By CORKY CARROLL | Orange County Register
PUBLISHED: April 8, 2022 at 4:00 p.m. | UPDATED: April 8, 2022 at 4:00 p.m.
The ideal position on a wave riders are constantly attempting to achieve is inside the breaking part.
Under the curling wave as it breaks, it is commonly called “in the barrel,” “in the tube,” “in the tunnel” or, the old school version, “shooting the curl.”
It’s very hard, probably actually close to impossible, to describe in words what this feels like. It is like being in a different zone or dimension all together. Time slows down and there is “the sound.” Ah, that sound.
It really is a feeling like no other that I can think of.
I had two “first times” with getting inside the barrel.
The first one was when I was really little, I’m thinking like 4 years old. My parents sent me to summer camp in the Malibu Mountains, a place called “Kilgore’s Kiddie Camp.”
One day they loaded us all in a bus and took us to the beach just south of the Malibu surf spot. There was a little sandy beach with some waves breaking close to shore. There is a walk bridge that goes over the highway right there, that is about the only landmark I remember.
I waded into the water and put myself right in front of a breaking wave. It curled right over my head and I heard “the sound.” Then it creamed me. What a cool feeling, I tried to do it again, but just kept getting creamed.
The next time was when I was learning to surf in front of our house at Surfside Colony, just south of Seal Beach. I caught a fairly good sized wave one morning, a little over my head, turned left and pulled up on the face of the wave to get speed to make it to the shoulder.
I just happened to be in the right spot and the wave tubed over my head and for a couple of seconds – it felt like more – I was inside it. There was “the sound.”
When I came out, I had a huge adrenaline rush and pulled out of the wave with a monster smile on my face.
One of the older and better surfers was paddling out and saw it, Jerry Motes. He looked at me and said, “You just ‘shot the curl.’” That opened up a whole new world. It’s one of those things that you can never get enough of.
Which brings me to today’s subject: Clark Little.
Clark grew up in Hawaii and was known as a fearless wave charger at the infamous Waimea Bay shorebreak. He took up photography and decided it was his mission to show the world what it looked like to be in that “tunnel” that is inside a breaking wave.
We started to see his photos turn up in the magazines and most of us, at least I did, thought, “Wow, what a great shot, but I bet the dude took a beating getting that one.”
He would stick himself right at the edge of the water where the most gnarly and nastiest waves broke to get the shot as it broke over his head. Of course this left him in the danger zone, and he had to have gotten totally annihilated right after to pushed the button. I can’t imagine how much sand the dude has probably had to clean out of all those places that sand likes to go.
But he was getting really spectacular photos that went well beyond what we had seen in the past.
Over the past few years we have seen more and more of his work and his shots never fail to get a “WOW” out of me. He has taken his particular style of surf photography to a new level and it’s amazing.
Not only have his photos been seen in the surfing publications, but also in National Geographic and they hang on the wall of the Smithsonian Museum. He has been seen in Nikon commercials, as well as many national television shows.
This week, Random House has released a beautiful book, “Clark Little: The Art of Waves,” with more than 150 of his images, along with stories by journalist Jamie Brisick telling us how Clark gets the shots. There is a forward by 11-time World Surfing Champion Kelly Slater, too.
I can truly say that this is one of those “must get” books for any surfer or any lover of the ocean, and it’s beauty and moods.
It is going into prime position on my coffee table, I can tell you that.