Sean Evans, founder of WaterWorkMedia. Sean picked up his first camera in 2011. He began using it as a training tool to document himself and a few buddies while on surf adventures. By 2014 he found himself shooting more and surfing less…. a lot less. In 2015 he landed one of the biggest gigs yet. The lead photographer for the International Surfing Association. This brought him further around the world, introducing more and more cultures. We were lucky enough to ask Sean a few questions about his career so far.
Hey Sean! Thanks for taking the time to answer a few questions for us. To kick things off, where abouts are you from and when did you pick up your first camera?
Born, raised, and currently living in San Diego. Purchased my first cam back in November 2011. My good mate Mike Bain convinced me that it would be one of the best investments of my life. From documenting priceless moments during travel or using it as a training tool to become a better surfer. Sure enough he was right. At the time I had no desire to pursue photography or videography. I just wanted to see how good or bad I looked while surfing. Who would have known that once I learned how to use the thing it would change my life forever.
We noticed you’re currently in Brazil, where else has your camera taken you?
Yeah! Brazil has been awesome! Cool place, great for Samba, big butts, Carnival, fantastic street food and is a must visit. My camera has brought me all over the world. Japan, Denmark, France, Spain, China, Chile, Mexico, Hawaii, Fiji, Portugal, Costa Rica, El Salvador, a couple more but you get it. In 2015 I was fortunate enough to score a job with the International Surfing Association. I’d say it was luck that got me the job. But hard work and capitalizing on that opportunity has taken me to where I am today. This year I will be photographing surfings debut in the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games. It’s been a dream come true for a lot of people. I definitely hope things go as planned.
Where abouts in Brazil did you spend the most of your time? And did you score waves?
Spent most of my time in Paraty (in between Sao Paulo & Rio de Janiero). After spent 5 days in Rio. This has been more of an anniversary/party/carnival type trip with a few friends and my wife. But I scored some fun shore break in Paraty at this spot in Trindade. After arriving in Rio during the big festival week of Carnival in Copacabana, the waves turned on. Had a pretty mental and heavy bodysurf session at Porto 5. Got a few waves and some awesome shots with my wife’s old iPhone 7 plus on the side but its wise to be careful out here with expensive equipment. I just wanted to enjoy Brazil with the least chance of causing unwanted attention or trouble to ourselves. But the waves pump! I’d come back on a surf trip for sure.
Favourite wave in the world?
My favourite wave without a doubt is Keiki Shorebreak. It’s a hard question to answer with so many great waves out there. But without hesitation it’s my favourite wave. A day there is typically full of laughs with good people. Everyone hoots each other on. Never a worry about getting burned, if you want it, it's yours. Being one of the heaviest closeouts in the world it’s a great place to train myself to handle obliteration by heavy water. Typically pretty sore the next day, but has to be my favourite pass time.
Describe your partnership with the International Surfing Association.
This is the 5th year working for the ISA. The 2020 ISA Paralympic Championships will begin on March 11-15. It will be my 21st event. Super stoked working with everyone involved. We’re like a big happy family which is pretty special. Surfing has changed all of our lives. We all share a passion for it. The vibes always good and it shows at the ISA events.
What are you shooting with at the moment?
Currently shooting with the Sony A7R3 & Sony A73. Started with Sony in 2011 and so glad I’ve stayed with them. Now as a professional it’s a game changer to shoot with their cameras. In bigger surf Sony is half the size and weight of any Canon or Nikon.
Do you remember the most heavy swell you’ve seen? Where was it, how big was it and who was out there?
Heaviest swell I’ve witnessed was the decade swell that hit Puerto Escondido on May 3, 2015. Mark Healey paddled the biggest wave I’ve ever seen paddled. Think scientist measured it at 60ft or something. Puerto doesn’t have a channel and the beach break can really hold giant swell from top to bottom. The barrels stay wide and hollow like Teahupoo but this day was big. The Zicatela strip was shut down, full of water, and all the restaurants on the beach were wiped out. They needed major restoration, some staying shut down due to the significance of the damage. It was super bumming to see it.
Do you find time to surf in-between shoots?
Once I started to pursue photography in 2013 to 2014. I focused everything on shooting. Even if the waves were crap I wanted to shoot shoot shoot and learn learn learn. Video or photo, I became fascinated with getting the right angles so when the surf turned on I knew how I wanted to capture it.
However now I’ve been getting back into surfing a lot more. I used to bodyboard competitively and bodysurf but we don’t typically have the waves for it. Surfing stand up has become more of a favorite now. California might be a surfing mecca, but man do we have bad waves most of the time. Surfing is the perfect tool for creating the most fun in average surf. Learning to generate so much speed on such a small wave is an awesome feeling. It’s a new perspective for me and its a blast. I still suck which makes it fun.
What do you do with your spare time?
I spend most if not all of my spare time with my beautiful wife, Tamarita. We don’t have any kids so we love to travel together and do cool shit. She’s a keeper and after 5 years of marriage things just keep getting better and better. I hear that’s rare throughout the married life but we’re stoked on each other. (Hoping she’s thinking the same about me hahah)
If she isn’t around my spare time consists of music hunting and project planning. I guess it’s hard to define when I am working or enjoying myself.
Plans for 2020?
Go Big or Go Home… Train my ass off to shoot bigger surf out of my comfort zone. Spend more time in Hawaii, Fiji, and Mexico to prove that.
One of the biggest goals I have is to live in Japan. I am currently studying Japanese. I love how nice the people are, how clean it is, with so many cool places to visit. Japan is a gem the world could learn a thing or two from. I know there are a lot of mixed emotions about waves in Japan. However every time I’ve visited the waves were on fire. When they are on, they are on! As good as it gets. There is a decent chance the waves will be “good” for the Olympics.