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.
This edition features award-winning photographer Todd Glaser’s images of Seaside Reef in Encinitas, California. Seaside is not Glaser’s photographic muse, it’s his surf spot. His priority at Seaside is riding waves with his friends, and the beautiful images that he’s made below have come secondary to his surfing there—an ethos that has inadvertently led to a motif in this body of work.
“All the lighting in this series is pretty similar because I only shoot Seaside during the first and last hour of daylight,” says Glaser. “When I'm traveling a bunch and then shooting all day while at home, there’s hardly any time for me to surf, so that’s why I set up that personal rule. Which kind of explains why a lot of these are at sunset—it's because they're taken after I've been surfing all day. I never see surf photography as being stuck behind the lens—I love making images—but I love to surf too, so it's nice to find that balance.”
“This isn't a true portrait of Seaside, it's more of a collection of snapshots over the years of when I'd pick up a camera after feeling surfed out and inspired. It's neat to think about the first time a surfed seaside and then to see some of these photos now.
“I've been surfing Seaside since I was ten and it really is a second home to me in a lot of ways. I've got a lot of good friends who surf out there, it would be rad to have photos of all of them but we just kind of end up sharing the water together.”
Enjoy Glaser’s work below and stay tuned for the next “Liquid Portraits.”
“Here is an overview of the outside reef at Seaside,” says Glaser. “Inside the barrel on the left is Matthew Macauley. This photo is special to me because the waves were really good that day and after I got a couple of photos, I put the camera down and joined Matt for a surf.”
“It’s cool to see each surfer’s approach to Seaside. Derek Disney was out at the reef on one of his self-shaped fish. He got really close to me as he laid it on rail. It’s kind of rare to see the tail of a surfer’s board when they’re doing a turn. Seeing the way the water is coming off the outside keel fin and inner rail almost kind of make this a tight detail shot.”
“I think this is one of my favorite photos that I’ve ever shot at Seaside. I just love the pastel colors and it shows how many different looks a single spot can have. I was changing after surfing and the whole sky lit up. I had my camera in the car so I grabbed it and shot a couple of frozen images of the waves then decided to pan. Sometimes it’s about being in the right place at the right time more than anything, which is how I got this shot.”
“I loaded up a roll of really high speed black-and-white film and used a high-contrast filter over my lens this day. I was shooting with Taylor Clark and he did this big fin-out turn. Usually when I’m shooting film at Seaside I’ll only shoot one frame per wave—It’s more practice than anything. If I haven’t been on a trip in a while, I’ll want to make sure I still know how to make a photo. I’ll swim out and shoot a roll of film to re-teach my brain how to time the right moment.”
“Sometimes in situations when there’s going the be a pretty sunset and the waves look fun, I’ll pull my camera out for an hour just see to what happens. This is David Suhadolnik and he’s always out at Seaside riding anything from high-performance shortboards to fish.”
“A lot of images start to look similar after shooting the same spot frequently, so this particular morning I thought it would be cool to shoot with a fisheye lens and a flash. Seaside has three different breaks, the inside left is called Palisades, then there’s the outside reef, and on the inside to the north end is a wave called Parking Lots. Parking Lots is predominately a right, but sometimes it has a left like the one Rob Machado is on here. This was the last image I was able to shoot before the sun got too high, then I put the camera away and went surfing.”
“Typically Seaside is more of a shortboard wave than a longboard wave. About two years ago, there was a sandbar at that made really fun lefts at high tide. The waves were about knee-to-waist high and Joel Tudor paddled out on his longboard. I had already packed up all my camera gear for a trip I was leaving that night when Joel called me saying, “It’s perfect!” So I came down with a medium format camera with film already loaded in it—it was the only camera that wasn’t packed. I’m inspired by the art of local Wade Koniakowsky and his use of the rule of thirds and negative space, so I tried to make an image that was an homage to him.”
“This is Rusty and Ronnie and these guys have been surfing Seaside forever. They’re the most surf-stoked people I’ve ever met. They’ll ride anything from these home-made belly boards to chopped-tail small-wave boards to more traditional shortboards. This day was super small and it was freezing but they were out on belly boards and getting these little barrels.”
“Back in 2009, SURFER let me borrow their 600mm lens. I got down to Seaside’s parking lot and Ryan Burch was there. I showed him the lens and suggested we shoot some photos. He asked me what he should ride. I had a 5’3″ Rich Pavel keel-fish in my car and said, ‘It looks fun for a fish, you should ride this.’ I took this speed blur of him high-lining and it ended up as a SURFER magazine cover shot.”
“A big part of Seaside is the people that hang out in the parking lot. It’s almost like a second home. This is Rob Machado and Ryan Burch probably talking about board design. Rob had just shaped this 7’3″ single fin. That’s what’s so cool about Seaside: you can go down there and there are people from so many walks of life and different generations. You can go there and borrow a board from a friend, hang out and have a cup of coffee with the lot lizards.”
“One of the things I love about Seaside is that there are a lot of different looks you can get in a pretty small space. This is Pat Millin on one of the rare days when it gets really hollow.”
“As a goofyfoot, maybe subconsciously I’m always leaning toward the lefts, but this is Jake Marshall on a right. Typically the goofyfoots will stick to the lefts and the regular foots always stick to the rights. It's a weird thing, but we all just pick our spot accordingly at Seaside.”
“I was having a picnic with my wife one day and brought my camera down and took this picture from the parking lot. Each surfer has their own little spot where they like to sit out there. Seaside’s inside section is good for high-performance surfing and the outside section tends to be a bit mushier. Taylor Clark loves hanging on the inside to do big airs.”
“Afternoon low tide combined with calm winds can make for really fun waves out at the reef, it looks like a west swell here. Ryan Burch is probably testing out one of his new boards he shaped.”
“Every grom or parent can relate to this moment. I’m assuming the kids went to the beach right after school and the parent is at the water’s edge trying to get them to come in for dinner. One of the kids came in and the other one hasn’t yet. Low tide is in the afternoon during the winter at Seaside, so can you get these really cool sunset reflections.”
“This image is the from the first time I ever shot surfing. I had grown up bodyboarding and had taken photos of my bodyboarder friends, but not a surfer until this day. During the 2003 wildfires, a friend of mine suggested we go down to the beach and try to get some photos during the Santa Anas. I was a junior in high school and had a film camera setup. This photo was shot at 9 in the morning, but because of the smoke from the fires it looked like it was still sunrise. I sent it to to Billabong because Gavin Sutherland was a team rider at the time and they ended using it as a two-page ad. Because I was only 16 I didn't really know how to properly store my photos and I ended up losing it. All I have is this low-res scan. This photo kind of kickstarted my career in documenting surfing.”
For the previous “Liquid Portraits” featuring the Blacks Beach through the lens of Peter Taras, click here