caught up on some work it was time to hit the sack!  What a great day, we scored.  Tomorrow should be even better!

Willies Bahama crib.

Leslie Swell beginning to fill in: Day 3

Nader carving into a nice little nugget, warming up for the days to come.

Willie and Cliff checking a local spot that had too much onshore wind in the morning.

 

Day 3:  As we rise with anticipation of the rising swell, we also find out the storm is not moving north like it was forecasted.  This means our offshore winds are still not here yet.  The checks begin as we travel along the coast, bumpy limestone roads, lined by green everywhere and perfect blue skies.  We gain another part of the crew as Willie from Florida joins us along with Skip, who resides here with his family.  The swell has risen considerably which is great but the issue is the light onshore wind.  The decision is made to paddle out and catch a few at the same spot as the day before.  I swam out with my housing…nearly 3/4 of a mile over what Skip calls sharky waters.  Great!

Cappy punting.

 

Nader, Cappy, Willie and I fight the current for over an hour and a half catching and linking up on a couple and then decide to go in.  The swim kicked my butt.  We were all pooped.  With a little break and a lobster sandwich we had made that morning, we were all ready for more, but this time we decided to launch the waverunners.

Time to rest my legs!

This way I could shoot with my 70-200 aboard and also save everyones time and arms from paddling the entire channel again.  After nearly two hours, the first being filled with getting the nearly broken second ski back to the shallows as it wouldn’t go any faster than idle and the second, dodging sets on my ski while I shot from the channel.  After reloading the skis and heading back to the house we were all exhausted.

A quick dip into the pool while the sun takes a dip into the ocean.

It was before dark which meant the drive back on queens was a little safer.  Everyone came up to our crib and we all ate, talked stories, checked out the days images, etc.  Skip and his wife Jackie are always interested in my work, and are hobbiest photographers.  I gave them a beginner lesson on shooting and how I get some of the shots from this trip.  After that I headed down the cliff with my camera and mini manfrotto tripod and did some longer exposures of the stars before catching up on some emails, talking with my favorite person and better half, and then falling quickly asleep.  The swell is officially suppose to fill in tomorrow!

Watching stars fall into the darkness.

Day 2: Layday, calm before the storm

 

Morning check on the quads revealed smaller conditions but clean.

Day 2 starts with an early check at a local spot.  As we expected the conditions are, “the calm before the storm,”  meaning the ocean was between swells today.  As the storm is right out next to the Bahamas there is a lull from the old swell to the new.  So today is sorta my day off, but of course that doesn’t mean I am not shooting.  Just not shooting waves.

Cappy looking for dinner, and getting it.

Jellies were everywhere.

 

An often site, Nader napping.

We start the morning off with getting some more diving in to stock up on lobster for tonights dinner.  Then head south with the waverunners attached just in case the swell pulses and we need to get to the outer breaks.  We meet up with our good friend Skip with the latest opinion of the waves.  Deciding to paddle out at a little local spot near his house.  Its a long 3/4 mile paddle with a choice of a longer mellower right or a bit faster but shorter left.  It was just the 5 of us out there having a great time in the chest to head high waves.  Nader and I went over and traded off waves on the left which he named Naders peak.  After a nice 2 hour session we head in to Skips where he had some lunch ready for us and we talked stories  with his family.  After our wait out of the tide to go back low again we head back to the same spot to find it a little better but with an onshore breeze.  Cliff and Skip paddle out and the rest decide to take a nap in the shade instead and save their energy for the coming days.  I head down the beach to find some images to capture.

Beach exploring.

After about an hour the two paddle in and we all head back to the house.  We didn’t get back home until about 8:30 to start preparing the nights feast with fresh fish, lobster and salad.  A full stomach and we were all out!

Skipp and Cliff head in after a long paddle in.

All images and content © 2012 Ben Hicks.

Leslie here we come! Chasing Hurricane Lesile into the Carribean

Loading the boards and heading out just 2 hours after I decided to go on the trip.

As we sit on the runway at Fort Lauderdale airport, I go over in my head everything I packed to cover this trip.  I made the decision just hours before to join the trip, which meant packing everything in about 30mins.  I am on a one way trip into the Carribean, with plans to come back only when the swell dies.  Being a photographer, forgetting one little thing can screw up an entire trip, since most places I go have no camera stores or walmarts.  We are aboard a little 6 person private plane headed to the eastern Bahamas to plant ourselves in the direct path of Leslies swell.

Searching along the coastline…

The storm has a lot of potential as many of you know.  With a quick detour checking the coastline we land about 11:45 a.m. on Wednesday.  We stock up on supplies and then head to our base camp, one with every amenity I have ever experienced. 3 surfers and myself meetup in the afternoon with our buddy Skip and get in the first session of the trip.  It was a local spot close to where we are staying with nothing special but the pulse was there and building.  The swell is actually dying as the east swell from Leslie is fading and now we will await the anticipated north swell that will light up the islands.

Cappy warming up on little local break.

Headed back the the base camp (our house) and we all went for a quick dip in the pool after the afternoon onslaught of noseums.  With about 45 mins left of sunlight, I am always determined to make the most out of everyday and got Cliffy and Cappy to head down the cliff the do some diving.  Always curious of my surroundings, there was a full reef at the bottom of the 100 ft cliff we stayed atop of and I wanted to see what was in there.  They both brought a spear and we got about 10 lobsters in 20 mins.

Cappy catching our dinner.

Jellyfish….. I am still healing from my jellyfish wounds from Nicaragua just a couple weeks ago.

The cliff at our stay….. with a very long stairway!

This would feed us for the following night as Nader was inside already getting some dinner ready.  As a typical surf trip goes we were right on track… travel, surf, eat, sleep…right?  Well, as soon as we got done diving we eat…..and while I am typing this before I know it the house was silent.  I hit the sack and go to bed knowing the next few days will be exploring for waves on the coast eating up every bit of energy.