Big Wave Riders of Hawaii // Bernard Testemale

Every once in a while, one falls down the rabbit hole and discovers something amazing in the depths of the interwebs. Such was my recent trip. The discovery: Bernard Testemale’s portraits of some of the world’s best big wave surfers shot as a commemoration of the 30th anniversary of the of the Eddie Aikau memorial contest at Waimea Bay on O’ahu’s North Shore.


For the project, Bernard revived an outdated photography medium known as wet collodion process invented in the 1850’s. The process involves adding a soluble iodide to a solution of collodion (cellulose nitrate) and coating a glass plate with the mixture. The plate, while still wet, is exposed in the camera. The process was valued for the level of detail and clarity it allowed. The results are stunning.


Over the 2014-2015 winter, Bernard made his way up and down the 7 mile miracle, meeting with North Shore legends, old and new.  From indigenous village chiefs, to world-champion surfers and the world’s most iconic big wave-tacklers, a vast array of personalities are portrayed in Bernard’s collection.


Considered the world’s most prestigious big wave competition, the “Eddie” not only stands out for its extraordinary history and dramatic setup, but also for the distinctive gathering of surfers drawn to it. United by a deep respect for Hawaiian heritage and the shared passion for riding gigantic waves. World champions from past and present times such as Kelly Slater, Tom Curren and Tom Carroll meet surfing pioneers like Titus Kinimaka, Mickey Munoz and Clyde Aikau.  Big wave legends like Shane Dorian and Ross Clark-Jones challenge their Hawaiian peers including the renowned Downing and Rothman families.


Bernard’s work is a diverse and beautiful tribute to surfing. A keen surfer from a young age, Bernard was fascinated by photography after receiving his first camera in his early teens. Never intending to make a career out his two big passions, he dove into the world of professional photography rather accidentally in the early 1990s. A regular contributor to various surf and travel magazines, he’s become a worldwide renowned reference in surf photography in the past decades. The book is a must-have for any big wave aficionado.



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