Contact proof: Chris Peel
Photos and words by Chris Peel (as told to Gra Murdoch)
My old boy Shane always had a camera in his hand – photography was always around when I was a grom – so I naturally picked one up, but what lit the flame for me, when I was around 17 or 18, was that I really wanted to go to all the beautiful destinations that I’d seen in surf movies.
I didn’t have the cash nor the surfing ability for people to pay for me to go to these spots, so I kinda put two and two together and figured out that if I went as a photographer, I could get access to these amazing locations and get to experience all the epic stuff on offer, just by having a camera in my hand.
So, really, I started off using the camera as a tool to get to these places, and still kind of do. I’m 29 now so it’s been getting me around for over a decade now.
I guess I came into surf photography pretty much at the same time it was becoming less and less viable as a way of making a living, so like many of us I’ve adapted along the way. Photographing guests surfing up in PNG morphed into becoming a surf guide, surf coach, and dive master. You put the time into an area, as well as study for your qualifications, and it opens up more opportunities, like guiding on super yachts and what have you.
I’ve spent a lot of time in PNG, Sumatra, and all parts of Indonesia, Japan, Taiwan, Canada, Mexico, central America, Panama. COVID’s sure as hell put the brakes on that for now though.
I’d spent a big chunk of time in the South Pacific on a 23-metre vessel, so when COVID hit, it was like, “Hey, I've got all this sea time, time to go back to school.” I spent four months in Tassie at the Australian Maritime College - and hanging out a bit with Stu Gibson and some of the Shippies crew - and got my Master 24 and Marine Engine Driver qualifications, which means I can I can commercially skipper vessels less than 24 metres in Australia.
But it’s really all branched out from photography, and for me it comes back to photography, which I really love, and want to improve on and diversify.
For now I'm just riding out this COVID wave, getting all my qualifications tied up as much as possible. I'm surfing a heap, hanging out in Oz, and trying to expand my photography knowledge as much as possible, and find new angles of interest in it.
If you’re up that way, Chris is hosting a photo night at the Noosa Festival of Surfing, Thursday 20th May: exhibition, Q&A, beers etc. Introduce yourself to this top fella and say Swellnet sent ya!