Glassy: Amar Thejas


Not sure who it is, this guy caught this one wave all the way to the Beach Park. Shot at Pipeline. Sure he was stoked.


Larry Russo is a legend. He’s always smiling. Larry pulled out this cap from his car he said it was Team Hawaii bodysurfing hat back in 97. He was stoked that day, we scored good Pipeline.


This was shot after the Lifeguard Bodysurf Contest. Kaleo was rocking all red. Kaleo Galarsa gets all serious when I pull out my camera. Shot on film- Potra400.



I shot this photo of Todd at Pipe on a crazy day. Only a few people were out there. The conditions were dangerous, strong currents and everyone was getting sucked over to Off the Wall. We saw this set coming and I remember yelling at Todd “Gooooo!” That was an easy 8ft Pipeline set. After this wave, Todd came over to me and told me that he ate shit mid-wave and had the best, worst beating of his life and took the next 2 waves on the head. Pipeline is no joke.


 Todd is one of the elite watermen. He’s always out at huge Pipe and Rockpiles. I have always looked up to him. I do beach workouts with him every Friday, that guy has so much endurance and he’s a world-class swimmer. I shot this photo after he got second at the lifeguard bodysurf contest. He’s very comfortable in the ocean.


Point Panics is my favorite wave on the South Shore. I try to go bodysurf more during the summer. That’s Kaleo dropping into a fun one from the outside, he knows that wave like the back of his hand. Make sure you don’t drop in on him and bring no surfboards when you come down to Point Panics.


Kaleo is a wave magnet. This guy is all about bodysurfing and good times. I love taking pictures of him. Kaleo always makes sure the boys get enough waves and let you catch some waves all the time. Uncle takes care. I shot this after we had a fun session at Pipeline. There was about 50 people in the water that day. We got out of the water and I shot this photo of him. Shot this on black and white film.


Point Panics. This was shot on the biggest swell of the year at Point Panics last year, not sure who he is.


This was late season this past winter. I saw Uncle Mark bodysurfing Gas Chambers and riding all the way to Pipe. I saw him get out of the water and asked him about his session. He was stoked. There wasn’t many people in the water that day and snapped a few photos of him.


When Pipe is super crowded Pupukea sandbar is perfect with only a few people, it’s a really fun wave.

Kealii is my best friend, we always try to go bodysurf together, the best thing is we have shared some scary and beautiful moments in the ocean together. I can always count on this guy when the waves are huge, this was shot at Keiki Beach during the golden hour.

Glassy: Sean Davey

Nick Menas- Rockpiles
Nick Menas- Rockpiles

If you’ve seen many photos of waves, chances are high you’ve seen a Sean Davey photograph. Sean was inspired to pick up a camera by the dynamic Ocean and stunning landscapes of Tasmania. In Sydney, Australia, he photographed world-class surf talent, making a name for himself with attention to detail and artistic composition. Sean then began traveling around the world with frequent stops on the North Shore of Oahu. There, he met his wife and found the ultimate combo of heavy waves and talented surfers riding them. Sean still travels but spends the winter on the North Shore, capturing the world’s best surfers in the world’s most famous waves…sometimes without a board.


“Sean Davey first picked up a Kodak 126 Instamatic camera after school one afternoon in late October of 1977, to photograph a tiny perfect wave at his home beach. Little did he know at the time that it would develop (pardon the pun) into a lifelong obsession that would take Sean many, many places, in pursuit of his chosen craft of photography.”

A water view of Daren Crawford on a perfect wave breaking at Pupukea.
A water view of a perfect wave breaking at Pupukea.
Tom Curren bodysurfing at Off The Wall.
Tom Curren at Off The Wall.
Kelly Slater during a Pipeline bodysurf competition.
Kelly Slater during a Pipeline bodysurf competition.
North Shore
Steve Kapela at Pipeline
Steve Kapela at Pipeline
Underwater view of lady swimmers- North Shore, Oahu
Underwater view of lady swimmers- North Shore, Oahu.
Keith Malloy bodysurfing at Pupukea.
Keith Malloy at Pupukea.
Rob Machado in a Pipeline bodysurf contest.
Rob Machado in a Pipeline bodysurf contest.
Daren Crawford bodysurfing at Pupukea.
Daren Crawford bodysurfing at Pupukea.
Flynn Novak at Off The Wall.
Flynn Novak bodysurfing at Off The Wall.
Pipeline Bodysurfing Classic- Ryan Hailstones
Pipeline Bodysurfing Classic- 
Ryan Hailstones
Richard Thomas bodysurfing perfect conditions at Pupukea.
Richard Thomas and perfect conditions at Pupukea.


