Shooting Nazare from the water with Tim Bonython

Stu Nettle
Talking Heads

Tim Bonython isn't the first person to say Nazare can only truly be appreciated with live viewing. That the scale and danger of the wave is lost in the land angle. He is, however, one of the first to try and correct this shortcoming.

This season, by hitching a ride on the back of a PWC, Tim's been documenting big Nazare from up close. His hope is to capture the gravity of these waves so viewers at home can appreciate them the same way he does.

Riding pillion among a chaotic, oversized lineup isn't without its dangers, as Tim acknowledges in this interview.

He also gives the wozzle an unsolicited yet warranted spray...

The land angle at Nazare has been exhausted and drone shots flatten the waves, how long had you been thinking about shooting from the water?
From the moment I saw what it looked like to shoot that water angle - like three years ago. It's been playing on my mind since then.

When I first saw shots of the place on the internet, like everyone else I thought it was a big fat burger, until you actually see it front on. You lose yourself in the power and that it's so close to you. You seriously don't get to appreciate the wave until you see it live. It's truly the eighth wonder of the world.

And, god, Nazare’s history is just starting! Really, it's only been on the radar since the time we watched monstrous Nazare live when Maya almost died. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. 

Then there’s everything else, the village, the people, the food. I haven’t met a person that didnt fall in love with this place.

You've been riding around 40-50ft waves with a $100K camera on your shoulder. How are the nerves when you're out there?
Like anything that comes with a worst case scenario, I think about it when I shouldn’t be. Like when I go to sleep...or during my sleep. Then I wake up and start to think about it and that makes it almost annoying.

Fact is, it's simply fucking scary. But once I'm out there my nerves turn into excitement so I'm actually OK once we settle in.

Chumbo, up the beach without a channel

If something unexpected were to happen, your ski stops for whatever reason or the shit really hits the fan, are you ready for it? 
I doubt it...

How long can you hold your breathe underwater?
When I was young it was about how many laps underwater you can do holding your breath. But really, it's about how relaxed you should be when that time happens. Panic is the killer and they dont teach you a lot about how to deal with panic.

So what preparations did you have to make before that first shoot?
Not much, I mean really, I should be doing all those breath-hold excercises, which I have done with Nam Baldwin at Equalize. But I dont think any real training is going to prepare you for the worst case scenario. I believe the more you enjoy the experience out there the better you’ll be when the shit hits the fan.

I heard something about a "forgotten life vest", please explain?
The first time filming in the line up, I sat in a boat hoping that I would get the opportunity. I reached out to Sergio Cosme but then Will Skudin came across and offered me to jump on to give it a go. Will said that he’s done this before with other camera people and knew the situation so I jumped on his ski. I was already in my wettie and my camera in its housing but I made the silly mistake of not throwing on my life vest.

So there’s me shooting 40 foot waves with no life vest until at the end of the session Hugo Vau came up and said, "Mate, you're risking your life out here without your vest on". Which I totally agreed with, and as it was close to sunset I was happy to call it a day.

But fuck, upon returning to the marina I was frothing that I achieved something I wanted to do so bad.

Whip in shot from close range during the first session

Last Sunday came in a bit undersized. What if it was a legit 70-80ft, would you still go out and shoot from the water?
Yes. The general consensus is, the bigger the period the better, because there's space to drive around with a big period. So with a monster swell I think it's safer.

On that swell, which ended up been too west for the canyon to do its thing, we drove up the beach where the waves were clean, dead offshore, but straight and not A-framing, so when a 30 footer came there wasn’t a lot of space to race between. My driver was Kalani Lattanzi, who is one of the best watermen I’ve met. He really knows the ocean. He actually bodysurfs for a living, and he bodysurfs Nazare, so his ocean knowledge at this place is as good as it gets.

I was working with Carlos Burle and Lucas Chumbo and had Kalani designated to drive me.

Talk me through preparations.
Prepping takes a bit of communication about what I'm trying to achieve out there. And of course you need good floatation, ideally a Patagonia floatation vest, and we also go through a plan of action if something happens.

Really, all you want to hear is ‘’you'll be fine and nothing bad will happen’’. You really need to trust your driver and the ski you're on. The ski we had then was a 300 horsepowered Seadoo, which is like an aqua Formula 1 SUV. It's super stable and as powerful as they get. So that made me feel at ease. 

But if we're caught inside then the deal is take me to the beach. My camera and water housing weighs twelve kilos so there’s no way we're doing U-turns into twelve foot walls of whitewater. It's incredibly intense.

Have you jagged any clips worthy of putting in your next film?
Absolutely. When Garrett was towing Lucas and he focused on First Peak which breaks right in front of the rocks, literally 40-50 metres in front of death. If Lucas came off there it would of been a good chance that he would end up on the rocks.

Chumbo's swooping bottom turn at First Peak

You've parked up at Nazare for the season. How's the feeling in town? Lot of excitement after those last two swells?
Yeah, I suppose it's early in the season and theres a lot of froth going on. I think the way the WSL like to work is to run Nazare first [on the Big Wave Tour] when their infrastructure from the Rip Curl Pro is just down the road. They launch the BWT here so they like to keep that momentum happening.

Last words..?
I actually dont like the WSL much. They reckon they own the ocean as they hate seeing other peoples' vision of their events. They actually want to charge me for using my footage in my own film! But fuck them, I’ve been around a lot longer than they have. The law says it's a public place so you can do want you want when it comes to shooting surfing outside of a wavepool.

I feel super bummed that I missed Peahi. That's what the WSL does. They put a barrier up, and really, I couldn’t be bothered dealing with sneaking in and trying to shoot it, but when I saw the vision I was so pissed off. So friggen historic! And I've documented some historic days there.

I had a buddy who decided to try sneak in, which he did. Got a ski and driver and scored big time.

