For every once-in-a-generation talent, there’s a photographer paying uniquely close attention to his or her path. Count our Digital Director Peter Taras as one who has distinct insight into the rise of Kolohe Andino, and has documented Brother from his impressionable days at T-Street to his time as a Top-5 professional talent. Taras has been there for Kolohe’s competitive milestones and through his maturation as a San Clemente golden child who’s still looking for the ideal that American surfing expected him to become. We asked Taras about his earliest memories of watching him surf, his favorite Brother shots, and the stories behind the frames.
What was your first impression of Kolohe as a young kid? As a young surfer?
Steve Sherman has a classic photo of Kolohe on the shoulders of Shane Beschen down at T-Street checking the surf. He must be 5 years old. And that’s just the way it was. He was always there in the parking lot with Red, Cavey, The Beschen clan, whoever. The one thing that was different is that he surfed T-Street a lot as a grom. And that’s so different from how his dad was raised, I think. I could be wrong, but in my mind, Dino was very much a pier guy. His dad would push him into the inside corner section wedge. I don’t remember him even bodyboarding. One day, he was just there, surfing. I mean, 5,6,7 years old, bobbing around in the lineup.
At his top form, what qualities about his surfing rise most easily to the surface in a photo?
Imagine since Day One, you were destined to be world champ. That’s what it was like for Kolohe. He had to deal with hype since he was born. A cat and mouse game of dealing with the push and pull of the ego that is in all of us. When he was younger, sometimes that benefited him and gave him this crazy boost. Sometimes, I think it ate him up. But there was a time period, maybe around 15 or 16, prior to the WQS, when I truly felt like he was on another level. He was doing stalefish 360 airs and his surfing was super fast, loud, and brash. Even the airbrushes on his boards were loud: “Gimme gimme gimme, gimme some more!” Like the stalefish silhouette from Salt Creek in this gallery. That day was a couple feet overhead and he was just out there sending these stalefishes into dry sand. I think he had this vibe that he was a wild child. And maybe he was. But just from a surfing standpoint, I felt like that was when his surfing was super raw for his age. It was nuts to witness.
That crew of Luke Davis, Ian Crane, Tanner Rozunko, Jeremy Carter, and the other San Clemente pack– how has that group shaped Kolohe, and vice-versa?
I think you saw a little bit of everything with that crew. In the beginning, I think it was very much Kolohe and Luke. They both were the next great hopes, but both had completely different styles. Luke has always had this phenomenal spirit of being on the best waves. Plus, he has an incredible style. Kolohe was more a grinder, more methodical, obviously, but never stayed still enough to be on the best waves, nor did he care. I’m not sure how Carter, Crane, and Rozunko came into the fold, but Crane is the crazy one, obviously. And Rozunko is probably the acting father of the group. The mature one. Jeremy is great as a moral compass with his strong religious roots. They’re all so different. In a town that can be pretty white bread, all those guys are definitely characters.
What are the stories behind some of these photos? Which shot was the most memorable for you, and why?
I really like the Northern California shot of Kolohe standing on the rock. That was a trip that he and I did solo. I think this was the last trip we did together before he went off and did the WSQ grind. For me and Kolohe, it was sort of our latest hurrah – the last time we’d get to really take photographs together. And Kolohe was really into photography at this point. He was soaking up everything like a sponge. Music, books, photography. He was still trying to figure himself out as a person.
The office shot was fun. That was at the old Surfing Magazine publisher’s office. Travis Ferre, Chato Aganza, Scott Chenoweth, and I wanted to do a piece around Kolohe with all the contract rumors and allegations. A lot of media companies wanted a piece of Kolohe during this era. I think I shot something for Stab this same month back when Surfing Magazine and Stab were more media partners. It was a fun time for the photographers because Kolohe was building his image, and he was so young and impressionable that everyone wanted to shoot something of him. Do this, wear this, stand on your head, be this, be that, etc. Stab wanted this cool-guy James Dean vibe and I was assigned to shoot it. Looking back, I completely butchered that shoot. So bad. Such a bad look. What should have been this James Dean look came off more like a scene from Grease. They never complained, but I’m sure they thought it was horrible. I definitely do, now looking back [Laughs]. Damn, I’m sorry, Kolohe.
What story have you wanted to tell about Kolohe through your photos that isn’t typically told?
I think a lot of the interesting stories of Kolohe that I personally wanted to tell are probably in the past. I got all the ones I wanted to get. I just think, for having to wear as much pressure as he has, to get to where he is now – being mature, older, and a really great ambassador for surfing and the town of San Clemente – is pretty incredible.