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Meet the SurfChimp: Wave pool photographer Mark Dadswell

Mark Dadswell is unique in surf photography. His background isn’t surf. He’s a professional photojournalist with a different set of metrics for what qualifies as “adventure.” While many shooters in the surf industry built their careers packing bags for Indo and the North Shore each season, Mark was out chasing down the day’s news. Instead of dodging testy locals, he was dodging cops. Instead of listening to surf brand marketing departments, he was listening to police scanners… you get the idea.

Now Mark has taken his real-world photo skills to Urbnsurf as the resident photography service Surf chimp. His work looks a little ‘non-surf’ too. If you look closely at the images you can see it – his attention to detail is not focused on the intensity of the action, but more on the color, composure and unique moment in each shot. The result is images of very personal moments between surfer and wave – a glance at the lip, the pre-dawn jitters or a quiet smile from within the tube.

We spoke with Mark for this latest WavePoolMag Photographer Profile.

boardless surfing at urbnsurf
That moment when you freefall, it can sometimes look you’re still surfing. Image by Mark Dadswell/SurfChimp

How did you get this job?
I have checked out the other interviews and the striking thing to me is the different background I have from the other teams. I have approximately 10 years of experience at newspapers, 15 at Getty Images, and 10 running my own commercial business. I was approached by Urbnsurf to provide photography services for them. It took something like 14 months of negotiations before I finally decided to give it a go! Seems the other teams have at least some background in surfing and came into the business from that angle.

What is the best part of this job?
The best part of the job is the interaction with the surfers using the park, get to meet some very interesting characters, and hear some fantastic stories. One example, I started chatting with a guy who was clearly excited about surfing Urbnsurf for the first time – he hadn’t surfed for about two years as his wife had been diagnosed with cancer. She was given the all-clear and they were both at the park on this day to see him surf as part of a celebration.

barrel ride at urbnsurf
Sometimes it’s the light that makes the photo. Image by Mark Dadswell/SurfChimp

What is the worst part of this job?
The worst part is probably what needs to be done behind the scenes to run a small business, organizing staff, etc. During the summer we’ve got up to nine staff at one stage. Now in the winter, we are back down to six. Never enjoyed the paperwork that goes into running a business.

Share with us something people don’t know about Urbnsurf
We have just been given the news that as of the close of business tonight we are in COVID lockdown for the second time, so not good news. Which leads me to the other worst part of this job, due to the crazy times we live in and some freak weather patterns we have been shut down almost the same amount of time we have been open, since Jan 6th.

surfer looks up from the tube
Sometimes just as fun as being barrelled is noticing the little things, like a pitching lip. Image by Mark Dadswell/SurfChimp

Are you pushing yourself to find new angles and perspectives, or do you stick to the same surefire shooting places?
We will be starting to shoot from in the water shortly, mainly video – to go with our latest product, a short video of clients where we shoot as many clips of them as possible, and create a 1 minute “social media” video. We will be able to show surfers making a barrel from both in the water and side-on from the pier, and it will be online a couple of hours after it happens! So we have put a lot of thought and effort into making this happen, and we will continue to improve the product as we go.


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