Alice Ward: Surf Photographer

Beyond The Frame

Welcome to another episode of Surf Bank's Beyond The Frame where we dive into the captivating world of surf and ocean photography, going beyond mesmerising captures exploring the backstory of many talented photographers. In this episode we will be hearing from Alice Ward a talented surf photographer from Dublin, Ireland with an amazing story! Beyond the frame aims to inspire and inform future surf photographers and ocean lovers being your backstage pass to detailed insights from the minds behind stunning surf shots.

Alice Ward Gallery

What Did Your Childhood Look Like?

I grew up in Dublin city in Ireland. My childhood was equal parts lovely and also very difficult. I spent the first 6 months of my life in ICU and wasn’t expected to survive. I was eventually diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis which is a genetic disease that affects the lungs and digestive system. I spent a huge amount of time in hospital as a kid and my parents were told I probably wouldn’t live past 18. Amidst all those moments of illness, I enjoyed a wonderful childhood. My dad is an open water sea swimmer and my mums side of the family are mad into gardening so we were always out in nature exploring beaches or the countryside. When I was 12 we moved out of the city centre to a seaside village in Dublin. I had a lucky break in my health and started doing a lot of sports which really helped my lungs and my quality of life started to improve immensely from there on out.

What Came First, Surfing or Photography?

They both entered my life around the same time. My first experience with surfing was at the age of 14 during a family holiday to Dunfanaghy in Donegal, where I did a week-long surf camp. I fell in love with it immediately. I had also begun filming clips and taking photos using a Fujifilm point-and-shoot camera, editing small montages of my summer holidays. I documented that first trip to Dunfanaghy and definitely have the video buried somewhere on an old laptop!

How Did You Get Into Surf Photography?

While I love photography my main passion has always been filmmaking. After finishing university in Dublin I decided to move to Sligo in the North West of Ireland. Prior to this move, my experience with surfing had been limited to summer holidays and weekends. This was the first time I could enjoy waves all year round. Having learned to surf in a small village as a teenager with a very small surf community, I had always presumed only a handful of women surfed in Ireland because that’s all I had seen. So when I moved to Sligo I was shocked to see how many women were surfing there and how it was not being represented online or in the media. There were no women shooting from the water in Ireland at the time and and I felt that a significant aspect of the Irish surf community was being overlooked.

During that first year in Sligo I was working as a full time videographer for a marketing company. I really hated the job and burnt myself out which resulted in a bad three week hospital stay which hadn’t happened in years. Whilst I was in hospital I made the decision to quit my job and attempt to pursue a career in surf and documentary filmmaking. I then applied for a local arts grant and through that I was able to buy waterproof housing and I made my first surf film, “Ebb and Flow” which featured three female surfers living on the west coast. I didn’t have a clue what I was doing and learned how to use the housing whilst I was shooting the film. It was a big learning curve and because I didn’t grow up in a surf community, I wasn’t very well connected at the time and learned everything by trial and error. The film went on to do well internationally and won some awards which was a huge surprise. I very quickly fell in love with the feeling of swimming out in waves with my camera and my journey into surf photography and filmmaking developed from there.

Where Do You Normally Shoot?

I shoot primarily on the west coast of Ireland.

Photo By Alice Ward

Where Do You Shoot? Water or Land?

I shoot from both depending on weather conditions and what style of shots I want.

What Makes The Perfect Image?

For me, a perfect image captures a certain energy and movement. I almost always prefer an imperfect image, one with texture or blur, that captures a moment in between those 'perfect moments'.

How Did You Become So Involved In The Surf Scene?

I just kept surfing and stayed really motivated to keep shooting in the water and making more cold water surf films from my perspective. I gradually got to know the Irish surf community better who are incredibly supportive and friendly and began getting opportunities to collaborate with surf brands.

Do You Have A Favourite Photographer That Has Inspired You?

Richard Mosse tops my list as my favourite photographer, whilst I love surf photographers Sebastien J. Zanella and Joni Sternbach. Mickey Smith's films have consistently provided immense inspiration ever since I first watched "Darkside of the Lens" at the age of 16. I also love the film work of Andrew Kaineder and Jack Whitefield.

What's Your Biggest Challenge To Overcome When Shooting?

I think there are a lot of moving parts to shooting in the water from dealing with currents and positioning to making sure your camera doesn’t fog up or is in proper focus. For me the biggest hurdles are the fear elements of swimming out in certain conditions and also when my lungs aren’t feeling great or I have a chest infection the last thing I feel like doing is putting on a 6/4 wetsuit and swimming out in 8 degree water. However, I love the challenge and the feeling of being in cold water and I always feel better for it afterwards. Despite the challenges I am so incredibly lucky to have found surfing and surf photography because it has had such a positive impact on my life and my health.

Photo By Alice Ward

Alice's Equipment List

Camera & Lenses

Alice normally shoots with the Sony a7 III and the Sony a7S III, along with a 28-70mm lens, 70-200mm lens, or a 200-600mm lens.

Water Housing

When it comes to water housing, Alice uses the Salty Surf housing and AquaTech Edge housing.


When Alice is shooting she won't go without her 6/4mm XCEL wetsuit.

Alice's Favourite Shot Taken

I don’t think I have a specific favourite shot as my primary focus is with my film projects rather than photography. However I love any photo from this session last November. All my friends were out surfing and as the hours went by the lighting conditions and waves just kept getting better and better. There was great vibes in the water that day and it was such a laugh!

Favourite Shot By Alice Ward

Alice's Future Plans

I have numerous film projects planned for the next year in Ireland and abroad. The plan is always to keep improving my skills as I still have a lot to learn and trying to push myself to tell peoples ocean-related stories in unique ways.

Follow @alice.rosaline.ward

You can keep up to date with Alice's new projects and recent captures on her Instagram, alongside viewing her production company Sea Pea Films found here

Do You Want To Be Involved In Beyond The Frame?

Are you a surf photographer wanting your story told? You may be our next Beyond The Frame feature! Please get in touch with us over email so we can get a conversation going:

Photo By Alice Ward

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