Behind The Lens: GC photographer Shayne Nienaber takes us behind-the-scenes of his five favourite surf shots

Published on 21/06/2021

Shayne Nienaber is originally from Durban, South Africa, but made the move to Australia in search of a new life for his family. He settled on the Gold Coast due to its similarity with Durban Beach and its wave-rich coastline. Shayne prides himself on his work ethic and ability to stay true to his own style in an ever growing sea of surf photographers. Want proof? Take a look below at five of his favourite shots.

MICK FANNING. SNAPPER ROCKS. I’ve taken a few photos of Mick over the years but this is one of my favourites. I’d been down at Snapper for a few hours and was just about to head home when I saw Mick heading out for a surf. In the mad rush to get my water gear sorted I put on my wetsuit back-to-front and only realised when I duck-dived the first wave. I just laughed, thinking no one will notice. Five minutes later Mick took a set and I shot him during his second turn. As he was paddling back out, Mick said, “Shayne, I think your wetsuit is on the wrong way.”

JAMIE O’BRIEN. MENTAWAI ISLANDS. I got to HT’s one morning and it was super fun. I was about to go for a swim when the boys on the boat said JOB was paddling out. There was such a buzz around the boats so I decided not to swim and to shoot from the boat. Jamie had a lot of videographers and photographers with him. By the time they swam out the swell had picked up and the sweep had increased, making it difficult for them to hold their position in the water. He only surfed for about forty minutes.

KORBIN HUTCHINGS. SNAPPER ROCKS. The swell had arrived on the coast one morning but it had this really funny morning sickness to it. After waiting for about two-and-a-half hours, it started to clean up with the dropping tide. By this time it was packed with surfers and photographers. I think I counted fifteen photogs in the water all shooting further down the line. I stuck on my Fisheye and jumped off the rocks. The sweep was ridiculous. I had to keep swimming out to sea and then back in, just to get into position. Eventually I gave up swimming against the sweep, came in and jumped off the rocks, trying to time my jump with the arriving sets. Finally, I nailed one jump, got into position just as Korbin was taking the wave of the day. 

CLANCY DAWSON. SECRET SPOT QUEENSLAND. Sometimes a local spot does everything opposite to what is normal. When Clancy pulled into this gem I knew he had caught the best wave I’ve seen out there. What a day is all I can say.

EMPTY SLAB. BURLEIGH HEADS. I decided to go shoot Kirra one morning from my ski. Going out of Currumbin Creek, I suddenly had the urge to go and check what Burleigh was doing. I’m glad I changed course as I was greeted by something special. To witness and capture so many perfect waves – both ridden and unridden – will stay in my memory bank forever.

To get a bigger taste of Shayne’s work, swing by his ‘Gram at @shaynenienaber


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