March 5th, 2015

Who Is The Greatest Surf Photographer Of All Time

Group of surf photographers battling for position on the North Shore of Oahu.


Brian Bielmamnn? Nope! We’re not sure if this was a desperate cry from Brian reaching out to Beach Grit or Beach Grit reaching out to another photographer for more free photos (they don’t pay). Beach Grit did a post titled ‘The Greatest Surf Photographer of All Time‘. So we have to ask who really is the best surf photographer of all time?


By Jack English (photographer)

I think Brian is a great photographer but not the best. Brian is one of the few photographers that can shoot land, water, boat, jet ski, underwater, helicopter and portraits. To be able to do all that is amazing talent. People must take into consideration that Brian is one of the most normal photographers on the North Shore (past and present) along with a good speaker (business savvy) and has been notorious for licensing his photos more on the cheaper end (which clients love) or a large photo credit which to this day Brian love’s to see. Take a closer look at his giant list of clients that have used him for months if not years – he has had more surf clients then any other surf photographer to date (which should tell you something). A few that I can think of are Morey Bodyboards, BZ, G Shock, O’Neill, Reef, Billabong, Quiksilver, Sanuk, Volcom, Vertra, Red Bull and many more. I use to go to his house and be amazed at how many clients he was working with, but then the truth came out among his peers where he wasn’t charging that much. I received an email about a month ago from one photographer in Australia who wrote “all these guy have always said yes for the small money even bielman…”. Brian later admitted to me he would shoot for Quiksilver in return of clothes.

Brian Bielmann looking for some hypo tears


With that being said here is my list of top surf photographers before digital. It’s hard for me to give any credit to today’s photographers who shoot digital. Back in the film days you had 36 shots and you had to pre set your camera settings and hope for the best and for the real early day’s (before the 90’s) they had to manual focus. So now you have cameras with unlimited frames, 10 fps +, auto focus so in reality it’s so much easier to be a good photographer these days. Keep in mind I first started shooting pro surfers in the early 90’s so my history of surf photographers doesn’t go way back.

Most underrated photographer

Sean Davey


Top Videographers

Larry Haynes


Sonny Miller


Jack McCoy


Top Water Photographers in no particular order

Don King (one of my favorites)


Aaron Loyd (my mentor)


Scott Aichner


Jeff Flindt


Tony Roberts


Chris Van Lennep


The Legends – These guy’s are like the Kelly Slater’s of photographers (in no particular order)

Art Brewer


Dan Merkel (wearing pink shirt – Art Brewer far left and Jeff Hornbaker middle)


Jeff Divine


Aaron Chang


Ted Grambeau


Jeff Hornbaker (my all time favorite – this guy was in a league of his own)


Notable Photographers
Larry “Flame” Moore
Patrick Trefz
All surf photographers who shot manual focus from land and water

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