Going GoPro

A gnawing need of many surfers is to get a good pic of oneself in action. It’s all very well to share stories of new and past glories (or disasters), but there’s also a yearning to have physical proof that you can do what you claim to do. Over the years I’ve accumulated a few photographs, mostly of me floundering around on the waveski at Point Leo.

Having viewed lots of lovely video footage of surfing taken with a GoPro, I’d been wondering whether I should buy one. On investigation, found them a tad expensive for the amount I’d use it. Maybe borrow one … an opportunity presented itself in the form of my friend and neighbour Liam Ayres (keen and talented photographer) who had an old GoPro 3 that he was willing to lend me.

With great excitement I headed down to Point Leo for a session. Now the GoPro had a waterproof case of course, but not many other accessories. And as it was borrowed, I wasn’t in a position to attach it to my board. There was a head/helmet strap, but I figured it wasn’t going to stay on long once I capsized (a regular occurrence for me). So with some ingenuity, I loosened the strap as much as possible and attached it around my chest. Surprisingly this worked, producing a pretty good viewpoint for filming.

As my eyesight is limited without my reading glasses, I had trouble ascertaining whether the camera was recording or not, so left it on for pretty much all my time out. This meant some pretty extensive and savage editing back at home, although the result is too long at around 11 minutes. At the time I was feeling so pleased with the overall result that I still left too much in. Anyway, judge for yourself – you might last a minute or so.

With this positive experience under my belt, I decided to seek out a second-hand GoPro via Marketplace. There were plenty on offer, attesting to the fact that many are bought with high expectations, then sold due to lack of use. After keeping an eye on models and prices for a while, I spotted a GoPro 3 for sale down the Mornington Peninsula for only $80. A friend staying at Dromana kindly went and picked it up for me, and when received I was very happy with its condition.

I tried it out strapped to my bike helmet looking backwards at my grandson on the tandem bike – worked just fine, though I quickly discovered that the battery was cactus. Replacement was cheap enough, as was a necessary connector cable, so I was ready for the next big test out on the waveski.

The GoPro come with a few sticky attachments, and though they weren’t quite as robust as some surfboard versions, I went ahead with one anyway, as I figured it was less likely to come adrift from a waveski. Placed near the nose, it can be mounted to face either backwards or forwards. For my first attempt I decided on back-facing.

Excitedly, I packed my gear and headed down to Point Leo, an hour’s drive from home. Got into my gear, attached the GoPro to the mount and … Whoops, where’s my paddle? I’d forgotten it. The language was fruity, to say the least, but after a few minutes of fulminating I had the bright idea of checking at Trigger Bros surf shop, just along the road. The young assistant was sympathetic and helpful, but our initial search was not fruitful, finding only SUP paddles, clearly of no use. He then went out the back to the shaping rooms to check with Phil Trigger, and emerged minutes later with a suitable paddle!

Chuffed, I headed back to the action. There wasn’t much swell, but I still managed some footage which ably illustrates that you can get a 45 second wave at Crunchy Point even on a small day.

Now when I said that the paddle was suitable, it was considerably longer than my usual paddle. Those who engage in kayak/canoe/surfski/waveski riding will know how critical this can be. Within a short time of finishing the session, probably of less than 90 minutes duration, I was in considerable pain in my back, hips and legs, the outcome of too much stretching and twisting at my advanced age. This persisted for some days.

Melina down the line

Anyway, a couple of weeks later I ventured forth again to try further enhancements. As my surf buddy Melina (Liam’s sister) was going with me, I decided to do the initial filming with the GoPro pointing forward so that I could hopefully capture her on a wave. I would then turn the camera around and go to a nearby break to film myself.

Fellow surfer – Gandolph?

All seems to go reasonably well. It was tricky sitting wide and inside to video Melina along at Suicides, partly as the rocks are close. Had a couple of attempts then headed out to a break more suited to the waveski. I should add at this point that I’d been turning the camera recording function on and off a few times, not a trivial task as my close vision is not good – I use 2.5 reading glasses. In my defence, the screen on the GoPro 3 is tiny and is on the front face, so when the camera is facing forward you can’t see it at all! So for most of the session I wasn’t sure whether I was recording or not, but I’m an optimist and figured I had a 50:50 chance of getting right.

Is it recording?

Wrong! Checking back at home, I duly discovered that there was practically no satisfactory footage, and that last long fun wave I enjoyed immensely will never be seen again. Rather, I have footage of me staring uncomprehendingly at the lens while I fiddle with the controls, and me paddling around in circles waiting for the swell to rise.

With the name Murphy I shouldn’t have been surprised. God knows what sort of mess I’ll get into when I try it with my surf mat.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *