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Creators: Aaron Goulding & those big, colorful poundings

Brian Conley © Aaron Goulding



Creator Profile

Goulding cut his teeth on film but fully embraced digital

Surfersvillage Global Surf News, 5 July, 2015 - Residing in La Jolla most of Aaron's photography captures important landmarks, waves and sea life in a way that makes us happy that our eyes have those color rods and cones. Color is his trademark and have pushed Aaron's images into such publications as The Surfer's Journal, Slide Magazine, Glide Magazine (Japan), Australian Surfing Life, Surfline, Surge Bodyboard Magazine, Planeta Surf (Mexico), SUP Journal and Revolt In Style Magazine where Aaron was the Surf Editor from 2009-2013. 

Where are you from and what do you shoot with?
I am from San Diego and I shoot with a Nikon D810 from land and a Nikon D750 from the water. I have been shooting with Nikon since 1991.


How did surf photography start for you? 
In the late ‘80s I had a wealthy friend that had top-of-the-line camera gear and water housings as well as what at the time seemed like an endless supply of film and processing. We would trade off shooting each other in heavy shore break at spots like the Wedge, Newport Point, South Laguna, Lovers in Baja and so many other places. I think that’s when I really got hooked but didn’t have the money my friend had. So once I got my own camera things got really limited - as one can imagine with limited funds. In 2007 I got turned on to digital photography by my wife. It really began for me then as I had already been immersed in the surf and bodyboard scene for over 20 years so it was easy to just marry the two.

Share with us something that most people don’t know about surf photography.
“When the wave breaks here, don’t be there!” Haha! I just think with the new technology that’s out there a lot of people that don’t realize all the factors that come into play to get that perfect shot. There’s not just one thing but many things that have to come together for it to happen the right way.


Tell us about that one time you almost died, on a surf trip or in the water. 
Oh, wow! Yeah I think many ocean lovers can relate to this question and I firmly believe many of you have had near death experiences as have I. In fact too many to count. However, one that really strikes me that I still can’t shake till this day happened in 2013. I had offered to help my friend Scott Chandler drive his two jet skis down to Puerto Escondido from San Diego. We made it about an hour past the border when his tranny went so we had to have the truck towed back across the border the next day for repairs. That trip was definitely over and I was not happy about it so I phoned my buddy Terry whom I knew was ready for a trip and told him I could meet up with him the next morning to go to Cabo. He did not hesitate!

So the next day we borded a plane to Cabo. The eve we arrive the waves at Solmar looked so perfect! Solmar is known for extremely heavy shorebreak. Lovers Beach, also known for heavy shorebreak, is located just a few hundred yards south. It is not recommended to swim on this stretch of beach. Many people have drowned here. It apparently is so dangerous no one wants to lifeguard this beach so they just have security that walks the beach telling people not to enter or enter at your own risk. We had no idea that hurricane was brewing up right off the coast but the next morning the swell had jumped from a pleasant 2 to 3 feet to a stormy 5 to 8 feet with rips and a 20 MPH current from the south.

We watched it for a couple hours then I said to Terry that it looked too big for me but I wasn’t sure. He pointed out that there was only one way to tell. He suggested swimming out with no camera so that I would have all of my limbs to swim with. I agreed and so I put my fins on and jumped in the water. Within seconds I had drifted a few hundred yards up the beach. by the time I got to impact a 15 wave hurricane set began to descend upon me.


One wave every 13 to 15 seconds each one pushing me deep and pulling me further out to see. Some of them pinned me to the bottom and some just rag dolled me. after a few of these I looked to the horizon and saw what looked like an endless amount of waves coming, each one larger than the last. I came up from one more dunking and realized I was just out of energy and air and needed to make it to the shore but by now I was further out and maybe a quarter mile or so up the coast from where I started. I kept telling myself not to panic but I just lost it. I lost complete confidence in myself and my strength to continue through this set.

For the first time in over 25 years in the ocean, I turned to the shore and waved my hands vigorously in an effort to get Terry’s attention or anyone for that matter because I just knew that I was not gonna make it to shore. I waved and got dunked, came up and waved and got pounded again. Then I was starting to really lose the fight and did not see anyone coming to my aid and I really thought that was it. My last ditch effort was to roll into a ball and stay at the surface for every other pounding in hope that I would eventually be pushed to the shore.

After about 5 solid poundings in this fashion I looked up and saw that it had worked! I put my feet to the ground and began to fight the current and kept rolling onto a ball with each wave that came until I finally reached the shoreline and collapsed. I was seeing stars and panting and could not even think straight. I was not even really sure if I was alive. Then Terry walked up and asked if I was okay and I said no. I asked him why he did nothing and he made a good point, if he had attempted to help me we both may have ended up in trouble. At least this way he could keep an eye on me. He later decided to paddle out. I told him he was on his own and chuckled a bit and he smiled and paddled out for a short but gnarly session.


Please name one image that changed the way you approach photography
As much as I hate to admit it, one image that changed the way I approach photography was a shot of the moon by Peter Lik. Especially when I got the story behind the image. One thing I learned is that you are not limited to one camera and one lens. There is a camera and lens for every image and sometimes one camera and two lenses for one image.

You can find more of Aaron's work at as well as on Flickr and through Twitter. Check the below links for instant viewing of his other online portals including his homepage Aaron Goulding Photography.

Pinterest: Aaron Goulding

Instagram: Aaron Goulding

Facebook: AaronGouldingPhotography

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