Woody Gooch
Surfing and near-death experiences.
Frames 11m

When Woody Gooch took casual snaps with his old man’s digital camera down at the local skate park, he thought that the furthest he would get with photography was a new Facebook display picture.

However, he’s come a long way from those early days in Noosa Heads – and the 21-year-old photographer has discovered a strong affinity for capturing stills. Now residing in Tokyo, Woody says he owes a lot to the camera. “Photography has opened up my world to people, the ocean, places and laughter, every day and every night. It gives me enthusiasm and excitement. It allows me to touch people,” he says.

One story in particular has stuck with Woody, which he has shared below alongside his oceanside edition of Frames:

I’ve had a number of freaky moments in the ocean where I have been shaken up. Morocco was my most recent scary moment. We’d been surfing this outrageously long point break with razor sharp, steep cliffs where the peak of the swell was running down. Before anyone had tested or even figured out the best strategy on finding the safest way of entering the ocean, they saw a lull on the horizon and we quickly traversed down the cliff to beat the next set. I hadn’t noticed where the other guys had jumped off so I was left on the cliff to guess where to jump off it into the raging ocean.

The path from where the car was parked was a mine field of cactus tightly bunched on each side of the path, broken glass on the ground and 100 + kms winds trying to push me over. This day was extremely windy, so I decided to put my flippers on at the car and walk the path, clumsily tripping over my flippers and falling over from the unbalancing gusts of wind onto the cacti. I finally made it to the hardest part, navigating the sets and wind through a keyhole in the cliff that I luckily spotted. I had no eye sight of when there were breaks in the sets of waves, so I just went for it and hoped that I somehow had nailed the timing.

After jumping off the cliff onto my body board (and trying to understand how to manage a microwave sized housing and a bodyboard to lay on), I punched through the first wall of whitewash, I could see at least a half dozen of 6 ft big blowy foamy walls coming at me, the second one picked me up and drove me straight back towards those razored cliffs I had just jumped off. I tried to clench up and be as light as I could, missing the first section of rocky crevasses with my eyes shut, I was dragged back down and washed back up again. I thought I was at a point where I was going to get extremely hurt, if not killed.

I tried yelling out to my friend Andy Gough who was filming on the rocks just up from me, but the cliffs and the ocean roar was soaking up my screams and shouts. All I could was overcome my fears and nervousness – and use all of my energy to gather myself to get out of the radical impact zone, while my legs were ferociously shaking, I eventually got myself back up onto higher ground and sat down with my body nervously shaking with tremors for the next 20 minutes or so.

It was radical and I had survived something which had totally freaked me out. This was one of the first times where I cared more about my body than putting my camera at risk.

See Woody’s images below and keep up to date with his work over on Instagram:

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Words by Christopher Kevin Au December 2, 2016
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