Finally, we're working on our next tour of the Australian Surf Movie Festival scheduled for April and May. Stay tuned for the tour details.

You can purchase Tim's film 'The Big Wave Project' at his website


Blowin's picture
Blowin's picture
Blowin commented Wednesday, 28 Nov 2018 at 1:09pm

Thanks Tim, for putting your life on the line in order to chase such great shots for us plebs to enjoy. You’re right , the view from the shore is a bit old and a bit abstract. It’s hard to get a proper appreciation of the joint without seeing the profile of the curl.

And I fully agree....Fuck the WSL.

No one owns the ocean. Especially not a non surfing Seppo businessman.

freeride76's picture
freeride76's picture
freeride76 commented Wednesday, 28 Nov 2018 at 1:55pm

I'd love to see the wozzle get their arse kicked in court trying to enforce intellectual property rights at a public beach.

truebluebasher's picture
truebluebasher's picture
truebluebasher commented Wednesday, 28 Nov 2018 at 2:08pm

Big Thanks to Tim & Kalani for keeping it real & sharing with swellnet.
I gotta ask if Kalani swims out with Topless Tim for Nazare 'Bodybash' sessions?

I'll say it again Tim... best photos ever! We're so fortunate you're on Team swellnet.
Harks back to 70's groundbreaking big wave photographers.

I've also noticed Big wave surfing is a prioritized elite sport for the wealthy.
None are surprised that WSL put a Toll Gate on each Wild Kingdom.
WSL Weather Godz! Surfs Up - Tickets Please!

[factcheck] WSL can/do override Worldwide common law as do most World Tour Events.
WSL run independent Safety/Security/Transit/Copyright in any or all W.H./ WSR/ Nat Parks.
WSL events draw 10,000's at height of weather events. Lifeguards signal [BEACH CLOSED]
Placing max spectators in harms way is their bread & butter...No govt can/will warn them!

Note: Red Bull ban all spectators from Cape Fear events. (Power mad to extreme level!)
Maybe Tim's rebel snaps might earn him a wild card to the Red Bull Soiree!

Never grow tired of swellnet engaging the best...Take a bow team!

derra83's picture
derra83's picture
derra83 commented Wednesday, 28 Nov 2018 at 2:10pm

Love it Tim! Fresh angles and no pushover.

velocityjohnno's picture
velocityjohnno's picture
velocityjohnno commented Wednesday, 28 Nov 2018 at 7:33pm

That first shot of Lucas is absolutely stupendous; the wall on the thing looks otherworldly. The biggest wave I ever caught was a left wall that looked like that but was only triple head.

Garryh's picture
Garryh's picture
Garryh commented Wednesday, 28 Nov 2018 at 8:20pm

Wait what....did I read that Kalani bodysurfs Nazare? As a teenager would say "OMG"


stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet commented Wednesday, 28 Nov 2018 at 8:29pm

Here's an example. Check the speed at 0:52.

redmondo's picture
redmondo's picture
redmondo commented Wednesday, 28 Nov 2018 at 9:30pm

The agenda claim exclusive ownership of all world class waves. Clearly on the radar is the Pilbara coast. Great photo of little stick man on that mountain of water!!

Red Clement

truebluebasher's picture
truebluebasher's picture
truebluebasher commented Wednesday, 28 Nov 2018 at 10:29pm

2018 Masters of the Temple Oct 16 -Dec 2
(Nazare Bodysurfing Comp) + bodyboard demo
3 day wait period.(18 contestants) 3 heats of 6 (Twice) best 6 advance to final.
4 openings via expression session public facebook vote >> in 3 day comp window?
No mention of fins or fin size limit !
Sponsor's Handplanes are optional
No mention of Jetski support!

Media coverage via Facebook /Inertia cams/Sport TV

Note: Bodybasherz are fighting for a fair go the same as Boardriders fend off Towies
Masters of the Temple need 2 fins + handplane, that's 3 x more surfcraft than boardriders?
Goes without saying stacks will view this as Biggest Bodysurfing sellout by their own wand.

Excepting disabled surfers! bodybasherz won't accept Master dish-washers as bodysurfers. Universal law dictates Master of the Temple must conjure up his own tricks or step down.

I'll throw to the link but you most likely need to translate the comp site.

truebluebasher's picture
truebluebasher's picture
truebluebasher commented Sunday, 2 Dec 2018 at 8:03am

Masters of The Temple (Body Surfing Comp)
Waiting Period extended to...17th January 2019
Bizarre reason for the delay being a lack of fins by a main Sponsor DMC

Only yesterday GC bodybasherz refused to accept Nazare handplane allowance.
Who tells them that their 'Masters' holy event is delayed by a lack of webbed sandals.
Enough of the hipster shopping carts...(No cheats is the cry!) bodysurfjustsurf

truebluebasher's picture
truebluebasher's picture
truebluebasher commented Saturday, 19 Jan 2019 at 9:08pm

Master of The Temple (Bodysurf Comp)
The facebook 4 faceoff seems to have been sorted in first week of December.
Now for the I7th of Jan 2019 (Results.....?) Let's not get ahead of ourselves!

(AHUH) Lead Sponsors...
'Due to continuous lack of of conditions we have extended the waiting period'.
They want to bring everyone the best event!
21st April 2019 is the new cut off date.
Contest now enters into it's third waiting period.

The link above still operates fine even thru- delays.

truebluebasher's picture
truebluebasher's picture
truebluebasher commented Wednesday, 3 Apr 2019 at 8:38am

Masters of The Temple (was held 28th / March / 2019)

Masters of the Temple (Round 1)

Masters of the Temple (Round 2 > Final)

M of the T 'timed highlights cue' + winners via > Pipeline Classic swellnet site link...