SurfSista Meets: Lucia Griggi, Surf Photographer

SurfSista Meets: Lucia Griggi, Surf Photographer

To be a surf photographer is an oft-coveted job – but it’s not as easy as it looks. We interviewed Lucia Griggi to ask how the ocean became her office.

It’s refreshing to chat with Lucia Griggi, a rarity amongst the beach patriarchy, since surf photography tends to be a male dominated industry.

The renowned surf and outdoor adventure photographer grew up between London and Venice, but now chases deadly waves for a living. Paddling out in sets as big as 50ft, is just another day in the office for her.

It’s an oft-coveted job, but it’s not as easy as it looks.

Surf photographers take a lot of risks in the water, with heavy wipes outs, sharks, razor-sharp reefs and strong currents to name just a few. But, it’s also physically exhausting work. Imagine carrying a ton of heavy photography equipment whilst ducking under waves, clinging to the reef and swimming relentlessly for hours at a time, to be in the right spot for a shot.

We caught up with Griggi to quiz her on how the ocean became her office.

SSm: How did you get into adventure photography – in particular, surf photography?

LG: I was always in love with the idea of traveling the world with my surfboard under my arm! The waves were my destination and I was the journey. Although I loved to see where the ocean took me, my curiosity for what was on the land bit me even harder, and gave me the adventure bug!

I loved to document my travels so I picked up my father’s Nikon camera and started to take pictures. Obviously, my love for surfing and now photography became one and this led into working in surf photography.

Since I was working in the surfing world I crossed over to skateboarding, snowboarding – or, anything within the outdoor action sport realm. A lot of the time my travels took me to far off places, offering unique adventures.

Lucia Griggi. Surf Photographer Interviewed by SurfSista

SSm: Wow, what a way to combine varying passions into a job! Do you find it’s a struggle being female within the surf photography industry? There are so many men in the industry, it’s refreshing to find a female photographer producing such wondrous work!

LG: No, not so much. I definitely had a few struggles throughout my career and my presence sometimes was not always valued. However, I was determined to do what I love, stick to it and never give up. This certainly helped to pull me through the tough times.

I think nowadays there are more women in the industry doing surf photography, and we are being accepted. It’s great that an abundance of cool women are going out there and doing what they love: chasing their dreams whilst living life at the edge of adventure!

SSm: Working at ‘the edge of adventure’ evokes the potential risks in your line of work – have you had any super sketchy moments when working in big waves? 

LG: There are always sketchy moments!

At Cloudbreak in Fiji, the jet-ski tipped and we lost a lot of expensive equipment in a huge swell! Sometimes when I’m caught on the inside or pushed too deep underwater it can be frightening.

I’ve had a few cuts and bangs along the way, but one of the most memorable moments was when I was left shooting in the channel after dark for hours because the boat forgot to come and get me! 

SSm: Oh no! You’ve travelled all over the globe – where is the wildest surf spot you’ve photographed?

LG: That would probably be in Sri Lanka. I have a soft spot for this country and have travelled around many times.

Back in the days, I would camp in rice fields whilst documenting the diamond mining industry. I would camp up in the hills with the refugees when the civil war was coming to an end. I worked on pilgrimages throughout the country and I have seen it transform into a safe and beautiful culture with plenty to offer.

As far as the wildest surf spot, I would have to say Fiji at a place called “Frigates”. It’s a break off Benga Island and when it holds a decent swell it can be like Pipeline: heavy, shallow and fast. The reef is alive and has jagged rocks sticking up. The wave breaks in the middle of nowhere and is an outer reef. There are plenty of deep channels all around and it’s an area renowned for shark diving.

It’s a great wave, but a scary place! 


SSm: Is there any particular female surfer you like to photograph in particular?

LG: I like to photograph Steph [Gilmore] with her power turns and Sally [Fitzgibbons] with her smile!

Rosy Hodge is a sweetheart and girls like Tyler [Wright], Carissa [Moore] and Courtney [Conlogue] rip and are great to shoot.

Carissa Moore. Surf Photo: Lucia Griggi.

SSm: Have you got any tips for aspiring female photographers?

LG: Just get out there and do it!

Follow your dream and passion, battle through the tough times and keep true to yourself.

Listen, learn, stay open and keep fit! The best advice for swimming in the water is to get swim fit. The rest is easy! 

To finish up, we asked Lucia to kindly talk us through the backstory behind a few of her shots.

1. Underwater Duck Dive

Fiji. Stu Johnson. Surf Photographer: Lucia Griggi

LG: I took this image in Fiji of Stu Johnson.

It was a fantastic day, the sun was low in the sky and the water was crystal clear.

I swum alongside him to get this shot as he took a perfect dive under one of the waves heading above us.

2. Kelly Slater's perfect 10 at Pipeline, Hawaii

Kelly Slater's perfect 10. Pipeline. Hawaii. Surf Photographer: Lucia Griggi

LG: This was taken with one of my favourite lenses: a lensbaby. You can manipulate the focus and define where you would like it to focus on.

It was a busy day at Pipe and the contest had just started. Kelly gained a 10 point ride on the wave.

I wanted to stand back and shoot this with the spectators in front to give it some depth.

3. Lucia at Work

Lucia At Work. Surf Photographer: Lucia Griggi.

LG: Here’s a picture of me, at work.

To see more of Lucia’s photography, visit her Instagram, or her website.

Lucia Griggi. Surf Photographer Interviewed by SurfSista

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