Read Caption
Sean Woolnough surfing Namotu Island, Fiji; TK

Behind the Shot: Paddling Out and Missing a Huge Wave Off Namotu Island, Fiji

See more photos like this in our Extreme Photo of the Week gallery.

“I hope I get under this,” was the thought going through surfer Sean Woolnough‘s mind as he rose on this wave, named Love Shacks, off Namotu Island, Fiji. Woolnough had just paddled out for the first wave, missed it, and turned around to face the one in the picture. This photo of Woolnough floating atop this massive wave earned  photographer Stuart Gibson a spot in the prestigious Red Bull Illume Photo Contest’s Top 50 finalists list.

A: Can you explain what we are seeing in this photo?
Sean Woolnough: I had just paddled for the first wave, missed it, and turned around to face the one in the picture.

A: What were you thinking at this moment?
SW: Mmmm … I hope I get under this which, I did. But after the duck dive and coming out the back things went a little pear-shaped.

A: What happened next? Did you keep surfing this day?
SW: After this pic, I got sucked over the falls and rag-dolled over the reef, so no I didn’t survive it—haha. I surfed the rest of the day getting some bombs and some more floggings.

A: Did you realize how big the wave was from your point of view?
SW: I saw that it was quiet large, but all was good because I had been in that position many times before.

A: Did you really discover this wave?
SW: I was at Namotu Island when I had seen it break a few times, but didn’t know if it was surfable at that size so we gave it a go.

A: What’s the wave’s name and where is it?
SW: It’s name is “Love Shacks” and it’s on Namotu Island, Fiji.

A: Where do you live and why?
SW: I live in Sydney, Australia, and think it’s great because our coast line is unbelievable for all water sports in the ocean.

A: How long have you been surfing?
SW: I’ve been surfing for 30 years and will continue too do so because there’s no better feeling.