To say that surf photography is a male-dominated profession would be an understatement. Beginning way back in the late ’70s/early’80s with the legendary Shirley Rogers, there just haven’t been too many women that have pointed a camera seaward. Or swim Pipe for that matter.
Well, that is changing as women like Christa Funk, and others, are beginning to make a name for themselves while adding a unique perspective to the art form.
We started creeping on Christa’s Insta when we began noticing her work and we eventually reached out to her with a few questions. She was also gracious enough to send us a few of her favorite images.
We hope you enjoy them.
What Youth: I believe you are living in Hawaii these days, where were you born and raised?
Christa Funk: I was born in North Carolina, but at the age of one my family moved to Grand Junction, Colorado.
How did you get into photography?
CF: My 8th-grade computer teacher Mrs. Quigley got me into it. She saw that I understood the course material and loaned me her Canon Eos Elan II 35mm. I was hooked. Later, she recommended me for the film photography class my high-school offered, which was my Freshman golden ticket into a class populated only by Juniors and Seniors. I haven’t stopped shooting since.
WY: How about surf-specific photography?
CF: A happy marriage of my passions. I swam competitively from age 7 to 22, I loved being in the water. My parents would ground me by taking away swim practice, it meant that much. When I was stationed in Hawaii, I began surfing and body surfing in my free time. I saw water photographers and started asking questions. I wanted to take my photography into the ocean.
WY: As a female, was there any hesitation in joining a pretty much male-dominated profession?
CF: No because going to the Coast Guard Academy and being in the Coast Guard desensitized me to being one of a few females.
WY: Are there any specific photographers you take inspiration from?
CF: Margaret Bourke-White, her work is honest and raw. The enlargers we used in my high-school photography course were named after renowned photographers. I always ended up spending time with her. If you want to talk about a woman diving headfirst into a male-dominated profession, it’s Margaret.
WY: Have you found the surf photog “good ‘ol boys” club to be supportive?
CF: Yes and no. I’ve gotten to know a fair amount of surf photographers that I enjoy sharing the line-up with that shoot amazing photos. In any competitive field, especially with surfing being a niche sport, as soon as you start getting jobs, you’re taking food off someone else’s table. There are only so many seats at that table. It’s an undercurrent that you don’t talk about with other photographers, but it’s present.
Also, I’ve frequently heard the comment, “it’s great to see a woman shooting.” I think being a guy starting out would be a lot harder. Guys aren’t telling other men, “it’s great to see a man shooting.” I had support even before people knew if I created quality work or not.
WY: Any interesting run-ins?
CF: Ha! I have some surfing run-ins worth sharing. I was surfing Pupukea on a crowded evening and was sitting by Uncle Derek (Ho). I told him, “Uncles offer to block for me and I want to return the favor, I’d be happy to block for you.” He laughed, I laughed, Tada! I have jokes.
Another surfing story, I got out of the water on the West side and was rinsing my board. An older Lifeguard comes up to me and goes, “Hoo what’s your name? You single?” I think to myself, I can’t wait to see where this goes. “Hi, I’m Christa and yes, I’m single.” “Look Christa, I have a job and all my teeth, we should date. Where you gonna find another guy that has that out here?” When destiny blinds you, there’s no denying true love. Kidding. I told him, “Fantastic! I have a job and all my teeth too, I’ll think about it.” I didn’t want to completely dash his hopes.
WY: Who are some of your favorite surfers to shoot?
CF: Flynn Novak, Ulu Napeahi, Hank Gaskell, and Leah Dawson. If we set-up a time to meet, they’re ready to go and they don’t flake. I knew I wanted to shoot men as well as women. Ulu and Flynn were the first guys that took the time to let me grow as a surf photographer while working with them. When Hank is on Oahu, we try to shoot with the conditions that are on offer. Photographing Leah helped me develop an appreciation for how gorgeous women’s surfing is.
WY: Favorite waves?
CF: Pipeline and Jaws. Pipe is incredible, and Peahi is freaking mind-boggling.
WY: We read on your webpage about a stint in the US Coast Guard, was being stationed in Hawaii something you asked for or was that just by chance?
CF: I asked for Hawaii. I wasn’t getting excited about requesting any other areas or the jobs they had available. The ship that I wanted (homeported on Oahu) had a line-up of remote port calls, it sounded like I could have some adventures. My ex-boyfriend told me to, “go for it!” and then when I pulled the trigger he fed me the, “your choosing this place over us,” line. Looking back, if that relationship was fated to last, it would have. I am ridiculously thankful that I went with my gut feeling to request Hawaii.
WY: Your introduction as a female to being in a male-dominated environment starts at the Coast Guard Academy. How was that experience, again in a very male-dominated world?
CF: I had primarily guy friends and four years later when I entered active duty, it wasn’t strange to go into a meeting and be the only woman. Bonus to being the only woman at the meeting, there’s no line for the bathroom. I’m sure there are other bonuses, but you have to enjoy the little things.
WY: Obviously, we all are looking forward to getting out from under this COVID lockdown, any trips planned for when we do?
CF: Not yet. My husband and I have been in a distance relationship for the past three years and his work (in 28 days (who’s counting?)) will bring him back to Oahu for good. That’s a no for personal trips unless we’re visiting his family on Maui. If anything comes up for a work trip I’d be happy for the opportunity, but other than that I’m ready to quit the convent and be in the same zip code with him.
WY: Last thoughts/Comments?
CF: My husband, family, and friends; I am incredibly grateful for their support.
WY: Awesome Christa. Thanks for the time and good luck with your life and career.
For more, see the links below.
Web: Christa Funk