Behind The Shot: Toby Manson
Earlier this month, while the Margaret River Pro was churning through the Men's Quarter Finals and all cameras were trained on Mainbreak, the little reef across the bay was doing its thing. During the morning session drones flew overhead, jet skis buzzed the lineup, and every set wave was patronised.
Meanwhile, photographer Toby Manson missed all of it.
He could only get to the coast about lunch, just as many of the surfers were calling curtains on the session. Unperturbed, Toby walked all the way into the comp site - no parking privilges - and then around to The Box. It was here that bad timing turned worse, as Toby explains:
"I got to the Box carpark and realised I'd forgotten my flippers, and it's a thirty minute walk back to the van, each way. Spewing!"
"I asked around in the carpark to see if anyone who was coming in would let me borrow their fins. After a few people said no I was starting to give up hope, when I met a guy with dreadlocks called William who owned the Acai stall at the event. He said I could borrow his flippers if I returned them to the Acai stall after I had finished shooting. What a legend!"
"Halfway out to the break I started wondering why I'm doing this? I’m too late to the party, everyone is heading in, and dark clouds are engulfing the pristine sunny blue morning."
"I almost gave up after thirty minutes trying to get out. The rip was pretty bad and I couldn’t see anybody out there anymore - both jet skis gone. Again I started questioning myself: Am I just paddling out into shark-infested water on my own like a complete idiot?"
"Finally I made it out past the whitewash over the back of the ledge drop off. This is the part of the swim which bothers me the most. Another five minutes or so of paddling over deep water and I'm in the lineup. Thankfully there are three guys out so at least I'm not alone."
"Then, after ten minutes of shooting, Nathan Florence paddles out. 'Yes', I say to myself 'how’s that for timing?'"
"I can see that Nathan is super hungry for it, like he's trying to feel the place out."
On his first wave, however, Nathan paddles into it from right on the peak rather than behind it. Toby captures the entry and the aftermath.
"That first wave was a pretty bad wipeout," Toby continues, "but when he surfaced he seemed completely unfazed by it. Straight back out there."
"Then on the next wave he shoved double mittens in the oven. A better result but still a bit of room to be deeper, hence the hand-drag stalling. As the session progressed he adapted to the wave and by the end he was taking off super deep, behind the peak, going the slab waves I thought only bodyboarders were able to scoop into." (Keep an eye out for some of those in future Wave Of The Day images).
"Then after a little while I see a bit of a crew paddling out. Firstly, Kim Feast joins me in the lineup, who I’ve met quite a few times now as he is a regular at the cafe I work at. He paddles over to me with a huge grin and says Kelly is paddling out."
"The tide is dropping, there's six foot-plus sets, as big as Box really holds, and Kelly was toying with it. Kelly and Nathan were just going anything with reckless ease, it didn't seem calculated at all, like they were just having fun and pushing each other to go deeper."
"After a while Kelly snapped a board and we all went in at the same time. I walked back to the comp to return the fins to William at the Acai stall and get to the spectator area just in time for the final between Jack and John John."