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I've always been skeptical about the pedestrian use of GoPro cameras. I'm not a professional surfer, or anywhere near that caliber, and I don't need video evidence to be certain of this. With that said, I figured I could embrace my inner narcissist and see what the appeal is for these seemingly ubiquitous moving-picture makers.
The first hurdle on the track to filmmaking greatness was that the camera doesn't come with an SD card. Maybe that's common with cameras, but it was a bit of a buzz-kill for me. Luckily our Social Media Editor, Aaron Carrera, keeps one in his nether regions at all times and lent me a few gigs. I've never been one for instruction manuals, so I just started pushing buttons until I was able to determine how to turn it on/off, and shuffle through the various modes, such as photo, video, and sequence. The interface is very intuitive, and took our combined brainpower about 45 seconds to figure out.
After accidentally taking several photos of my own perplexed mug, I successfully got it into video mode and headed out at for a surf at Oceanside. I had switched the back of the housing for one with an attached orange buoy to keep it afloat should the worst happen (this backing, and other useful water-specific tidbits only come with the surf version, so try not to accidentally get one of the other two.) The inclusion of the buoy and its fluorescence make it easy to spot if you lose it, and it adds little weight to the overall package.
I mounted the GoPro on the nose of my board facing out. Regardless of talent, I believe that no one should mount these cameras facing them. The faux-pumps and bodily spasms simply look ridiculous from that perspective. The footage from Oceanside looked cool, but without barreling waves it comes out a little anticlimactic. After a few waves, I figured it would be more interesting to shoot while holding the camera, so I paddled around with it in my teeth, doing a little juggling once I got to my feet and hitting record. It was pretty cool, but an hour of that left my jaw kind of sore and I would recommend getting a wrist mount to avoid dental hardship.
The next time I used my GoPro, I didn't surf, but rather stalked my friend through the water to get some clips. This is probably the real reason that I would recommend getting a GoPro, as it was a lot of fun and the video quality is amazing (at 1080p, the def is just so damn high.) The real challenge here is figuring out how to line up with your subject, which is more dependent on you than your equipment, and thus neither here nor there. Uploading and editing is very simple if you've done it before with other cameras, and if not, I'm sure it's in that instruction booklet somewhere. It will take you a quite a few sessions to get enough moments for a proper clip, but the potential to make something amazing is certainly there.
Below is the GoPro test video that came from three sessions filmed over the course of three days. All goofyfooted surfing by Adam Perez. WARNING: This video contains mediocre waves and editing, viewer discretion is advised.