Photographer Kenna Colburn recently found herself wielding a camera from the channel of Teahupo’o, as filming for the Point Break 2 movie was taking place, with a goal of capturing the raw power of the famous reef break and the surfers who charge it.
Kenna was born on the Hawaiian island of Kauai where her love for the ocean began and flourished. At the moment, she’s posted up in Malibu, California, where she spends most of her time outdoors. Her photos hold wandering eyes and portray a sense of vitality. They place you in the moment of witnessing first-hand cascading, cavernous barrels and excited celebration, while the dude on the shoulder breaths a sigh of relief. She’s capturing those heavy moments through the perspective of her camera lens, highlighting each one’s unique significance.
The Hawaiian photographer took some time to discuss her attraction to the ocean, as well as her experience shooting massive waves at Teahupo’o, Tahiti:
Interview conducted by Shannon Marie
THE SURF CHANNEL: When did you fall in love with the ocean?
KENNA COLBOBURN: I grew up in a little town called Hanalei on the island of Kauai, Hawai’i. There’s a beautiful beach there called Hanalei Bay, the bay was my playground. I fell in love with the ocean ever since I could remember, which was very young! I was/am very lucky to have the ocean so close to me.
Was this your first trip to Tahiti?
KC: No, the first time I went to Tahiti was for my mom’s 50th birthday. Last year, I went to Teahupo’o and was fortunate enough to have Raimana show us around, take us surfing and SUP-squatching… so much fun! So, this year felt more familiar being there and seeing the same people again.
Where did you shoot from? Equipment arsenal?
KC: Raimana and Laird had a boat arranged to pick us (Hamilton family) up from our dock at the rental house we were in. The boat took us to the channel at Teahupo’o, from there I just started shooting away. I use a Nikon D5200 with a 55-300mm lens.
Describe the energy in the lineup.
KC: I literally woke up, ran on the dock to the boat and ended up right where all the action was. It was something I’ve never experienced before, a different type of thrill to be in the line up and watch these humans get on the waves at Teahupo’o.
The waves were roaring! The energy there is amazing and something that can only be experienced if you’re present. People are watching with their jaws wide open, yelling and screaming when someone would be on the wave, or even just trying to get on a wave. And then you have people clapping and cheering when someone makes it out of the barrel.
Who scored rides that day?
KC: There were local surfers, professional surfers, stunt doubles… You had everyone out there, but only a few who actually caught waves. Most of the people I saw and who I shot were people stunt doubling for the movie Point Break 2.
Worst wipeout you watched?
KC: I saw a few injuries unfortunately. There was a young man from San Diego who got kissed by the reef, scraped on his legs and arms. Another man, who I believe was Anthony Walsh, who had holes in his wetsuit from the reef (of course he was bleeding still), bloodied nose, scrapes on his back, leg and hip.
The worst wipeout, though, had to be Laurie Towner’s. He got injured very badly. He had a 2-wave hold down and safety patrol grabbed him where the waves took him while he was blacked out. Laurie broke his jaw, needed stitches in his lip and on an eyelid, whiplash to the neck and back, and a couple puncture wounds that just missed an artery… I hope he’s doing better now!
Which shot is your favorite out of your top 10?
KC: My favorite shot is of Tikanui Sujezowusau. I like this shot so much because not only are there 2 people in this barrel, but it just looks like they are having a normal conversation. (laughs) Don’t mind the thickness of the barrel.
Describe Teahupo’o in one word?
Love Kenna’s work? See more on her Instagram @kennacolbs.