WavePoolMag Photographer Series: Andrew Shields

Andrew Shields, or “Shieldsy” as everyone referred to him when we met in Australia this year, is part of an elite crew of career surf photographers. It’s a tough gig, we know, schlepping gear around the world to photograph the world’s best in the world’s most beautiful locations. And it takes a certain perseverance, stubbornness, talent, lack-of-smarts, vision and everything in between to make it work. Andrew Shields has made it.

His images have become some of the most iconic wave tank images in the world. From OG wave pool Ocean Dome in Japan to Urbnsurf and Surf Lakes. We were delighted when Andrew Shield agreed to be part of the WavePoolMag Photographer Series.

The channel at Urbnsurf in Melbourne is less sharky than some of Andrew’s ocean haunts.

What is your photography background?
I was given a Canon Camera for my 18th Birthday. I didn’t really get into surf photography until my late 20s though. I was too busy surfing myself. I did a long Indo trip in the late 90s and showed the photos to the Photo Editor at Surfing Life Magazine in Australia. He encouraged me from there and a few years later I was a Senior Photographer for them. I remained on staff with them until 2016. Since then, I’ve been doing some photography at two high-end resorts in Indonesia shooting the guests and also freelance photography work around home, here on the Gold Coast.

surf lakes sunset by andrew shield
The ocean-like setup of Surf Lakes suits Andrew’s salted training.

What wave pools have you shot and how did you get the gig?
Ive shot the Ocean Dome in Miyazaki in Japan. We did one of the last shoots there. It was for Surfing Life and was the Hot 100 Junior trip with Julian Wilson, Owen Wright etc. I’ve also been to Urbnsurf twice shooting large corporate groups. And Ive been going to Surf Lakes regularly since 2020.

What is the vibe like at Urbnsurf vs Surf Lakes – super serious or playful?
I love both wave pools but for different reasons. Urbnsurf have such a good act with super consistent waves and great facilities around the pool. It’s also easy to get there from the airport etc. Surf Lakes is in a beautiful place though and feels pretty raw and each trip there is like a surfing/camping trip. I’m really happy to be involved with Surf Lakes at this stage. It’s the wave pool equivalent of the Mentawaiis in the 90s.

Back in the big-shorts-skinny-boards era Andrew made a trip to the legendary Ocean Dome

What is the best thing about shooting wave pools?
The predictability of the waves. Knowing in advance when they’re coming and at what size sure makes it easy to plan how you’re going to shoot it.

What is the worst thing about shooting wave pools?
Chlorine. And also the predictability mentioned above. The satisfaction you get from all the elements lining up and scoring great waves in the ocean is lacking with wave pools.

Share with us something most people don’t know about you.
I stopped taking photos for two years in my early 20s to work in the Room Service Department of a large Hotel on the Gold Coast. Incredibly, they actually put me in charge and I had 10 staff working under me. It was the only normal job Ive ever had.