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the occasions lady and

One Shorebreak Shot
column and photo by Audrey Poff

I’m a photo geek at heart. A few of my friends know it, mainly the ones who are photo geeks as well, and for the most part, my family has learned to live with it.

Vacation is one of my favorite times to disappear with a camera and get lost in my own little world. Last year, I decided to try something that I have had an interest in for years – shorebreak photography. American photographer Clark Little is one of the first shorebreak photographers that I began to follow.

Based in North Shore, Hawaii, Little once described his work this way: “I put myself and my camera into a critical section of a breaking shorebreak wave and capture the view looking out or looking in from the ‘tube.’ A tube is formed when the water from a wave throws itself over and creates a pocket of air before it collapses.”

So, after doing a little research and talking to some of my photographer friends, I decided to add a few pieces of camera equipment to my collection before going to the beach last summer. Keep in mind that while photographers like Little tackle the big surf in Hawaii, waves where we vacation on the east coast of Florida are much weaker in comparison. My family has been playing in the surf while vacationing at St. Augustine Beach for probably 50 years.

For the first six days of our vacation, the Atlantic was about as calm as I have ever seen it. There were waves, of course, but they lacked enough height to have any sort of tube. They just sort of rolled in gently all week, a possibility that I had not even entertained. Finally, on the seventh and final day at the beach, the surf was up. We were able to ride the waves and I could finally attempt to get a photo of the tube of some waves as they crashed around me.

Rodney was a few feet behind me when one of the biggest waves of the day approached. I was probably standing in waist-deep water when it began to form just south of me. I balanced myself with my left hand and held the camera with my right. As the wave formed, I realized that it would most likely knock me down if I didn’t dive under it. To my surprise, the wave reached my extended hand first and flipped me like a rag doll. Once completely immersed, I heard a loud pop underwater as my left shoulder returned to its normal position. The pain was not immediate, but a few hours later I would require assistance doing simple things like getting dressed.

Ironically, with my camera on burst mode, I not only captured the tube of the wave, but I also documented my injury with a photo of my arm as the wave hyperextended it. A few months later, I would be showing those same photos to Dr. Jeremy Swymn at Jonesboro Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine. After an MRI showed a 50-percent tear in my rotator cuff, I began physical therapy and was making good progress before the pandemic hit.

Between six days of flat surf and being tossed in the waves last year, I only managed to get one decent shorebreak shot. But as my friend, photographer Kim Vickrey-Jones, reminded me after I posted the photo last year, sometimes one shot is all you need.

I hope you enjoy the photo of this wave taken shortly before it wiped me (and my shoulder) out. It may be my one and only shorebreak shot, but I think it’s a beauty.