Catching the Wave
A Rockport photographer makes art out of water.
Brock Currier is all wet. Always. That’s what happens when you spend most of your days in the water. The other thing that happens — if you’re patient and skilled enough — is art. And that’s exactly what he makes.
Currier, 36, a native Rockporter, now lives in Pigeon Cove with his wife, Megan, and their two kids. Though he came late to surfing, the sport has consumed him. He has devoted much of his adult life to finding a way to not only pursue his passion, but also to share it with his community. In the winter of 2016, he found it.
You could stop by the Fish Shack in Rockport’s Dock Square, order a drink, and ask him to tell you all about it — but no need, we’ve already done that for you. Read on.
Which passion came first for you, photography or surfing?
Surfing. I started learning to surf in my late 20s. I found that being in the ocean, in the lineup, with my friends was so peaceful and stress-free. But it was extremely difficult to learn, especially without steady swells. On my second trip to Hawaii, I discovered this new style of wave photography that got me thinking: This could be the perfect way to get that time in the ocean, be creative, and be able to show people back home a new way to look at waves and the ocean.
So when did you start taking pictures?
It was the first week of January 2016. My first camera was — and, in some conditions, still is — the GoPro Hero4. It is a fantastic starter camera that can shoot still photos as well as video. The real key to it all when I started though is the fantastic products made by KNEKT. They make extremely durable trigger systems for the GoPro. I’ve got to give Christian at Surfari a shoutout for getting me into this setup, which really changed my ability to shoot waves. These days I mostly shoot with the Sony A6000 and an SPL Waterhousing. It’s an amazing setup that allows me to be more creative.
Who appreciates your photos the most — surfers or wannabe surfers?
Ha! Actually, both. My surfer friends say that they really like the shots of waves that they can imagine riding — with the view you would see coming out of the barrel. Most non-surfers really like the clear, colorful shots and angles of waves that they’ve never seen before.
It looks like this is really hard to do.
Some days it’s really easy. The smaller, clean days usually produce more clarity and color. My favorite days are when the waves are pumping. That usually means there’s a riptide and the water is freezing cold. The swim out is long — the swim back is even longer. Those days are much more dangerous and difficult, but it really gets your adrenaline pumping.
Got any good wipeout stories?
Last September there was a really large swell. I swam out to the lineup to shoot some surfers. I always wear fins when I’m shooting, but when the waves are pumping the whitewater, it makes things pretty difficult. It almost feels like turbulence on a plane. Finally, after being out there for over an hour, a large set came through, and the first wave caught me and sent me “over the falls.” I couldn’t tell which way was up or down, and by the time I popped up, the next wave was breaking on me. It was my first two-wave hold down. Pretty scary.
I’ve had tons of wipeouts while surfing, too. The scariest was probably my first fall when I was just learning to surf. It was Thanksgiving morning and the waves were huge. I probably shouldn’t have been out there — it was too big for my skill level. I paddled out for the first wave that came through. I popped up, but lost my balance, which sent me skipping down the face of the wave and my board flying all over the place. I called it a day after that!
What’s your favorite place to shoot?
A surf photographer needs cooperation and trust from surfers when swimming in the lineup, so I try my hardest not to reveal the best local spots. I’ve even given some surfers images I took of them, on the condition they do not reveal the location on their social media. I will say right here on the North Shore is always great. My favorite, and most memorable, spots that I’ve shot were Waimea Bay and Ke’Iki Beach on the North Shore of Oahu in Hawai’i. They’re known for some of the largest, heaviest shorebreak conditions.
What’s the best time of year to shoot wave photos?
The waves in the summer are usually few-and-far-between. But they do have better clarity and color. I shoot really small waves a lot in the summer called “minis.” These can produce really great, glassy images. But for me there is no better time to shoot waves than in late fall and winter. There are more really good swells with decent size this time of year, for me get more excited in bigger waves. The adrenaline kicks in for sure.
What’s next on your surfing bucket list?
I recently watched this surf documentary called Under an Arctic Sky. It was filmed in Iceland, and part of the premise is that cold-water destinations are the final frontier for surf and wave discovery. Empty waves and lineups — and just a little cold! So yeah, probably Iceland — or somewhere like it.
Do you have a favorite photo?
There is a photo I took on Cape Ann that I call “Old Blue Eyes.” The perfect conditions just came together for the shot — from the size of the wave, to the shape the backwash — and the color was perfect. More importantly though, this particular shot was used for a raffle for one of our close friends, and it raised a good amount of money for them. If none of my work ever sells, something like that makes it all worthwhile.
Where do you want to go with all of this?
It makes me really happy just being in the water and shooting waves, so I’m fine with however it turns out. I’d love to build a large catalog of photos that I can leave to my kids. But I would also love to turn this into a full-time business. I do sell prints now and I’ve been thinking about putting together a line of clothing featuring my photos. I have done pocket t-shirts in the past and they came out really cool.
Right now I’m working on an art and music collaborative with the members of Pier Ave. It’s called Making Waves. We’re hoping that we can build on the idea of local artists and musicians coming together for shows and other collaborations, and, ideally, creating a festival with several artists and musicians. But, for me, it’s mainly about being in the water and that peaceful feeling I get out there.
▶︎ Brock Currier shoots year-round. His goal is to share a different perspective on the North Atlantic that takes his audience to a relaxed and peaceful place, just like it does for him. To see more, check out his website or follow him on Instagram @brockcurrierphoto.