Shooting Fisheye At Teahupo’o With Brent Bielmann

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All Photos: Brent Bielmann unless otherwise noted

Some crazy people are mean. They yell and they scream and they throw feral cats at other people. I even heard of one crazy person running for president of the United States and platforming his campaign by painting an entire nationality of people as rapists. Brent Bielmann is crazy, but in a very nice way. He channels his insanity to put himself in places where only psychosis will take you. Like, the bowl at Teahupoo. With a fisheye lens. His efforts produced some of the most amazing images we've ever seen. Admire them above, then read his story and see a few clips below.

I absolutely love swimming at Teahupo’o. The wave is so mechanical and it produces such amazing imagery. I feel like you can shoot almost any angle there and it will always look amazing.

My last trip there was the biggest Teahupo’o I’ve ever swam. It was tow-size, but a few of the boys sat on the inside trying to paddle a few glory kegs. There’s a full pecking order out there amongst the boatmen — the better, more experienced locals are always at the front. And the drivers are crazy! They literally are putting the boats a stones throw away from some of the heaviest waves in the world. But the last few swells, it seems like it’s been getting more and more hectic with positioning for the boats. If you don't have one of the top three drivers, you’re probably going to be behind everyone and 80% of your shots are getting blocked. That was my situation that day, so I decided to shoot water.

I prefer to shoot with a 50mm lens out there. But the boats were jockeying so hard that day and I felt like I was in danger of getting run over. I got blocked on a few shots and I was kind of freaking out, so I figured I’d try to swim fisheye and get a different angle.

The first tow wave that came through was one of Mattahi Drollet’s waves. I shot it as he came past me and it spat its guts out. The next big one was one of Tika Nui Smith’s waves and that wave seemed way bigger to me. It felt like one of those big ones that bottoms out. I remember trying to swim through the back of the wave after he went past. As I started to swim through it, it grabbed me by my fins and started to pull me down with it. No matter how hard I swam, I kept getting pulled back. I thought I was done for.

All of the sudden, it felt like the wave imploded and shot me back up and out the back. I swam as hard as I could for the boats in the channel. I felt like I was super lucky to get a few and didn’t want to push my luck after such a close call. If I try it again, I would definitely like to get one of those inflatable safety vests.

Matahi Drollet.

Niccolo Porcella.