Glassy: Photographer Neal Miyake

Ten years ago I got assigned to write about a surf spot. I’m actually still working on the article, but along the way I’ve had the pleasure to connect with a different subculture of waveriders: bodysurfers! They are a “chop suey” mix of personalities, ethnicities, and skillsets, many with styles that reflect the surf spots they frequent, but all without an industry or pro scene mentality.

From a photography perspective, I’ve found that shooting bodysurfers is fricken difficult. Because their bodies are literally slicing through the water, it is hard to get clean shots without spray. I guess it makes the photos you do get that much more precious.

So here’s a look at bodysurfing on Oahu, Hawaii, from my perspective.

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During the Pipe Masters, Mark Cunningham, Pipeline, 12/12/09

At many contests on the North Shore, the Hawaiian Water Patrol crew regularly provides water safety and security with jetski and life-saving support. But during breaks in the action, they sometimes launch into a few (poho bumbay (otherwise waste)). Here’s Mark Cunningham on a sweet insider during the 2009 Pipe Masters.

Watermen Plus One
Watermen Plus One

Mike Stewart, Don King, Mark Cunningham, and Kaimana Stewart, Ehukai, 3/21/14. The term waterman is thrown around too casually nowadays, but these three are true legends of the ocean. Champion bodyboarder, award-winning water photographer, celebrated lifeguard. Oh yeah, and they are all pretty decent bodysurfers too, with 19 Pipeline Bodysurfing Classic titles between them. Mike’s son Kaimana has good pedigree, keeps good company, and is already on his way to being a fine bodysurfer in his own right.

Contest Mode

Unknown, Sandy Beach Bodysurfing Championship, 5/22/10. Even in contests, it’s all about style. This guy’s got it. Straight down, head first, back to the wave. And look at his hands; delicate, subtle style.


Mark Cunningham, Pipeline, 1/16/10. Even on the most streamlined, fat-free bodies such as Mark’s, the flowing water creates unusual ripples across the body. Colors got filtered out on this shot so I chose to convert it to black & white.

Pipe Air-360
Pipe Air-360

Rodrigo Bruno, 2006 Pipeline Bodysurfing Classic, 2/1/06. This is not a wipeout. Brazil’s Rodrigo Bruno is purposely throwing a 360 on the takeoff while being lip-launched. He actually made it to the trough of the wave, but lost forward momentum and got overrun. Still, it was a ballsy effort.

Aloha Dougie
Aloha Dougie

Point Panic, 10/12/13. Douglas Palama, an avid bodysurfer and photographer, passed unexpectedly on September 2013. Friends and family got together the following month for a very touching paddleout at Point Panic in his honor. After his ashes were spread into the ocean, Dougie’s fins were given to the sea, and back to Dougie. Also, short paddleout video can be found here.

Gliding at Panics
Gliding at Panics

Sean Enoka, Point Panic, 5/18/13. Sean’s a great guy, already featured in this magazine (Fin Quiver). Here he is at Point Panic, the only surf spot on Oahu dedicated exclusively to bodysurfers and handboarders. Located near the heart of Downtown Honolulu, Panics is a popular summertime destination when the south swells roll in.

Off the Wall from Below

10/26/13. Here’s a manini’s eye view of us humans at play. The curves are compelling.

High Planing
High Planing

Unknown, Point Panic, 6/27/09. Whether it be a rubber slipper or a custom-shaped board (with attached GoPro camera), handboarding is alive and well.

The Stylemaster
The Stylemaster

Mark Cunningham, 2006 Pipeline Bodysurfing Classic (PBC06), 2/1/06. I actually entered this contest just for fun and bombed terribly. Afterwards, I spent more than four hours straight in the water, shooting some of the most amazing bodysurfing I had ever seen (to date). Had to turn off my point-and-shoot cameras, delete photos, and conserve my physical energy throughout. I captured this classic shot of Mark in the final. In most every performance sports discipline, style can be conveyed by the hands. As you can see Mark oozes style.

Halona Point
Halona Point

Unknown, Sandy Beach, 11/14/09. I had broken my back two weeks prior so was landlocked. I was jonesing to take pictures, especially with a solid east swell on the offer, so I shot Sandy Beach from land. Guys were out there charging as usual. Nice visuals, inspirational, and a good way to recover.

THE Pipe Master
THE Pipe Master

Mike Stewart, PBC06, Pipeline, 2/1/06. He is mostly known as an iconic bodyboarder, but Mike may actually be an even better bodysurfer. Still frames really don’t do justice to his dynamic style, flow and technical wizardry.

