Lisa Coulaud: 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 Lisa Coulaud a former competitive athlete now surf photographer from France, based in Dakar, Senegal. 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.

Lisa Coulaud's Gallery

What Did Your Childhood Look Like?

I grew up in a small town in southwest France. I didn't live near the ocean at the time. I spent most of my time ice skating. I was a competitive athlete for 20 years. I've always loved sport, and in those days I was the one photographed. What I've kept from that time is how fascinated I am by the courage of athletes to achieve their dreams.

What Came First, Surfing or Photography?

Before discovering photography or surfing, I first liked documentaries. I studied geography at university in Paris. I made short films during those years. That's what brought me to Dakar for the first time several years ago now. I discovered surfing thanks to some friends. I started taking lessons and at the same time I met a surfer from the Senegalese national team. I was immediately fascinated by the sport and by Sidy's motivation to progress. Surfing has always reminded me of a form of dance, in addition to the athletic aspect. I wanted to photograph to share and highlight this community. I bought my equipment step by step. I realised how important it was to show black/African surfers. The surfing world is still so undiversified. Senegalese surfers are so talented. I hope to be able to photograph this community for a long time and see Sidy achieve his goals.

How Did You Get Into Surf Photography?

As I said, it was meeting a surfer that allowed me to discover surfing from the inside. I love creating photos and videos with Sidy. I've also been lucky enough to travel with him for his competitions around the world. It's magical to be able to photograph different waves with different landscapes. Now that I live in Dakar, I'm close to the ocean. So I can practise surf photography every day.

Where Do You Normally Shoot?

I mainly shoot in Dakar (Senegal). Most of the surf spots are concentrated in the north of the capital, so it's easy to go out and shoot every day.

Photo By Lisa Coulaud

Where Do You Shoot? Water or Land?

I shoot mainly from land, mostly for videos. But about a year ago I bought a water housing. So I also do water photography now. I sometimes use my drone, but I'm not an expert!

What Makes The Perfect Image?

I believe that a successful photo captures a unique moment. Something that will never be the same. Then I think it's a question of angle and light. At the end of the day, it's all about how much the image makes an impression on people, how much it resonates with them.

How Did You Become So Involved In The Surf Scene?

By meeting the surfing community in Senegal. There are so many talented surfers to photograph.

Do You Have A Favourite Photographer That Has Inspired You?

When I started photography, I didn't know any photographers. I had everything to learn, from technique to the style I wanted to develop. I started discovering other people's work thanks to Instagram. It has helped me a lot to develop my creativity. Here are a few names of photographers who inspire me. Here are a few names of photographers who inspire me. The list is obviously not exhaustive! They all inspire me for different reasons! Sometimes for the videos, sometimes for the photos It's so important for me to see the work of women photographers in surfing. Because it's still a very male-dominated field (especially for water photography):

Paula Ortega / Keana Rivet / Elise Laine / Nicole Sweet / Alex Hayes / Beatriz Ryder / Sachi cunningham / Cait Miers / Ben Reed / Sean Evans / Diego Weisz / Jake Zielinski / Aline Arnold / Med Lebsat / Rémi Blanc / Javi Postigo / Robin Aussenac / Paul Lavoine / Rafael Moura / Ben Thouard / Ryan Pernofski / Seb Picaud / Alan van Gysen / Tim McKenna / Lucas Balbino / Hugo Boulenger / Asia Brynne / Sarah Lee / Pedro Grimaldi / Luke Gartside / Jesse Little / Guillem Cruells

What's Your Biggest Challenge To Overcome When Shooting?

Tough question! There are technical challenges of course, especially the lighting. Shooting in the middle of the day is always a challenge for me. At the seaside the light changes a lot. When you shoot all day in very hot and humid areas. It's very demanding and not easy to manage the equipment. I think it's hard to get the camera out when you're just starting out as you're afraid of  being embarrassed in front of people. But once you've got that sorted out, the work becomes so much more interesting! When it comes to water photography, there are so many difficulties! It's one of my favourite angles, but definitely the most difficult in every respect.

Photo By Lisa Coulaud

Lisa's Equipment List

Camera & Lenses

Lisa normally shoots with with Sony A7III / Sony A7IV / Sigma 150-600 / Sigma 85mm / Sigma 24-70mm.

Water Housing

When it comes to water housing, Lisa uses the Aquatech EDGE + Port lens P130 / Go Pro 11 4. In addition when using a drone Lisa opts for the DJI Mini 2&3.


When Lisa is shooting she won't go without these key items: O'Neill wetsuits, 1mm Wallien, 3/2 MDNS and Dafin Fins.

Lisa's Favourite Shot Taken

If I had to choose, I'd go for this party wave photo taken in Dakar during Italo Ferreira's visit. Young surfers in Dakar were so impressed to see him. With local champion Chérif Fall and South African surfer Joshe Faulkner, they shared a wave. I think this photo shows the joy they had surfing together. It shows diversity. There's no more winning or competition, just the essence of surfing: sharing the ocean with respect and fun.

Party Wave By Lisa Coulaud

Personal Message

"I'd like to see brands take a greater interest in Senegalese surfing. The talent is there and our champions need sponsors!" - Lisa Coulaud

Lisa's Future Plans

I'd like to make a living from photography. Full-time I'd like to continue photographing the surfing community in Dakar. Create with the people I love. I'd like to travel and work with brands. I've been lucky enough to have my work exhibited in a gallery in LA recently, and I want to continue this partnership.

Follow @lisa_coulaud

You can keep up to date with Lisa's new projects and recent captures on her Instagram, as well as contacting her by dropping a direct message or emailing her at

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 Lisa Coulaud

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