Camera: Nikon D4
Settings: F/6.3, 1/2000, ISO 200
This might be the easiest photo I have ever taken in a halfpipe… and the funny part is that I almost didn’t take it. Huge thanks to Kaishu for being an absolute psycho in the halfpipe. It sounds crazy to not photograph a world record air, but at the time, I thought I already got the best angle of Kaishu’s method and I had to move on to make sure I had photos of the rest of the field. Kaishu was going so big in warmups for the finals and the light was so good early in the day, I honestly didn’t think there would be a better photo of his backside air during the contest. As usual, I was wrong. But to my defense, you can’t really hear announcers when you are on the deck of a pipe, so I couldn’t hear Todd Richards talking about him almost breaking the record on his second hit.
The day started pretty normal for a finals day. Everyone was a bit more quiet than usual, locked in for the big stage. I took photos of Kaishu’s first run at the top of the deck underneath his first hit. It is the contest photography equal to shooting fish in a barrel. It is always a lock for a solid photo and Kaishu honestly makes any photo look good, and between practice and his first run, he was covered. I moved on to focus on Ayumu’s triple cork and try some weird angles with a few other riders. Most of the angles failed, but I snagged another shot I liked of Ayumu and I was kind of done with action. By the time Kaishu rolled around again, I happened to be halfway down the pipe and got another usable shot of him and his backside air. I noticed in the photo he was close to double overhead the TV cameraman standing on the deck and it looked absurd.
During a halfpipe contest most photographers start at the top and work their way to the corral to get reactions and podium shots. For the third and final run, I had enough action, so I was focusing on getting close up shots of Scotty and Ayumu at the bottom when I saw Pat Dodge at the bottom of the pipe. Pat was moonlighting as the board tech for a bunch of the Burton riders and was up with Kaishu during his first two runs. He told me all the drama that was going down over the livestream with Ayumu’s scoring and then said Kaishu was going for it. “He just said fuck it, I can go higher,” said Pat. I had just enough time to flip from my wide angle lens to a long lens and run over to the bottom and frame it up. No tricks, no dangling over the wall… just sitting at the bottom of the pipe and not missing focus. I looked at the screen on back of my camera, laughed pretty hard at how big it was, and then we all went crazy as we started getting texts announcing that he broke the record. Had no idea that it would end up on a cover even though Todd talked about that on air as well. Maybe I need to start streaming the contests on my phone instead of just listening to podcasts.
Huge thanks to Pat for tipping me off! And Dustin Satloff for not pulling my pass when I was photographing from angles I wasn’t allowed to be at. Keep an eye out for all the covers from issue 19.1 dropping soon!