Chris Kendall: 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 keen surf photographer Chris Kendall offering a fascinating insight into the surf scene in Yorkshire, England as well his story so far. 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.

Chris Kendall Gallery

What Did Your Childhood Look Like?

I grew up in Yorkshire, in England with my parents, two brothers and a sister. It was all pretty conventional up until my teenage years, doing as most British boys do; playing football. We were introduced to surfing through bodyboarding by my dad on a family holiday to Cornwall. He’d done it in his younger years but not been able to maintain it is as a regular activity due to living away from the coast. We were immediately hooked and quickly upgraded from cheap polystyrene boards to slightly more expensive (but still cheap) polystyrene boards. We planned on keeping up the hobby with regular trips to the coast when we returned home during the summer months. It wasn’t long before we discovered winter wetsuits; meaning there was no need to stop even once the northern winter hit! So we didn’t, although it was tricky to get good wetsuits in kids sizes back then! The surf on the east coast is far from consistent so we supplemented surfing with skateboarding to try and make the most of flat spells.

What Came First, Surfing or Photography?

It was close, but surfing just! I think I started bodyboarding at about 12. My brother actually got a camera before me; maybe a year or two later. It was like 3 megapixels and had like 2x optical zoom, oh how far cameras have come. I got my first decent camera soon after this, with efficient zoom being a priority so I could shoot surfing. I got my first proper SLR when I turned 18.

How Did You Get Into Surf Photography?

It was natural for me to want to take pictures of things I enjoyed. I didn’t really understand composition, light or anything technical. I just wanted to capture moments; people surfing, waves, landscapes etc. For many years the choice between surfing and shooting usually ended up in me surfing and taking a few minutes of photos before/after. It’s only in the last 5 years or so that photography has really took over. Helped initially by the acquisition of a water housing which means I can shoot and be among the waves at the same time. I actually feel like it extends my enjoyment of a session by allowing me to relive it in the edit afterwards.

Where Do You Normally Shoot?

Up and down the Yorkshire coast on the east coast of England. In the North Sea.

Photo By Chris Kendall

Where Do You Shoot? Water or Land?

Both. I prefer to be in the water but I get my better pictures from land.

What Makes The Perfect Image?

Interesting light: the most important thing. I say ‘interesting light’ rather than ‘good light’ because although good light makes capturing nice images easier, exposing and positioning well in ‘bad’ light can produce equally impressive images. Composition: no particular type of composition and it could even be that it breaks all the rules, but it’s gotta be composed in a way which is aesthetically pleasing. Depth: my favourite photos tend to have layers to them which add an extra layer of interest and guide your attention.

How Did You Become So Involved In The Surf Scene?

I started bodyboarding when I was 12. It’s kinda evolved from there, but I’ve never been super ‘in’ the scene. I have a lot of interests and live an hour from the coast, which has always meant I’ve never been fully immersed in the surf scene, despite certain times of my life being entirely directed by my obsession for surfing.

Do You Have A Favourite Photographer That Has Inspired You?

Too many to name them all but growing up I particularly enjoyed consuming Mickey Smith’s cinematography and photography. Some of my current favourites are Ashley and Jared Gruber (cycling photographers) and Lorenz Holder who shoots all sorts of extreme sports.

What's Your Biggest Challenge To Overcome When Shooting?

Recognising the real reason why I’m making creative decisions so I can focus on developing my style around what I like, as opposed to what I think others will like.

Photo By Chris Kendall

Chris's Equipment List

Camera & Lenses

Chris varies his selections determined whether he shoots on land or in the water. On land he uses the Sony A9ii attached with either the Sony 24-70 f2.8 or the Sony 70-200 f4 lens. When shooting in the water Chris will use the Sony A6500 attached with the 50mm/20mm/80mm lens.

Water Housing

When it comes to water housing, Chris opts for his Salty Surf housing for the Sony A650


Chris has a good list of reliable gear that help him capture his shots:

Very old Xcel Drylock 5/3 And an even older Billabong absolute 6/4. Whatever socks and gloves I can get my hands on, plus Viper fins. In addition he always has his Oxo Squeegee to remove water from his housing port.

Chris's Favourite Shot Taken

It varies with my mood, but often like tattoos it’s the story behind the shot that resonates. For the sake of choosing one, this one is pretty special. It’s certainly not my best photo in terms of being unique or well lit, but it was my first shot that got printed as a double page spread in a surf mag, which was pretty exciting at the time. It was a big confidence booster too; seeing that my photos were good enough to be printed alongside people I look up to, in a magazine I’ve read since I was a teenager was really encouraging. The photo features Jesse Davies competing in Secret Spot Surf Shop’s inaugural King of the Point surf contest. A really cool contest where a bunch of mainly local surfers are invited to compete in an event with no set date and a waiting period that spans the whole of winter, the contest is only called on if the swell shows up. Funnily enough I was told not to head down the path which led me to getting this shot as you couldn’t see anything from there. Good job I followed my gut and had a wander!

Favourite Shot By Chris Kendall

Personal Message

Don’t let your passion for surfing go to waste. Use it to make the world a better place. Whether it’s small decisions that result in less plastic ending up in our oceans, or big community building projects, we’ve all got strengths that when combined with our passion can make our immediate world a better place.

Chris's Future Plans

Be the best dad I can be.

Follow @chriskendallphotography

You can keep up to date with Chris's new projects and recent captures on his Instagram, however the best place to view him is his website plus his secondary Instagram @colwatersurfphotography

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 Chris Kendall

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