Neal, Ke Iki, 9/11/13, Anthony Tortoriello Photo
Neal, Ke Iki, 9/11/13, Anthony Tortoriello Photo

About the photographer: Neal Miyake is an electrical engineer turned “suit” for the government. He has been an avid waverider and enthusiast photographer for most of his life, and currently enjoys blending the two through water surf photography. Pipeline is his favorite photo studio. Oh, and he’s a terrible bodysurfer who just tries.


Salty Fins: Mark Cunningham

Mark shifted from side to side in the hotel lobby armchair. Having just arrived from a lifeguarding contest in Virginia Beach, Mark looked every inch of 6’4. As he told us about growing up in Honolulu in the veritable hotbed of future Oahu surfing legends, I tried to imagine the tall, awkward 18 year old plunging into the waters at Ehukai, all in the days when Pipeline was the brutal proving grounds for the world’s most adventurous wave riders.


It was true. His arms and legs looked almost too long for his body, like stretched coils bouncing with each long step. And it’s no secret those coils run smooth when balanced in salt water. Later we swam in the shadow of the Oceanside Pier and his movements turned to silk. He chatted up other bodysurfers, hooted for the boys and rode straight on closeouts. Mark was at home in the Pacific.


DC Comics-Tarzan-239His Irish-Lithuanian roots raised him in the suburbs of Oahu. Wanting the cheapest beers in town, Mark’s dad often made trips to the local Elk’s Lodge with Mark in tow. Young Cunningham would hang around the lifeguard who was the first to get Mark into a pair of swim fins. To Mark, the teenage lifeguard was the epitome of cool. He tried his hand at other activities too. Mark played baseball for years, but found himself wanting more and more water time. He loved comics, but instead of idolizing Superman and Batman he was fascinated by the adventures of Tarzan. Tarzan, lord of the jungle, based on a man thriving in the wild with little need for technology or collared shirts. Another icon Mark would one day emulate in his own way, saving people from the dangers of mother nature.

IMG_3587Cunningham dabbled with organized swimming and played water polo at UCSB for a couple of years.  In 1975 Mark joined a try out to be a lifeguard. The test involved swimming round the Ventura pier, but the Hawaiian wasn’t keen on cold water swimming. He concocted a Bengay/Vaseline mixture and lathered himself up for the task. He stood in a long line of boys breathing warm air into their hands and shaking for heat. The young Hawaiian was stoic and focused. He recalls the heat of the Bengay was trapped by the Vaseline burning and challenging his resolve, but as soon as he hit the water he was thankful. The risk paid off and Mark was stoked to make $10 an hour for the rest of the guard season.

The following year, an already homesick Cunningham learned of his father’s passing. Mark found his way back to Oahu where he again tried making something of the nonaquatic life. Life as a real estate agent in Waikiki was a position that promised comfort and potential for monetary success. Something wasn’t right. Maybe he didn’t have the salesman’s skills or maybe he didn’t want to. In either case, Cunningham’s lifelong passion was ignited on the sands of Ehukai in 1976 when he first became a lifeguard at Pipeline.

Mark spent just shy of 30 years guarding the lives of people walking, swimming and surfing the North Shore of Oahu. As he talks about the legendary waterman he had the honor of serving beside, Mark’s pride is apparent. He is a “Lifeguard for life.” Cunningham has appeared in iconic surf films, donned the pages of popular culture print articles and carried the 11-time world champion surfer up the beach in quintessential moments, but the man is lifeguard through and through. He says, “I’m just a retired lifeguard living on a pension.”


We spent the weekend around Oceanside with many of California’s top bodysurfers. Mark was rarely alone. We witnessed young children and salty veterans alike take humble approaches to shake Cunningham’s hand. Mark gave his attention to each pilgrim and the only time his answers were short was when he was running to get ready for a heat. The check-in table called several times, “Mark Cunningham please check-in for your heat.” The announcer’s voice more nervous as we inched closer to the start of his heat. The rest of us chuckled and craned our necks to see where the world’s most famous bodysurfer could be hiding. Mark took long, casual strides to retrieve his cap and greeted the rest of the competitors just moments before the horn sounded.

IMG_3786This was Mark, taking relentless attention and praise with quiet gratitude. He was content to talk shop and demonstrate his waterman prowess. When speaking with him on the sand his eyes would track the horizon. Faithful training never fails. Cunningham’s casual personality did little to hide his deep reservoir of passion for the Ocean and all that it offers. The 59-year-old has dedicated his life to what he described as “the ultimate impact zone: where the Earth meets the sky and water” and if you happen to find yourself in the waters of the North Shore someday that’s where you’re like to find him.



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