Rosarito Beach local swims deep to get the shot
Surfersvillage Global Surf News, 4 September, 2016 - There aren’t a lot of photographers from Mexico supplying the U.S. surf media with crisp images. But Damian Davila is one. It’s odd. He’s close enough to the surf epicenter of Southern California to shoot pros, but far enough removed from the crowds to score relatively empty surf. Which, as we found out, is both a good thing and a bad thing.
Damian's work has been featured in Surfing Magazine, Surfer Mag, Riptide Mag and elsewhere. He is the subject of this week’s Surfersvillage Creator Profile.
Where are you from and what you shoot with?
I’m from Rosarito Beach in Baja California, México. I was born and raised in the same neighborhood. I shoot with an SPL housing with a Canon 60d. I wish I had better equipment, but that’s all I can afford.
What are the advantages/disadvantages of being a surf photographer in Baja rather than in Southern California?
It’s a little bit of both - for example, one of the best advantages is that there’s tons of spots around this region with all kinds of waves and breaks: Sand, rock and reef-bottoms as well as barrels, slow-waves, etc, and there are barely any people out in the water! So if you want to surf you have everything to yourself.
An advantage for me is, like mentioned before, it’s really good surf to shoot empty lineups. But there are hardly any surfers for shooting action shots.
A disadvantage is that I’m far away from all the surf industry. I would like to be a pro photographer someday and it’s hard not knowing the right people because I’m not around that industry atmosphere, I guess. But yeah, overall I choose to live here. Life is really mellow and slow and it's like a holiday everyday. There’s waves all year long and that is what I’m here for.
How did surf photography start for you?
When I was a teenager in the late ‘90s and bodyboarding with my buddies, I remember watching my friend catch a wave and get barreled and that was so exciting. I was like, “I wish I had a camera so I could take a picture the next time you get barreled!" But back then camera gear wasn’t that accessible like it is today. So I just bought the Walmart water-proof film cameras with like 36 shots of film and that’s how I did it. Every once in a while whenever I got $10-$15 bucks I’d buy a camera. Then, in around 2008 I got my first digital waterproof camera. But I just did it for fun whenever I could. Then I started doing it full time in December of 2011, and haven’t stopped.
Share with us something that most people don’t know about surf photography
Here in Mexico people think all the pictures are Photoshopped and that it’s impossible to capture the kinds of images that I do. They ask: “Were you on a boat?” and “Doesn’t your camera get wet?” and “Were you on a surfboard and took the picture?” But overall they think it’s Photoshop or that it’s just pressing your shutter and that’s it. What they don’t know and don’t understand is that you have to swim a lot!
Tell us about that one time you almost died, on a surf trip or in the water
There have been a couple of times. The last one was last year during Hurricane Marie. It was here at a spot near my town and sets were coming in non-stop. I was so tired and there was too much water moving around and it was too deep. Every time a wave landed on my head I lost more energy. I got to the point of letting my camera go. Good thing I had a leash on my wrist, but I had to use my arm for swimming. Then I managed to get out of the water and recover. I was there for 20 minutes and I kept seeing these really good sets coming in. I decided to paddle back out. Just as I got out there another monster set did the same thing to me. I thought two times in a row is a sign and that I should call it a day!
Name one photographic image you saw that changed the way you approach photography
It was in 2007 when Clark Little started doing his thing and I think he opened my eyes to try to imitate what he was doing. I just wanted to follow in his steps. It was those amazing shore break shots. And they had just started to light up the internet back then.