Oswald Smith, Ireland, 2018

WORDS: Ydwer van der Heide I was into freestyle riding myself before I started seriously shooting kiting, so my early inspiration was naturally triggered by that. I was interested in the key moment of a trick and finding the right angle to best show the tweaked body position and high level of commitment. Competition freestyle riding eventually became too technical and lost my attention. Riders were more focused on increasing the technical difficulty and less on performing a trick in a really stylish way. A big difference opened up between the dedicated competition riders and those who were more motivated to focus on capturing good images. This is why my partnerships with Bas Koole, and later Oswald Smith, were particularly successful; they’re so talented and have enough dedication to the project to perform a trick again and again in the exactly the same spot while being very aware of the camera. Big air immediately inspired my photos when Ruben started pushing the extreme side of the discipline. Living in Holland, this was also a style of riding I had access to with so many Dutch riders going big in the storms. There was so much energy to be transmitted in the photos and, while the wind conditions weren’t always the easiest, I enjoyed the challenge of working in different environments. The Woo device may have helped motivate many riders to improve their boosting skills, but when pro riders became overly focused on trying to set records every session, the style of their jumps became less attractive, in my opinion. Board-offs started to come back in, which made it more interesting again. I’ve watched it go through phases, but I have to say that a nicely inverted rotation with a powerful megaloop is hard to beat in a photo! Two subjects that I’ve always enjoyed, however, are surf and travel and they combine so well. There’s always a surf story to be told through photos because of the inherent element of exploration. Most of the freestyle trips I did were purely focused on finding the flattest waters, and there weren’t so many options. Searching for waves and meeting new characters along the way seemed never ending in opportunities. When in a new location I like to take a day wandering around taking photos of local people. How do I get into the eyes of these strangers? I don’t really know. Not everyone likes it and you can usually sense those who won’t be open to having their photo taken. It’s about making eye contact with them, or forming some kind of rapport and with experience I’ve developed an instinct for the situation. I usually vary my lenses for portraits, between 35 and 50mm, so they’re quite wide, which means I have to get in there and close-up. It’s a lot of fun and finding the characters in the photos afterwards is very rewarding. Travel and people are as much a part of the photo experience for me as the kiting and surfing.

Brazil, 2013

Oswald Smith, Strand, South Africa, 2016

Brazil, 2015

James Carew, Sumbawa, Indo, 2018

Oswald Smith, Brazil, 2014

Alex Pastor, Cape Town, 2012

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