Locals and Legends is a series of over 50 portraits taken by photographer Shaun Fenn of the many personalities that inhabit the San Onofre surfing area. Some are legends, some just regulars – but all have an interesting story and are full of stoke. We spoke with Shaun to learn more about his photographic journey and have chosen to show a few select images.
What was the inspiration behind this series?
I have been living in the San Francisco Bay Area for 16 years and really missed the Southern California vibe – things like good waves and warm water. Glenn’s site Liquid Salt was really the inspiration. I think he has done an excellent job capturing the aloha of our sport and its heritage.
Glenn and I spoke about Sano and how much we loved going there. He had this idea of a large collection of portraits to capture some of the personalities there. I love the process of immersing myself in interesting cultures and trying to capture that story. This project was very close to my heart for me since I grew up in Dana Point and spent time surfing Lower Trestles and many of these locals were household names when I was growing up. Glenn then introduced me to Barry Haun and Dick Metz at the Surfing Heritage Museum in San Clemente. Barry was instrumental in coming up with an organic list of prominent locals we needed to include.
What were some of the difficulties or obstacles?
Well the obvious was logistics. Anyone who shoots commercially understands how difficult the state parks can be. San Onofre is considered a state run park and therefore falls under their very subjective regulations. (Even though the San Onofre Surf Club and The Hawaiian Surf Club do a great deal of the maintenance of San Onofre as we know it.) According to them I was shooting commercially because I had a nice camera and I looked “professional”.
Another challenge was gathering people together, never easy when there is no money involved. Being associated with Barry and the Surfing Heritage Museum was very helpful in building momentum. It was also important to come up with a lighting approach that I could use out on the beach, and also travel as far as Washington without too much trouble.
What did you learn from the experience?
I enjoy real people, “Salt of the Earth” if you will. And those people can be found everywhere, whether golfing in Ireland, fly fishing in Idaho, or surfing in your home town.
Do you have any favorites?
I really don’t. We still have plenty more to shoot. I only regret I didn’t get to shoot Terry Martin before he passed away. I came down to shoot him too late. I was fortunate enough to meet him when he shaped boards for a friend of mine. He was such incredible shaper and person. If we are able to have a show of these images it will be dedicated to him.
I tend to be drawn to people with a sense of humor. Terry Senate and Greg Noll were 2 of the funniest people I met. And then of course jamming on the ukulele with “Crazy” Casey…
What plans do you have for the images?
These portraits really only tell part of the story. Every single one of these people have such an amazing story! You really need to have that context to get the full impact. Glenn and I are working on a show of these images printed large with a bio accompanying each image.
I hope the images are strong enough to stand on their own but what you don’t get is, THIS IS THE Hobie Alter — pioneer extraordinaire, Paul Strauch – definition of a legend in surfing, Grandkids of Tom Metzger – Founder of San Onofre Surfing Club, Greg Noll – icon of surfing history, Steve Pezman – Surfer / Surfers Journal, Lyndsey Steinriede – 2011 Women’s Longboard Champion, the list goes on and on. These people are not chasing money or fame they are just all about the stoke. It was an honor and a pleasure to be able to spend some time with them.
Whats next for Shaun Fenn?
Put down the camera for a bit and get back in the water.
Photographer Shaun Fenn was born and raised in Orange County, California and grew up surfing Blackies and 54th back in the “Echo Beach” days. He started surfing Russel surfboards, then moved to Timpone shaped thrusters. He surfed around the world, with his favorite spot being Jeffrey’s Bay in South Africa. Lower Trestles is his favorite wave in the states. Shaun moved to SF Bay Area in mid 90’s and currently splits his time between San Francisco and Dana Point, CA. and loves spending long, warm afternoons surfing Sano with his kids. Shaun is a lifestyle and location photographer represented by Paula Gren. Find out more about Shaun’s photography here.