Deep inside some of the world's most dangerous waves

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  • Tunnel 2 Paradise | North Shore, Oahu
    Tunnel 2 Paradise | North Shore, Oahu

    To get this image at Keiki Beach, Clark Little used a camera with a strobe and threw himself down on the exposed sand as a large wave pitched over to frame a North Shore sunset. | Photo by Clark Little


  • Untitled | North Shore, Oahu
    Untitled | North Shore, Oahu

    A rough day at the office. Waimea Bay, Oahu. | Photo by Gregg Miller

  • Ocean Eagle | North Shore, Oahu
    Ocean Eagle | North Shore, Oahu

    An endangered green sea turtle (called honu in Hawaiian) pushes through a breaking wave. Even during big swells, sea turtles venture near shore to feed on seaweed. They’re masters at avoiding the breaking waves just a few feet from their feeding grounds. | Photo by Clark Little

  • Hawaiian Crown | North Shore, Oahu
    Hawaiian Crown | North Shore, Oahu

    At sunset, two waves moving in opposite directions smashed into each other and formed this glass sculpture--a fleeting piece of art. | Photo by Clark Little


  • Glass Wave | North Shore, Oahu
    Glass Wave | North Shore, Oahu

    A small wave breaking in the shallow waters is captured at night. "You have to feel a close bond with the ocean to shoot the shorebreak at night," Little writes. "You can’t tell when sets are coming and you can get slapped. I’ve had my bell rung." | Photo by Clark Little

  • Distant Thunder | Makena Beach, Maui, Hawaii
    Distant Thunder | Makena Beach, Maui, Hawaii

    "As far as I’m concerned, Makena is the most beautiful spot on Maui," Little writes. "The water is crystal clear--as clear as any place I’ve ever seen." | Photo by Clark Little

  • Coconut Cream | North Shore, Oahu
    Coconut Cream | North Shore, Oahu / Uprising | North Shore, Oahu

    Left: A surging midday wave picks up the foam left behind from the previous wave. Right: There’s no exit strategy with a shot like this. The wave rolled Little 50 yards up the beach and left him covered in sand. | Photos by Clark Little

  • Chariots of Fire | The Wedge, Newport Beach, California
    Chariots of Fire | The Wedge, Newport Beach, California

    Looking out of a glassy barrel during sunset at the famous bodysurfing break known as the Wedge. | Photos by Clark Little

As we wrote in a 2010 Sierra cover story, Hawaiian photographer Clark Little suffers for his art. He specializes in capturing images from inside thick, dangerous waves that break right on the beach, which means that he often gets pummeled in the process.

In his new coffee-table book, Shorebreak (co-written by Sierra executive editor Steve Hawk), Little describes how he's been attracted to such waves nearly his entire life and how even now, at age 45, he still can't get enough of them: "When it's good . . . I'll jump in the water at 7 a.m. and come out at 1 p.m., shriveled. My legs will be buckling when I walk up the beach. Then I go home and look at the pictures and I get inspired again—psyched to go back and do it the next day. It's self-perpetuating. It's an addiction."

Little, who didn't pick up a camera until 2007, most often shoots at a handful of spots near his home on the north shore of Oahu, though recently he's been seeking out distant coasts: Japan, California, Tahiti, and beyond. "I love visiting new places with an eye toward shooting their shorebreaks," he writes. "They're all so different. The water color. The landscape. It's an interesting way to experience the world." 


Check out this short about the method behind the madness.

CREATORS: Clark Little on Staring Down Shorebreak for The Perfect Shot from The Inertia on Vimeo.