Sorcha Mallen: 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 Sorcha Mallen from Ireland, a passionate surf photographer that has been exploring the Irish coast all her life! 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.

Sorcha's Gallery

What Did Your Childhood Look Like?

It was pretty fantastic! I grew up in the midlands of Ireland, but as a kid, we used to spend a lot of time near the sea, especially during school breaks. My dad always had a variety of equipment & boards floating around the house, from kiteboards to boogs, surfboards and SUP's, so we were really lucky in how exposed we were to watersports and in how much the sea was a part of our lives. Castlegregory and the rest of the Dingle Peninsula in Co. Kerry was always our go-to spot when we were younger and I love to say that I get to live here now!

What Came First, Surfing or Photography?

Honestly, in the beginning, it was a just pure love for being in the sea. I picked up a camera and started playing around with it around the age of 16, and then the world of surf photography came into my life during the pandemic. Surfing for me was always a fun way of being in the water, but I was never exactly 'good' at it and once I started shooting in the water, I was hooked. It put me into waves and situations that I wouldn't be in otherwise, and it opened up a whole new world for me.

How Did You Get Into Surf Photography?

I started out by shooting on my iPhone with an AxisGo housing from AquaTech. I wanted to get a feel for the whole experience and see if I really enjoyed it before splurging on a housing for my DSLR, but it was one of the best choices I've ever made. It is still such a great little piece of kit, and I would encourage anyone considering water photography to go and start with something like that. I knew from my first few swims out that this was something I wanted to do more of, and so I graduated to my DSLR and a proper housing pretty quickly after that!

Where Do You Normally Shoot?

I'm incredibly lucky to live where I do, so the Dingle peninsula is my stomping ground for shooting. Brandon Bay, Dingle Bay and further west towards and around Slea Head, in my opinion, has some of the most beautiful mountains and coastline in the world, so I always feel really inspired by my surroundings.

Photo By Sorcha Mallen

Where Do You Shoot? Water or Land?

Both, but my real love is in shooting from the water. It's a completely immersive experience and it puts you right in amongst all the elements. But being out there can also feel really meditative. There’s a lot of moving parts when it comes to surf photography, and at the same time, I can always find this sense of stillness and calm. It's like a masterclass in mindfulness, you've no other choice but to be completely present and in the moment.

What Makes The Perfect Image?

I love this question because I think there's so much to it, but for me it's about good technicals and then that little added hint of magic. I really appreciate just how much it takes for the stars to align and all the moving parts to come together in surf photography. You are constantly moving, your subject is constantly moving, the light is changing, you've water droplets to contend with, there is so much going on, and yet when it all comes together, it's worth every second spent out there. Good light is also a really important factor to me. Sunrise and sunset are my favourite times to shoot because the light can be other worldly at those times. It makes for really magical moments!

How Did You Become So Involved In The Surf Scene?

It was really just through consistently shooting! I still feel very much a rookie and I am learning so much on the job, but when you love what you do, you keep showing up! Moving to Kerry also allowed me to meet some of the most warm and welcoming people who live and breathe this life, so I'm really grateful for the connections and friendships made here.

Do You Have A Favourite Photographer That Has Inspired You?

There are so many, but the photographer who inspired me to pick up a camera in the first place and consider shooting in the water was Nick Pumphrey. I came across Nick’s profile on Instagram (@nickpumphreyphoto) during lockdown, and at that time, Nick and his friend Mike Guest (@mr_guesty) had just began what would later become known as “Dawn Days”. Both of them were swimming out each morning, just before dawn, to shoot from the water. I remember seeing those photos and instantly feeling a sense of connection to them. Nick’s images somehow managed to encapsulate the exact same feeling being in the sea gave me. They were emotive and moving, and I didn’t know that was possible! Ireland is also home to some of the most incredible surf photographers out there at the moment, and I am in awe of the level of skill and talent here.

Alice Ward, Megan Gayda, Derw Fineron, Conor Flanagan, Darragh Gorman, Diego Balestro, Gary McCall, Johnny Casey, Clem McInerney, Oliver Hegarty, Tan Nicol, Niall Meehan...the list goes on. There's a whole lot to aspire to!

What's Your Biggest Challenge To Overcome When Shooting?

Truthfully, I would say my own apprehension and fear! I find it a little spooky to swim out at a lot of places, and for a long time, I felt like it was wrong to admit that! But that feeling of fear is always there, and for me, it's about leaning in to it and stretching my comfort zone in a way that feels exciting and motivating. It can be mentally, physically, and at times even technically challenging, but that's also what makes it so rewarding.

Photo By Sorcha Mallen

Sorcha's Equipment List

Camera & Lenses

Sorcha normally shoots with a Sony A6000 & 55-210mm f/4.5-6.3 OSS.

See Sorcha's Camera Here

Water Housing

When it comes to water housing, Sorcha uses the Sea Frogs Salted Line.


When Sorcha is shooting she won't go without these key items: O'Neills Epic Wetsuit, Churchill Makapuu Fins

Sorcha's Favourite Shot Taken

My favourite shot seems to change all the time, but this one I'm pretty proud of! It was my first time swimming out at a reef break and in heavier conditions than I was used to. It felt like a baptism of fire, but I like to think it was a successful one!

Baptism Of Fire By Sorcha Mallen

Sorcha's Future Plans

Keeping shooting, keep learning! I feel really excited about where my surf photography might take me next and how I can improve in all its different areas. Shooting in warmer climates and upgrading my equipment in the long term is also on the cards for me and something I really look forward to doing!

Follow @sorchamallen

You can keep up to date with Sorcha's new projects and recent captures on her Instagram, as well as contacting her by dropping a direct message @sorchamallen

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 Sorcha Mallen

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