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Wave to the Camera

July 22, 2001|KENNETH R. WEISS

For more than three decades, Jeff Divine has been dodging surfboards, jostling with other photographers and getting tossed around like a rag doll by monstrous waves--all in the pursuit of a memorable surf photo. He has dipped his toes in every ocean around the globe. Divine focuses his lenses each winter on those who challenge the powerful surf that wallops the North Shore of Oahu. It's apt, then, that Volume One of the Surfer's Journal's "Masters of Surf Photography" series showcases Divine--he is, after all, a top dog in what the book calls "the whining, snarling, back-stabbing jackal pack of surf photographers."

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Surfers glide on the surface. You're in the water, with the fish. Encountered any big ones?

To tell you the truth, I'm afraid to look. My friends always yell at me, pointing, 'Hey, Divine, check it out.' Even though I may be out in huge, dangerous waves, I hate knowing what's under the water.

Drink much seawater?

One time when I went out at Pipeline. I wasn't in great shape. I got caught inside and was pounded by four or five waves. My arms and legs turned to noodles. That scared me.

You just turned 50. How do you keep up with teenage surfers?

Ibuprofen.

Anything else?

When I get to Hawaii, I look at the waves and immediately become scared. The fear factor gets me to swim laps in Waimea Bay. Back and forth. My friends laugh at my wimpy workouts. Basically, you have to get your legs going. Your most powerful part is the legs, because your hands are busy with the cameras.

Left many cameras on the ocean floor?

About three. Then there were about five that were recovered but were useless. I put them in the microwave and sold them to another surf photographer. Once you get saltwater in there, they're goners.

OK. Aside from buying your castoff cameras, any other advice you might offer wannabe surf photographers?

Do it for the fun, not the money. There is no money.

How about advice for young hotshot surfers who want to get into the surf mags?

Find a mainstream surf photographer and kiss up every way you know to become his best friend.

Philosophy of life?

Surf now, sort out the problems later. It's all about the lifestyle.

What is the lifestyle?

Surfing has been called a wilderness experience 30 yards off the beach. When you are surfing or photographing, and a group of pelicans or a pod of dolphins goes right by you, you have to pinch yourself. Then you turn around to the shoreline and there's the 405 Freeway. It's a great way to get away from it all. I'll never get tired of it.

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