Plight of the Torpedo People

SURFER's Chris Burkard teamed with Keith Malloy to explore the history and progression of body surfing

In The Plight of the Torpedo People, SURFER staff photographer Chris Burkard worked with Keith Malloy to explore arguably the purest form of wave riding there is, body surfing. Come Hell or High Water, a film project by Malloy, explores the art of body surfing and the simplistic nature of the sport. In their quest to capture its beauty, Malloy proclaims, "It was a giant learning curve—enlightening to say the least." Burkard accompanied him in his endeavor and captured some amazing photographs, which he combined with frame grabs, personal accounts, and essays to create the book.

It’s a visual journey through the lenses of Burkard and Malloy, a reminder that it is not solely the sport of surfing we love, but the act of riding waves in the ocean itself that we hold onto so dearly. "Rarely have I had the opportunity to photograph something as pure as body surfing," explains Burkard. "It's the most stripped down form of wave riding." The photography displays the natural form of body surfers, unique reefs, and beautiful scenery; shots from inside, underneath, and behind the wave, an insight to an underwater realm we don't often see. Dave Parmenter writes, "we as body surfers might be physically addicted not just to the simple joy of conforming our bare bodies into a curling wave, but more so to the safe, drug-free calmative granted us by evolution when we dive into the sea."

And there wouldn't be the film or the book without the talent. The cast of body surfers includes, but is not limited to, Mike Stewart, Dan and Keith Malloy, Don King, Chris Kalima, and body surfing legend Mark Cunningham traveling through New Zealand, Oahu, Mexico, The Wedge, California, and Tahiti with nothing but a pair of fins and a bathing suit. Malloy and Burkard successfully illustrate the non-necessity of a board in generating the feeling and experience that comes with riding a wave.

Check out the Come Hell and High Water website, where you can buy the book and the film:

A trailer for The Plight of the Torpedo People