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Shooting the waves

Feb 13, 2008
by Liz Daube, '05

Seth Stafford doesn’t really have an office. He works at the beach. As a photographer for Transworld Surfmagazine, the 1997 Flagler alumnus gets paid to travel the world, don a wetsuit and wander into the ocean with a camera. Stafford travels to Jamaica, Brazil, Mexico, South Africa, Indonesia – wherever the waves are good. He says the job is fun, of course. There is, however, the recurring issue of dodging surfboards and massive waves; but after more than a decade in the water, Stafford’s used to it.

“The photos are taken really close, within a foot to five feet,” he said. “I’ve never been hit except one time, when a surfboard hit the front of my camera. It all happens so quickly, and you get under water as fast as you can – as long as you’re under the surface, it slows everything down.”

Storms don’t worry Stafford, either: “The best waves are after.” Although, traveling can be a bit riskier than some might expect.

“Weird things happen everywhere,” he said. “The scariest thing that ever happened to me just happened in Brazil. The second-to-last night, a guy was murdered just outside our hotel door.”

But like most surfers, Stafford takes a laidback approach to his work – and he’s humble about his success. But as his photo editor, Pete Taras, puts it, “Not a lot of surf photographers come from the East Coast. He was born in Pennsylvania, and now he’s sent to Hawaii, ducking under 30-foot waves. It’s quite an accomplishment.”

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