Tim’s second home is in the shadow of this famous bow-like headland and he rates the guys who surf it as some of the best big wave riders in the world. (Gibson)

The Wit & Wisdom Of Tim Bonython


Passion… I’ve chased almost every major swell event of the past 40 years. I just can’t help but be there. It excites me to see the best big wave surfers charging the biggest waves on the planet. Thankfully some of the best slab waves are in Australia and surrounding areas in the southern hemisphere like Fiji and Tahiti. Living in Sydney helps because we’re at the centre of all these options.

Sacrifice… Missing a swell is the worst thing. I hate it. I missed the Cloudbreak swell of 2012. I had it on the radar but unfortunately my aunty passed away the week before and I promised myself that when it comes to family, sacrifices have to be made. This was one of them.

Action… Faces. Faces change with time. Back when I was shooting Super 8 in the late 70s and 80’s, I wish I’d filmed a lot more people and lifestyle shots, but I was all about action really.

Equipment… As far as changes in equipment goes every advance in camera media is good. Up until last year I was shooting no faster than 50 frames per second – 25 frames per second is real time – so 50 frames is twice as slow as real time. At 180 FPS,  it’s seven times as slow. But now, if you’ve got the money you can get yourself a Phantom Flex. That’ll shoot 1000 frames per second in HD. I wish…

Smart phones… In the near future everyone will be a filmmaker in a way. People will just button on and off and shoot 2, 3, 4 second blocks of data, then import it and pick and choose the best part of the action. I’ve been doing this for six or seven years now with my frame grabs, which is fine for the internet.

Timing… I’ve come to realise historic swells don’t come all the time. There might be one epic swell every four or five years. Code Red at Teahupoo was in 2011. The Jaws tow was 2009, Solander 2011, Cloudbreak 2012, Shipsterns 2011, The Right in 2014 and so on. So it’s my objective to continue to capture these historic swells as much as possible. Training and keeping healthy is the key to continue living my dream. It’s the best job on the planet, even if it doesn’t make you rich.

Nailing it…  Sitting on a boat shooting the most amazing waves on the planet, it might sound strange but I can find myself in a state where it’s like I’m actually surfing those waves too. Don’t get me wrong I’m not claiming it and I’m sure the fear is nothing like what the surfers are taking in. But when you get a great shot and you’re shooting at a high frame rate, looking down the throat of a massive bomb set with someone like Mark Mathews or Manoa Drollet or Russell Bierke threading its insides, you know you have that moment forever, just like how that surfer will take that ride and have it nicely shelved in his mind forever.

Heroes… Mark Mathews is the king from this country but I also love the local lads: Tassie guys like Marti Paradisis, Mikey Brennan, Danny Griffiths and the Holmer-Cross brothers. I like to see the WA locals like Chris Ross, Chris Shannahan, Bradley Norris and Mick Corbett at The Right too. I also get a kick out of watching the new generation. Russell Bierke and Riley Laing step up without hesitation. They’re fearless and want it bad. They’re tomorrow’s heroes and that’s cool. Finally there’s Slater. When it comes to big waves, he can make it look easy. Only when he’s confident.

The big wave world tour… When it comes to professional surfers there’s a lot more than the WCT. Big wave surfers are so underrated. Hardly any of them are getting paid well to do what they do best. But I do see a better future for them on the way and perhaps this Big Wave World Tour is the start.

Career… It’s weird, but some people reckon I’m killing it financially. That’s so untrue. My dad always said “Do what you like and do it well and the dollars will come.” Sometimes I wish I was an architect because if I was making houses for 40 years then I’d be rich. But I am rich in what my life has given me. I’ve seen surfing evolve so much in my forty or so years of pointing a camera toward the ocean. So money, it’s something I long for but unfortunately it’s eluded me. Thanks to my wife and partner Sandrine, she’s put up with all this and helped steer us clear of bankruptcy so I can continue my passion. I still have heaps to do that will hopefully allow me to bank some extra dollars rather than just pay the bills. Fingers crossed ASMF12 will help do that.

Surfing World