For photographer Ben Thouard, shooting photos from below Tahiti’s clear waters quickly turned addictive. “The water clarity here is insane,” he says. “The wave breaking on the reef barrier far offshore keeps the water clean from sand, dust, and any dirt coming from shore. It’s not like that everyday, but when there is no wind and it has not been raining for a few days, the ocean is as clear as a swimming pool. Looking at a wave breaking from underwater is like discovering a new world. It offers a whole new perspective on surfing for me. It’s like watching a show from backstage.”
Matahi Drollet dons a pair of fins and goes for a flat-day swim.
Naum Ildefonse (right) and Jonathan Gonzales at nearby Taapuna.
Unidentified, at the wrong place for a wipeout.
Tahitian surfer Aude Lionet-Chanfour. “I had these images in mind for a long time,” Thouard says. “The morning light through the wave is awesome, but it’s fully against the sun, so I needed to light up my model. I shot this image with a two-strobe flash on each side in order to brighten up Aude. The pareo (wrap-around skirt) around her waist was used on purpose to get both light from the sun and from the flashes. The result is pretty interesting.”
Michel Bourez, duck-diving in his backyard.
Naum Ildefonse at Taapuna, while Michel Bourez prepares to destroy the lip in the background.
A glassy afternoon in Tahiti.
Frenchman Jeremy Flores and his girlfriend, former Miss Tahiti Hinarani De Longeaux. “Jeremy was in Tahiti, and the waves were small, so I wanted to give another try to the underwater personal projects. For all of the subjects, who swam underwater barefoot, the photos were the result of a lot of hard work.”
Punishing turbulence, caught from below.
Local surfer Raiponi Pua, finding his way through the cylinder at Teahupoo.
Niccolo Porcella streaks through another Tahitian dreamscape.
Porcella, again. “Personally, I love the morning light filtered by the wave, and seeing the surfer riding the barrel and going through the sunlight is amazing,” says Thouard.
Teahupoo at its moodiest: black and white, shot from below.
Laird Hamilton swimming while Keoni Yan enjoys the inside ledge.
“This was Anthony Walsh during a small morning session at Teahupoo, before the Billabong Pro Tahiti in 2014,” Thouard says. “The water clarity was perfect that morning, so I decided to shoot underwater. The wave before had brought a lot of whitewater, stirring up those bubbles which filtered the sun and created a unique atmosphere. You can even spot Walsh’s GoPro pole.”
“This shot of Landon McNamara at Teahupoo is definitely the best underwater photo I’ve taken recently,” says Thouard. “Every time I swim out for an underwater session, I can’t wait to find these kinds of conditions again.”