There are many ways to film and all sorts of equipment to choose from. For those who don’t already have their equipment dialed, here are a few pointers that may help. First of all, a camera that fits your capabilities is the key to capturing some great moments.
If you have a zoom lens and prefer to stay dry, there are multiple angles that work well for Queens, either the jetty in front of the banyan tree or the one by the lifeguard stand are good locations but only with a long enough lens. I’d you don’t have a long lens of at least 300mm, you may want to think about grabbing a GoPro, waterproof iPhone, or another camera with a water housing, and some fins and getting a bit closer to the action.
GoPro models (Hero 9, Hero8, Max, Hero7, Hero7, and Hero5) are all waterproof. They don't require an additional case for depths up to 33 feet (10 meters), with the exception of the Max – which is waterproof to just 16 feet (5 meters). I-phone (with waterproof case - make sure its floatable). Camera with a zoom lens on a tripod. Camcorder - Consider finding one second hand!
Knowing what all the different functions of your camera do, as well as knowing where all the buttons are, will save you a lot of hassle when filming. Fully familiarize yourself with the different functions, and work out which mode to shoot your surfing with before you hit the waves.
You will need a waterproof camera or a camera with waterproof housing for success in the water. A GoPro will work in this situation. Most small waterproof cameras have these accessories available… hand grip, floating device, etc. Make sure your camera is floatable. In the case that you (or a friend) drops the camera, or it comes free from its attachment, it will be less likely that you lose it to the ocean if you have a floatable camera case. Some waterhousings are floatable, some may need attachments. A waterproof housing makes your GoPro tougher. This means if you wipe-out you won’t have to worry as much about rocks or sand as you would without a housing. You’ll also be able to go deeper with your camera, even if it’s already waterproof, again – less worry.
It’s easy to lose a GoPro in the sea. A loose wrist strap is all it takes – but let’s not dwell on that! Learn from my experience and go into the shore whenever you move your camera from one mount to another. Don’t do it at sea. When filming from the water, get within range of your subject without disrupting their ride or other surfers in the lineup. If you have a zoom lens in the water and you may need to sit back further.
Avoid water-drops and condensation. Make sure there are no water drops on the lens. These will completely ruin what could have been some great footage. You can get water drops or condensation on the GoPro lens itself, and on the inside/outside of the waterproof housing. Lick the lens before every dunk. This coats the lens in saliva (a natural water repellent) and will keep your lens clear of any droplets. No need to buy the extra products, just give your lens a good lick. For water-drops on the lens and on the outside of the housing you can either lick the lens, or use a product like Rain-X. These products really come in handy if you’re not big on licking the camera lens every few minutes.
If filming from land, a sturdy tripod will ensure you get top notch footage. Make sure your horizon line is level. Always take more footage than you think you need (you can edit it later).
Maybe the most important rule of all. If you plan to shoot surf footage all day, make sure that you have plenty of battery life (and while we’re at it memory card space to get you through the day). Make sure that the battery is fully charged and the card is freshly formatted. There’s nothing worse than having your camera die in the middle of an epic session. Charge up the night before and bring some extra batteries just in case you run out of juice mid-session. This will give you the maximum possible recording time. If you desperately want to continue recording once the card is full or the battery is dead, paddle in, dry the camera carefully and change the card/battery.