Surfing is a delicious dance. And in some parts of Southern California, it’s a delicious dance involving righthand pointbreaks, in which riders gain an intuitive, almost familial relationship with the wave. Todd Weaver knows all about this. Not only does he spend long hours surfing his beloved Malibu First Point, but he spends long hours photographing it as well.
Todd grew up in Kansas City and moved to LA in 1994. He started surfing in 2016. “I was clearly hooked on this sport,” he told me. “I figured I better make some art out of it too.” Implementing a half-frame camera, he pre-exposed the film, creating a unique, leave-it-up-to-the-gods effect.
What’s a half-frame camera?
“Half frame cameras came out in the 1960s, and I think it was a way of just being economical. Instead of 36 pictures in a roll, it’s 72 pictures. So it takes two vertical pictures, side by side, on one 35-millimeter frame.”
And pre-exposing the film?
“What I do is a secret,” laughed Todd, “so I’ll be a little vague on this. You’re essentially just shooting a roll of film beforehand, but in a way that you can still shoot on top of it and have the surfing be the primary thing that you notice.”
As a kid in Kansas City, the dream of California loomed large in his mind. “The surfing, the weather, skating pools in the backyard…The freedom of California was so attractive to me. I was like, ‘I have to live there.’ And I’ve been here for 28 years now, and I have no plans on moving anywhere.
Todd’s father was an excellent photographer who documented his family. Todd got interested—first in cinematography, which he did for a stint, then still photography, which he has been doing professionally since 2005.
“Shooting surfing is full of the unexpected,” he told me. “You never know what the conditions are going to be. And because I’m pre-exposing the film, it’s a lot of chance. It’s about trusting in the feeling and not being too formulaic.”
“I had surfed Malibu in the morning and was driving past it after getting lunch. A heavy fog had rolled in, so I pulled into a miracle parking spot on the PCH and snagged this photo of my buddy Dana Shaw not a minute after.”
“This is Kassia Meador one early morning up in Ventura in January of 2021. Such an epic morning! I had never seen the point so big and clean. The offshore was top-notch perfection. And I really love how the color turned out on this one. That silvery red is really unusual. It’s a bit of a unicorn color that I’ve only seen on this roll and maybe one more. I see it mostly line up on rolls shot when it’s overcast. Something about that gray canvas mixed with the color mojo. And when I say lined up, I mean the color is 90-percent achieved by an analog process that involves fogging the film.”
“Man, I will never forget this day at Leo! It was that kind of day when you roll up, your jaw instantly drops, and your heart starts to pound. The offshores were howling and the waves were firing. Speaking of unicorns, this may be on the only roll that I’ve ever shot that turned out like this. I’ve yet to replicate this look, but I will keep trying.”
“This is Sam Mallow at Malibu. I really dig his style. Definitely one of my favorite regulars to surf with. Was stoked to finally photograph him. And this pink is bonkers!”
“Ashton Goggins doing his thing. He’s another great surfer that I love seeing out in the water. Glad I was able to capture him in the film soup and a little bit of a speed blur.”
“Sam Heck on the nose. This is one of my favorite surf photos I’ve taken. The perch, the arch, the outreached hand—everything is lined up, and it’s of Sam Heck! He rips. I’m a fan.”