Clark Little famously takes a beating in the shorebreak for a living. His images have become iconic in the surf world and non-surf world alike. All because he decided to do something differently, to see something that other photographers might otherwise disregard.
The aptly titled full-length documentary, Shorebreak: The Clark Little Story, examines how Clark came to be the world renowned, 1.8m Instagram followers photographer he is today.
“A key moment for me was when my wife came home with a photo of Waimea shorebreak,” said Clark. “That was about ten years ago. I said, ‘Honey, don’t bother getting a photo like this from the market. I can take one.'”
With that, he began venturing out in the waves heaving onto the sand at Waimea Bay with a small point-and-shoot camera with a housing, capturing fleeting moments in the barrel and freak of nature double or triple ups. He began posting photos on social media and they soon caught fire. Shortly after, Clark began getting phone calls from outlets like the Today Show to have him on and talk about his work.
“I did what I love and the rest kind of happened,” he says of the huge reception he received.
Clark has to be one of the most humble guys I’ve had the pleasure of speaking with. And the way that he shakes off his success is completely fitting, but also fails to give him credit for the intentionality behind his work. The reality is he saw the beauty of something most surf photographers would overlook. For most, the shorebreak is an obstacle to the actual playing field – the beauty to be photographed where waves were both rideable and symmetrical.
When I pushed Clark on that he concurred. “Yeah, I mean when you’re taking a photo of a double up, triple up, crazy wave, it’s like a natural sculpture in a sense.”
What’s incredible about Clark’s work, too, is the way it has the power to resonate with anyone anywhere. In most of his photos, there is no subject. In other words, no experience in the ocean much less knowledge of surfing is required to develop an intrinsic albeit vicarious connection to the waves and appreciate their energy.
I asked Clark about how someone in Topeka, Kansas might interpret his work and find joy from it, and how that made him feel. “I just hope that anything I do is making people happy, man,” he said. “You know, that’s what I’m trying to do through my photos and my Instagram is just spread happiness and positivity.”
Shorebreak takes a deeper look at the road to Clark’s success. Directed by Peter King, a world renowned surf photographer in his own right, the film has been touring the country, culminating in a Hawaiian premier.
That was the coolest moment, says Clark. “To have the premier at home and have family, friends, and hundreds and hundreds of other people show up, man, it was awesome.”