'CHALLENGE' – Ben Buckler, Bondi

Driving to work past Botany Bay I saw a massive wave explode out at the distant heads – the largest I’ve ever seen out there. I rang the office to tell them there was something unusual happening in the ocean, but I was on my way straight to a 10am food shoot at the Icebergs Restaurant at the south end of Bondi Beach. With another three jobs in quick succession in other parts of Sydney, I had no opportunity to chase big surf photos.

I arrived at the Icebergs with not ten minutes to spare, so whipped out my 70-200mm lens with a 1.4x converter and scanned the scene looking for a possible  shot. Nothing was obvious. There were no surfers, the waves were too big.

I noticed a large spray explosion over at Ben Buckler, the north point at Bondi, quite a distance away, so waited for the next large set of waves to hit. A couple of people were standing at the lookout, which would give the photo scale.

The first set rolled through at 9.54am without much drama – big waves were rolling down the point, but nothing exceptional. I was watching the time as the food job started in five minutes.

Four minutes later another set started rolling in, but the sun had disappeared behind a cloud. As the set continued the sun reappeared, and by the fourth wave the sun shone again as this massive wave crashed into the rocks at 9.58am and exploded skywards.

Time to pack up and shoot the restaurant.

I had enough time before the next assignment to drop in to the office (no laptop), and quickly process the wave shots. I knew I had something decent and wanted the picture desk to see my photos early.

When I blew the photos up on the computer I saw one of the people had jumped the lookout fence and was ‘challenging’ the massive wall of whitewater, providing not only scale, but perfect drama!

I estimate the spray to be 30 metres high, and the actual wave was probably 5-6 metres.

The following Monday a young bloke called and told me it was him in the photo. He was down from Brisbane visiting friends and they were taking photos themselves. He reckoned the wave looked nowhere near as intimidating from his perspective.

Bob Barker

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