Volcom Pipe Pro Pounding

I just got done shooting the Volcom Pipe Pro. I think this is probably the 6th or 7th time I've shot for Volcom. This year we had some challenging conditions.

The first day was just this crazy sandbar that was spanking the surfing contestant's butts. But it was awesome shooting Pipeline with only 4 photographers out, especially with the free Jet ski rides in and out.

The next day we had Backdoor Pipeline. I hate shooting Backdoor. I've never liked it. Pipeline can be scary as hell, don’t get me wrong. But Backdoor just sneaks up on you, and it's the smaller days that get you. You'll be lined up for the waves which are coming in at 6 feet, and then you get caught by an 8 footer. It is hands down the scariest thing ever.

So it's that 2nd day of the event and my Buddy Tom Carey (who also shoots for Volcom) takes the first shift. It's pretty and perfect and mellow. After a few hours Tom comes in and says its minor. Cool. I go and get my Canon 1dx camera with a 70-200 mm lens, and my trusty CMT housing. I decide to wear a helmet for the first time in a year and I get a quick ride out on the ski and get dropped in the lineup with 1 other photographer, Eric Ippel.

It's super groovy for the first hour and another photographer, Laurant, from France, joins us. We were getting some killer shots, then I go under a wave that's about 6 foot and come up on the other side and I see an 8 footer. Shit! Do I swim in or out? I decide to swim out and I dive to the bottom (see photo) right before the wave gets to me. Ive got my housing tucked under my arm and I'm on the bottom of the reef and I can see the damn wave coming straight for me and there is no room between the reef and the wave. This is not good, shit, and the wave hits me. It immediately flips me over and throws my head backward and it hits the reef. Thank God I wore my helmet! Then it starts to drag me violently across the bottom, and I start to put my hands down and realize Im going 187 mph and quickly lift my palms, and at that moment I can only say, “The ocean can do anything it wants to. You mean nothing. You feel so insignificant.”

The ocean is so powerful. It dragged me about 3 or 4 seconds and somehow I landed on top of Laurant who was a good 20 yards inside of me. I came up so weak and had to go under 2 more waves and barely made it back out.

Holy moly, It took a good minute of breathing hard till I could actually speak. The first thing I did, I yelled "Shit! That was so Heavy!"

Truth be told it was one of those times that I did not get a scratch, but I could have been knocked unconscious. I felt so lucky that I was ok.

I shot for another hour but there started to be too many scary ones, so I got out while I could and ended up getting some great shots, but man, I will say once again I hate shooting backdoor. Just let me stay at Pipe - Backdoor is for younger fellas.

I'm fine looking at all their photos and listening to their stories, I don’t need any more Backdoor.

Brian Bielmann

Brian Bielmann is an award winning surf photographer.  His images have graced more than 150 magazine covers and have appeared in iconic magazines such as, Rolling Stone, Vogue, Men's Journal, National Geographic, and Sports Illustrated. 


His client list includes Anheiser-Busch, Guinness, Red Bull, Quicksilver, Billabong, Reef, Sanuk, DCShoes and Western Digital among others. Brian was also the senior staff photographer for TransWorld Surf Magazine for 14 years.

Even after nearly four decades of surf photography, Bielmann is still having the time of his life. His dedication, love of the lens, and surfing will continue to grow and affect the way the world sees the surfing lifestyle.

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