Behind The Shot: Toby Manson

Stu Nettle picture
Stu Nettle (stunet)
Swellnet Dispatch

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."

Comments

zenagain's picture
zenagain's picture
zenagain Monday, 23 May 2022 at 4:31pm

Cool story.

Hope you bought an Acai bowl in return.

toby.manson's picture
toby.manson's picture
toby.manson Monday, 23 May 2022 at 9:24pm

Bought him a coffee ;)

cj_wilson_indo's picture
cj_wilson_indo's picture
cj_wilson_indo Monday, 23 May 2022 at 5:13pm

Stoked to see/hear Tobes is still shooting! Been following his stuff for about a decade now, when we were both groms.

toby.manson's picture
toby.manson's picture
toby.manson Saturday, 28 May 2022 at 5:26pm

So nice to read this, man

cj_wilson_indo's picture
cj_wilson_indo's picture
cj_wilson_indo Saturday, 28 May 2022 at 7:30pm

Hope you're well mate!

toby.manson's picture
toby.manson's picture
toby.manson Saturday, 4 Jun 2022 at 3:51pm

You too! How can I get in touch? Cheers

cj_wilson_indo's picture
cj_wilson_indo's picture
cj_wilson_indo Saturday, 4 Jun 2022 at 4:56pm

I think I'm following you on IG mate! Should be under 'djtommycj' or something

Standingleft's picture
Standingleft's picture
Standingleft Monday, 23 May 2022 at 6:42pm

Looks like Huey rattled Nathan's cage, welcome to the Box Nato.
Great looking walls.

aussieguy's picture
aussieguy's picture
aussieguy Tuesday, 24 May 2022 at 10:26am

Welcome indeed. Nat charges Pipe pretty hard so I'm thinking he can manage a hold down at the Box. I'm watching from the safety of my laptop.

Lougher's picture
Lougher's picture
Lougher Tuesday, 24 May 2022 at 11:02am

That's an epic story , hopefully ya cash in on some of the shots, can't wait to see em! Yee

calk's picture
calk's picture
calk Tuesday, 24 May 2022 at 12:35pm

Sick write-up!

Despite having no experience or particular interest in surf (or any other form of) photography, I've really enjoyed the stories on here about those behind the camera.

"Dark clouds are engulfing the pristine sunny blue morning... 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."

Very well put and made me have that 'gut feel' you only get in deep, dark water. I would've spun around straight away. You've got balls Toby!

warddy's picture
warddy's picture
warddy Tuesday, 24 May 2022 at 2:20pm

Great commitment…
Definitely hard core, bobbing around in the depths …
Why didn’t they hold the comp there that day but I reckon it’s pretty obvious …

matt.evans's picture
matt.evans's picture
matt.evans Wednesday, 25 May 2022 at 2:33am

IIRC, pretty sure they had to run heats for 8 hours straight, and the tides at the box wouldn't allow that.

billie's picture
billie's picture
billie Tuesday, 24 May 2022 at 4:59pm

One of those days!!! I have a couple like that in the memory banks.

matt.evans's picture
matt.evans's picture
matt.evans Wednesday, 25 May 2022 at 2:31am

Nice write up. Not a photog (or ballsy enough to surf slabs like that) but love the regular person perspective on this stuff. Keep it up!

LeoRoberts's picture
LeoRoberts's picture
LeoRoberts Wednesday, 25 May 2022 at 8:39am

Gold !!!!!