Birdwell Blog

Toots + Tommy
A Photomance for the Ages
Dazzling Blue #150

Peanut butter and jelly. Green eggs and ham. Gerry and Pipeline. Mikey and Twin Pin. Some things pair magnificently, and thus become greater than the sum of its parts. Such is the case with surfer Arthur “Toots” Anchinges and photographer Tommy Pierucki.

 

Tommy moved from Chicago to Oahu in 2013. Inspired by the omnipresent surf, he started shooting from the water in 2018. One afternoon he was swimming the lineup at Queens, camera in hand, when he saw Toots glide across a wave. “I was like, ‘Holy crap, this guy looks like a statue!’” remembers Tommy. “Toots was nose riding and doing things I’ve never seen anyone do. And he made it look so easy.”

 

They chatted, made fast friends, and made plans to shoot together again. So began their fabulous photomance.

 

I asked Tommy what he loves most about shooting Toots. “He never does the same thing,” he told me. “It’s always fresh. And he's never claiming any maneuvers. He's just kind of doing it for himself. And the fact that he's a serious shaper and riding his own boards, it adds so much more respect to his surfing and how he lives his life.”

 

I first came across Tommy’s photographs on Instagram. I was amazed at the variety of images he captures—close-ups, pulled-backs, midday bright shots, moody night images. There was a plethora of excellent pics of Toots, many of which have been published in mags and websites worldwide.

 

Does Tommy give Toots direction when they shoot? “Absolutely none,” Tommy told me. “Toots is the reason I got into longboarding. And I know the Queens waves so well, which is where we shoot most of the time. We're at the point now where I don't even have to move for the most part. He can just kind of maneuver around me. And there's never been an instance where I felt that I didn't trust what he was doing.”

 

I asked Tommy to go through his extensive archive of Toots pics, and select a few favorites. He came up with the below, and gave captions via phone.

 

 


"When I do my photo selects after a surf session, something like this typically isn't in my selection. But that day was just pouring down rain, and it was glassy, and there were waves. I called everyone I could, I was like, 'We got to go shoot!' I remember I shot in an aperture that I don't normally shoot at, because I wanted to get more texture of the rain drops and everything. Toots just looks one with the wave."

 


"Every once in a while Toots does this turn, the cross-step backwards. I don't know what you call it, but he can just nail this thing. He rarely pulls it out, but any time he does, I just get giddy."

 


"This is during COVID. Toots let his hair grow out, and he just looks like a wild man. I remember him making this board. Then we went out and shot it, and scored this shot. It was a beautiful afternoon."

 


"This was actually one of my first sessions shooting Toots. I remember being in the channel between Queens and Canoes, and I didn't really know what I was doing with a lot of my settings. And this one kind of turned out. I really, really like how his bottom turn spray connects with the white water and the wave. He looks like a rocket."

 

 
"The first time Toots did this move, I was like, 'You make that look so easy. What do you actually call it?' And he goes, 'The easy chair.' And I'm like, 'You would call it that. It's not easy for everyone else.'"

 


"This night was in August. We were just about to go to Sri Lanka, and this was his last wave in. I remember that because he always likes to go in just after the sun sets. And I remember that after he had passed me on the wave, he looked back and he saluted me, like, 'All right, man. I'll see you tomorrow. We're going to fly to Sri Lanka.'"

 


"This was right after we got back from Sri Lanka the first time. It was a photo shoot for his first signature Birdwell shorts. The waves weren't even really that good, and I was like, 'Toots, just do your thing. I'm not going to direct you a whole lot.' He came in kind of close, and I had this opportunity to just get this portrait of grip. I posted this a long time ago, and I think that's what I captioned it: 'This is a portrait of grip.' Everything else is blurred out except his gripping toes."

 

 

For more of Tommy go to @tommypierucki

For more of Toots go to @mr_t00ts

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