Surfing Makaha With Clark Little & Friends

How I ended up catching waves with a world-famous photographer
that captures the savage beauty of Hawaii’s shore line for a living.
Images via @surfingwithben

In Hawaii, there is a huge prestige among the few individuals that have made a  name for themselves off the island. Besides Bruno Mars and the occasional NFL player the islands produce our biggest cash crop happens to be are our surfers and fighters. For example, this past December, local girl Ilima-Lei MacFarlane defended her belt and title as Bellator Women’s Flyweight World Campion for the 2nd time and brought the first big MMA venue home to islands, selling out our Blaisedell Arena in the process.

Now Ilima,  also just happens to be a friend of mine, as well as my former wresting co-captain for our boys and girl, and most hated arch nemesis throughout most of high school (it’s a long story). A few days after her fight we were able to catch up with our wrestling coaches I got to tag along with her and her friends to Makaha Beach and at the same time try to get more used to the fact that she now had a fan base. Well that didn’t last long because 20 minutes after arriving 2 men, followed by a pair of teenagers joined us and although I had no idea who they were it was safe to say that they were both definitely “somebody”. One of the guys, with some pretty nice teeth, came bearing 2 free pairs of viperfins while the other, who was introduced as “PK”, had the newest GoPro fusion, drone, and immediately  started filming the conversations between nice teeth guy and Ilima.

Ilima, myself, and our teammate Shelby at our last state tournament together

About 20 minutes into their conversation while there was a pause I jumped at the chance to ask nice teeth guy who he was.  I look at him and go, “Ok, please don’t get mad but… what’s your name?” Nice teeth guy looks at me and politely goes, “Oh, my name is Clark, Clark Little ” OOOOOHHH…. Yeah, I knew that name because even out in Chicago people would ask me if I ever met him. After a quick google check it confirmed that Clark was definitely that guy the award-winning photographer who pioneered shore break photography, had a super popular gallery on the island, was partnered with Hurley, and had a documentary about him out with basically all the best surfers in the world talking about his mad skills. No big deal, right?

Shortly after my awkward fangirl moment we all got on a giant board called the “Supsquatch”. We proceeded to paddle out and catch some waves while scattering all the surfers each time we turned towards the shore. Long story short: the Supsquatch is freaking amazing and so much fun, it felt like a water park ride. I’m still not sure if people were gathered on the beach because of Ilima and Clark or because of that monster we were riding.

Clark Little

After getting to chat with Clark and everyone else a little bit more I discovered a few things:

  • The video camera guy, PK, is actually Peter King. PK is a well-known journalist and has done multiple surf films, including Shorebreak: The Clark Little Story.
  • He’s definitely doing something right because that guy has mad energy and was as excited as a little kid to get on the Supsquatch. With two, and might I add beautiful, kids and the busy schedule I’m sure he has, he was more than willing to hand the GoPro off to me and grab a paddle instead. *Clark if you’re reading this just know that I still can’t believe you trusted me with that thing.
  • He’s not just a photographer. If there’s one thing I’ve learned while living in downtown Chicago, it’s that a lot of people with power and influence like to talk about their power and influence. Cocky right? Well, Clark really only opened up and chatted me when I asked him about things other than his photography. Like did you know he once watched one of the Florence brothers as a at the beach? Or that he kept shooting in the shore break with a painful hip injury? Or that he and his brother Brock Little went to the same school as Ilima and I? Along with 44thPOTUS Barrack Obama? All of that just puts everything in perspective and reminds me that humble beginnings can lead to greatness and that those are usually the best ones.
  • Both he and PK liked my artwork. (Cue my cheers!) I had to sneak in a quick preview of the portrait I did of Kelly Slater on the 10 hours plane ride to Hawaii. Little did the guys know that their praise and reactions to my art gave me a huge boost in confidence and basically convinced my parents that maybe I could do art as more than a hobby.

In summary, that day at Makaha was pretty epic, to say the least. The best part though? There was nothing but love and good vibes going around. There were no feelings of arrogance, pressure, or really anything other than the feeling of family. We respected the other surfers out in the water and in turn they cheered us on every time we paddled for a wave. People walking by on the beach waved and said hello, Merry Christmas, congratulations and just went on their way without any bother.
And you know what?
All of this happens #onlyinHawaii.

Happy New Year everyone!
Aloha, JT



Dive into the life of renowned water photographer, Clark Little, as he takes on the world’s most dangerous shorebreak around the island of Oahu. When he’s not in the water, Clark shares the insider tips and techniques that have taken his photos from his living room wall to inside the Smithsonian.
 Available now on amazon prime

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