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Sunset Beach

Elliott Chau


Behind the Shot

The North Shore of Oahu is synonymous with surfing, particularly big-wave surfing during the winter months. Off the Kamehameha Highway in Pupukea, the waves of Sunset Beach are world-class, but dangerous for all but the most experienced surfers. Paddling out is difficult and exhausting, and the waves break hard over the coral near the surface.

The waves here are home to several internationally known competitions including the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing, the Pipe Masters and the World Surf League.

In the summer, though, Sunset Beach surfing is nearly nonexistent. The changing conditions turn the otherwise dangerous surfing spot into a family-friendly location, popular for swimming, snorkeling and reef exploring.

When Elliott visited in January, the usually sunny skies were replaced by deep overcast conditions. The weather worked out in his favor, though. “I was really interested in the colors and textures of the beach. Between the people in the water and on the shore, I wasn’t getting the clean conditions I’d hoped for. This morning, though, the overcast conditions and cold temperatures worked in my favor. I put the drone up and was able to capture these deep saturated colors and the contrast between the sand and the ocean. I was able to take the time to compose my shot to get the nice top-down, half-beach, half-water image I’d sought out. The texture and the crack patterns really stood out. It shows that shooting in all types of weather can produce great conditions.”