Welcome to "Liquid Portraits," a series that features photos of iconic surf breaks captured by the photographers who know them best. We ask every photographer in this series to showcase their most widely-recognized images and to dig out the unseen gems that reveal their special bond with that specific break or surf zone.
For years, California’s central coast was not only former photo editor of Surfing Magazine, Transworld Surf and current digital director of SURFER Magazine Peter Taras’ getaway, but also his photographic muse. For this installment of “Liquid Portraits,” Taras has curated some of his favorite photos of the incredibly photogenic surf zone at its absolute finest. From monumental swells to sessions skunked by fog and sharks, Taras, as you’ll see below, has documented surfing in the region both in and out of the water beautifully.
“I spent most of my 20s going to the Central California coast,” Taras said. “I was bored with San Clemente life, I had just moved to Encinitas and didn’t really know anyone. A lot of my friends were professional surfers that lived in Central California. Rather than hanging around Encinitas, I would frequently make the trek North because that's where my friends were. Those were the heydays of print and I had budget to travel and to expense food and gas. Mostly everything was on the company dime so I kind of took advantage of that to really travel around California.”
Enjoy Taras’ work below and stay tuned for the next "Liquid Portraits."
“In 2013 there was hardly any wind for the months of January and February and we were getting a ton of long period swells,” says Taras. “Central California reaped the benefits by getting a lot more glassy days than normal. A wave like this at that spot is a rarity that can only be attributed to the combination of really good conditions.”
“More or less a closeout, this wave is kind of famous for Dave Nelson's fish eye photos,” says Taras. “A lot of closed-out Central California beachbreaks have beautiful light in the morning that's ideal for surf photography. Here's Nat Young chasing a rare make-able left at the spot.”
“This section of Andrew Molera State Park, as everyone knows, is a private break and several surfers have been arrested for surfing here,” says Taras. “If this beach ever opens up it will definitely be one of the most prized beachbreaks in California.”
“That left is bigger than it looks,” says Taras. “Tanner and Dane Gudauskas are checking a really sharky beachbreak south of San Francisco. There have been several shark attacks here, including one that was fatal. The sharkiness was enough to make the boys keep searching for other waves to surf this day.”
“Griffin Colapinto, Oliver Kurtz and Waggy stroll the beach during just another day on the Central Coast,” says Taras. “Sometimes you get fogged out, and on this day the fog got so thick that we weren't able to surf, which was a bummer because the waves were really good.”
“A lot of people that live in Southern California suburbs tend to make the trek North not only for the surf but for the nature and the beauty of the central coast as well,” says Taras. “Here's Tanner Gudauskas lost in the middle of it all.”
“This day was just magical, one of the best days I've seen at Rincon,” says Taras. “The surf was really good just down the beach too. Yadin Nicol decided to escape the crowd and surf down there. The sunlight in the evening made for a beautiful setting.”
“This is Devil's Slide during that huge El Niño swell a couple years ago,” says Taras. “The buoys were reading around 15 feet at 20 seconds, which is something that's just astronomically ridiculous both in wave height and period. This was the same day that Ocean Beach, San Francisco had one of the best days ever. As good as Ocean Beach was, I wanted to see what else was breaking because I had never seen swell period and height combined like that and I knew it was a rare opportunity for me to check out zones that don't get waves that often. This wave at Devil's Slide was an absolute rarity. Unfortunately it's shot so tight, but this left ended up rattling off for another 200 yards down three bays. It was absolutely incredible and there was no way to get to it.”
“In the winter of 2011 there was that really rare high pressure system that lingered over Central California with zero wind,” says Taras. “It made for some glassy novelty waves at places that are usually blown out.”
“Nat Young is paddling out solo in the left-hand corner,” says Taras. “There was wind all day long until right at evening time when it glassed off beautifully and the tide got just right. Nat ended up surfing this peak all to himself for about two hours, well after the sun went down.”
“During that same famous Ocean Beach, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day swell, like I said, I wanted to venture out and see what other potential waves existed,” says Taras. “Unfortunately, Pacifica Pier, and everywhere else around it, was just bombing closeouts. Yet it still made for beautiful scenery. That’s Daly City in the foreground.”
“I just happened to be driving by this Central California slab when I saw Kyle Boothman and Nat Young surfing it,” says Taras. “So I pulled over and shot this little corner peak that went through unridden. I ended up getting the worse poison oak ever while shooting this photo from sitting in the grass, you can even see it in the foreground. My legs were covered in the stuff and I had a reaction for about two and half months afterwards.”
“When shooting photos, I was always a fan of trying to establish more environmental-looking surf action shots with beautiful scenery,” says Taras. “So I shot this photo of Griffin Colapinto a little more pulled back against a Central California backdrop. This was one of Griffin's first road trips with older surfers and he was exposed to late-night stories and all kinds of shenanigans. I think his jaw was probably on the floor for half the trip.”
“As fun as some Central California sessions can be, the walk back to the car is sometimes just as beautiful,” says Taras. “This is Waggy and a local surfer from Bonny Doon after a surf.”
“I'm pretty sure this is shaper Ryan Lovelace,” says Taras. “Photographer Morgan Maassen is a good friend and he and I actually shot a lot of identical photos at the same exact shutter speed at Rincon this day. I think we were probably looking at each other like, ‘Well a-ha! I'm going to shoot this at a half second shutter and get some really cool speed blurs.’ As creative as I thought I was being, Morgan did the exact same thing which was pretty funny. So I turned around and snapped this photo of Lovelace heading back up the point at Rincon.”
“Here is Waggy pulling into a semi-closeout,” says Taras. “This spot is especially eerie to swim in because it's known for shark research.”
“Robin Caddell is a San Francisco native who was born and raised in the city,” says Taras. “He's such a different being, an incredible artist who's very hard to track down. I was able to convince him to come with me on a little surf adventure for an afternoon and here he is setting up for a really good wave.”
For Taras’ “Liquid Portraits” featuring work from his 20 years of shooting Blacks Beach, click here.