Caleb Whittington – Young, Free, Alright!
The Rad and Creative Youth of Australian Surfing
Presented by Arnette
Gallery and captions by Caleb Whittington
Interview by Mike Jennings
Raw Power by The Stooges was released in 1973, is a cult classic and is generally considered a fore-runner to American punk rock. Wild and rough and full of burly energy, it embodies the same characteristics one might think of when looking at the photos of this here young Wollongong photographer, Caleb Whittington. From the bodyboard school of surf-photography, he seems to be following that lineage of quality lensmen who start prone and have an affinity for taking excellent photos in and around heavy barrels, think Rod Owen, Trent Mitchell, Luke Shadbolt. So take a deep breath and click through the raw power of Caleb Whittington, our latest Young, Free, Alright! presented by Arnette.
CW: Hey Caleb, who are you? Where are you from? How old are you?
CW: Hey mate, I'm 17 and from Wollongong, NSW. I'm a photographer who pretty much puts getting barrelled with my camera over work/school/people.
Set the scene for me. Where are you answering these questions from, what’s going on around you?
I'm currently answering these questions from my living room couch while watching some Twenty20 cricket and patting my dog.
How long have you been shooting for and what got you started?
I have been shooting for two or so years. One day while I was down at the beach when i was younger, after Christmas, my mate offered if i wanted to take out his GoPro and take a few snaps in the shories. I remember I got this shitty washed out shot of a 20cm high barrel and absolutely frothed it. This lead to my parents buying me a little Canon point and shoot waterproof camera until i saved up for a half decent SLR.
Tell us about your home town and home breaks? What’s the best thing about shooting there?
I love living in Wollongong, especially for the waves. Many great waves within 20 minutes of my house and then hundreds more within a two hour drive. There are many world class waves on the South Coast that pros flee too in different conditions so it makes shooting a blast.
What’s been your biggest learning experience as a photographer in the ocean?
My biggest learning experience would have to be NEVER LEAVE $5000 WORTH OF BRAND NEW GEAR IN A BACKPACK ON THE BEACH WHILE YOU GO FOR A SURF. Ended up getting all my gear stolen which was a pretty big blow as I was 16 and worked my arse off saving for it.
Had some luck when eight months down the track the people who stole it tried to sell it and the cops ended up getting it all back for me so i was cheerin'.
Do you have a favourite photo you’ve taken? Mine is that speed blur taken on dark of Lachlan Cramsie right on the foam ball. It’s amazing. Can you tell us about how that shot came about?
Yeah i have a couple, but everytime I take my camera out I end up taking a new shot that becomes my favourite.
The shot of Lachlan is one of my faves too as it was shot on a day every man and his dog was down surfing and shooting quite a popular surf spot. There were a couple of spots down south that were just on fire all day so we were surfing from sunrise to sunset and from memory I think we only had an hour or so out of the water for lunch. It was almost pitch black in the evening and all the photographers went in and there were only three or four bodyboarders left in the line-up. Cramsie ended up getting this one as his last wave and it turned out alright.
What is your favourite thing about taking photos of the ocean?
It's the adrenaline rush when you see a bomb set on the horizon and see everyone paddling out but you just sit there and try and keep your calm, then seeing the wave unload on the reef and being able to capture it and remember it forever.
When is your favourite time to shoot? Conditions wise, light wise, time wise...
Nothing will ever beat that brief 20 minutes when the sun is about to peak over the horizon and there are all those purple and pink colours reflecting off the glassy ocean.
Who is your favourite person to shoot?
It would definitely have to be Ben Player. Whether its a ten foot slab or three foot Blackrock he always puts on a show and has a few laughs.
What inspires you in the world of photography?
One of the biggest things that inspires me to take photos would have to be Russell Ord and his efforts out at The Right in WA. You can't compare him to anyone with the skill and balls it takes to swim out to that wave at 25 foot, shoot fisheye and end up nailing shots. Just insane.
You shoot surfing and bodyboarding, is there any distinct difference you’ve found in shooting either? Do you prefer one over the other? Or is it all just about taking the best photos you can in any given situation?
I dont have a preference on what craft I shoot. I'm a bodyboarder myself and get huge satisfaction when I nail a shot of a bodyboarder doing a massive boost off a lip onto two foot of water, but nothing will ever beat shooting a standup pulling into a huge pit and standing tall and casually getting spat out.
If you could spend one day shooting a famous wave in perfect conditions, anywhere in the world, with any person in the world, where and who?
Would have to be big arvo Pipeline in Hawaii with Jeff Hubbard or Ben Player.
What are you doing tomorrow morning?
Gettin in my car and driving 2 hours south to surf super crowded Blackrock.
Finish this sentence: In 2015 I’m going to... Get some huge barrels.
Tag #youngfreealright and join the rad and creative youth of Australian surfing
A little over a year ago Coastalwatch and Arnette launched Young, Free, Alright! a series showcasing the inspired young community rising in Australian surfing – introducing talented new faces doing rad stuff every fortnight. Now, we want you to join us and be Young, Free, Alright! Just hashtag the fruit of your work on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter with #youngfreealright and we’ll be all over you like a bad op-shop jacket at a Year 12 Formal. You could find yourself getting props as the next Young, Free, Alright! feature profile just like Caleb Whittington here.
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