Tahitian big wave rider Raimana VanBastoeler at Teahupoo.
Tahitian big wave rider Raimana VanBastoeler at Teahupoo. Shelli Bankier

Photographer braves big waves

TEAHUPOO at 20ft can send chills down the spine of some of the most battle-hardened players in the male-dominated surf photography world.

But Gold Coast girl Shelli Bankier is making her mark, braving the dangerous conditions of the notorious Tahiti reef break to grab frames of heaving barrels.

Bankier is the lone female photographer to be featured at Currumbin's Surf World Gold Coast museum on Saturday night, and has kindly allowed the Daily News to publish this massive tube ride of fearless Tahitian big wave rider Raimana VanBastoeler at Teahupoo.

Shelli took this epic photo from a boat in the channel in 2004 when the waves were in the 20-25ft range.

“It was one of the most exhilarating experiences I've ever had sitting in the boat watching a 25ft coming towards me!” she said.

Shelli is no stranger to danger, having experienced jumping out of planes to go sky surfing, but being so close to the action at Chopes tops them all. “ I was sorta scared standing up in the boat concentrating on taking the photo,” explained Shelli.

“I was shaking with a mixture of fear and excitement and focusing on Raimana in this 20ft tunnel!

It was an incredible feeling being right on the edge of the reef with the roar of the grinding reef wave and then having to cover the camera from the plume of offshore wind coming off the back of the wave!”

Surfing photographers like Shelli are really the unsung heroes of the surfing industry. They are mostly crazy, eccentric, highly-talented individuals, who will stand out in the sun for hours on end in a bid to capture ‘that shot'.

Their dedication to the art of capturing the action is second to none, and without their input the history of surfing would not be the same.

It only makes sense that Surf World will showcase the surfing images of some of the most creative and arguably the best surfing photographers from our area, with a slideshow tomorrow night, billed as Images of Surfing – Photographers night 2011.

Peter “Joli” Wilson, Andrew Shield, Ted Grambeau, Trent Mitchell and Shelli Bankier have contributed many of their iconic photos for your viewing pleasure, and apart from Shieldsy, who has had to take off on a Fijian mission in the past 24 hours, the other four will be there on the night to field questions.

Both Joli and Ted have been taking surfing photos for more than 30 years and are the most experienced and well travelled in the world.

Their journeys scouting the surfing planet would fill many books and their images have adorned all the major surfing publications.

Shield has followed in their wake and in the past 20 years, has established himself as one of the most prominent surfing photographers.

Shieldsy scored award-winning photos last year on a last-minute trip to Fiji and Cloudbreak at Tavarua, which featured Gold Coast surf tour operator David Scard in an absolute monster of a wave, nominated in the Billabong XXL awards.

Trent Mitchell is the youngest of the group of photographers, yet has received world-wide recognition for his photos.

One that comes to mind is the black and white water photo taken by Trent during the 2009 Australia Day Paddle Out at Kirra.

The Surf World Photographers night will kick off from 6pm. It is $20 for adults or $5 for students, which includes a complimentary drink and BBQ meal.

Tomorrow week, SW will host a pioneer's night with legendary board builders Joe Larkin, Scott Dillon and Bill Wallace.