In the Mix

Zak Noyle's 'Eddie' images take center stage in Waikiki

May 17th, 2016
COURTESY ZAK NOYLE Clyde Aikau, younger brother of Eddie Aikau, was one of the competitors in this year's Quicksilver in Memory of Eddie Aikau.


Clyde Aikau, younger brother of Eddie Aikau, was one of the competitors in this year's Quicksilver in Memory of Eddie Aikau.

In order to capture the images showcased in a new exhibit of photographs at T Galleria by DFS Hawaii, local photographer Zak Noyle spent a full eight hours in the ocean at Waimea Bay.

And it wasn’t just another typical day in the bay — Noyle was in the water on Feb. 25 as the official photographer for the Quicksilver in Memory of Eddie Aikau, a surfing competition that was held for only the 10th time since 1985. The contest only takes place when waves are consistently clean and around 40 feet during daylight hours for at least six to eight hours. Noyle was also the only photographer allowed in Waimea Bay to shoot the contest the last time it ran in 2009.

Some of Noyle’s favorite photos from that day are on display in Waikiki through August, with prints available for sale and the proceeds donated to the Eddie Aikau Foundation to help perpetuate Aikau’s legacy. Noyle and some of the surfers who were in the water that day — including Eddie’s younger brother, Clyde Aikau — also attended an opening reception on May 7 to sign autographs and meet-and-greet with fans.

STAR-ADVERTISER / 2016Noyle, right, and Clyde Aikau at the opening reception for Noyle's photography exhibit in February at DFS Hawaii.


Noyle, right, and Clyde Aikau at the opening reception for Noyle's photography exhibit in February at DFS Hawaii.

In addition to the photos, the Waikiki exhibit includes equipment he used in the ocean that day, including a Canon 70D camera and 24-105 lens, SPL water housing and custom fins. Koa Rothman provided the surfboard he used as the contest’s youngest participant, and one of the Aqua Lung inflatable ocean safety vests that debuted this year will be on display as well.

Along with shooting the Eddie, the 30-year-old also works for Surfer magazine as a staff photographer and was one of 162 people selected to take part in a recent Apple iPhone advertising campaign, which plastered spectacular pictures he shot at Makapu’u and Queens beaches on super-sized billboards around the world.

Noyle spoke with the Honolulu Star-Advertiser last week before jetting off to Nicaragua to photograph more surfing action.

QUESTION: How often are you in Hawaii these days?

ANSWER: At least 2 to 3 weeks every month. I’m constantly on the go for the rest of the summer. It’s a lot of fun.

Featuring photographs by Zak Noyle
» Where: T Galleria by DFS Hawaii, 330 Royal Hawaiian Ave.
» When: Through Aug. 31
» Cost: Free
» Info: (808) 931-2700 or

Q: You turned 30 this year. What was your birthday like?

A: I wanted to be somewhere cool. I kind of just put it out to the universe and we ended up going to Indonesia. We ended up scoring amazing waves. That was a really great way to bring in 30.

Q: How does this exhibit compare to others you’ve done?

A: It was such a historic and crazy day. To have it in a viewing place where it is now, it’s on the world stage. To be the one who was in the water shooting it all day, it was such a special thing for me.

Q: Did you know you were going to be in the water for eight hours straight?

A: Yes and no. I didn’t know what was going to happen. I knew I didn’t want to get out of the water. The fact that it hasn’t happened in seven years, why would I want to miss one wave? You could potentially miss the best wave of the entire day. Why even tempt that?

I knew I could go for eight hours. I was going to man up, I kept telling myself. Why wouldn’t I want to be in the water that entire time?

Q: How did you prepare yourself for this year’s Eddie?

A: I had a big three weeks before that. I was in Micronesia (and) ended up going to Japan to snowboard. Every day I’d be monitoring it constantly, but I only ended up staying three days.

I got back (to Hawaii) the night before. I was pretty exhausted. The whole day before, I just hydrated heavily. I just knew it was going to be a long day.

Q: What did it mean to you being the only photographer in the water that day?

A: I don’t think I got the jitters. It’s Waimea Bay. I was diving under waves that had 60-foot faces. No matter what, it’s scary. It was just incredible I was able to do it again.

It’s more about what it all stands for. To me, that’s what makes it more chicken skin.

In the morning, everyone was real focused. And then in the afternoon everyone had loosened up. The whole vibe changed. Everyone was there to honor Eddie more than anything. Obviously you’d love to win the contest, but just being there for Eddie.

Q: Is shooting in the water at a big wave contest something other photographers can aspire to?

A: I think there are some things you can’t teach. Being in waves like that, I was swimming, but not only that. I’m trying to make sure my exposure is correct, my composition.

It’s not something you can just pick up. You kind of got it or you don’t. And that’s not being rude — not everyone can do this. It’s one thing to just swim out and it’s another to be able to use a camera, but are you going to be comfortable enough to compose a shot.

Maybe in the shore break it’s like shooting fish in a barrel, but when you have to swim and negotiate waves, it’s a whole other world.

Q: How has the photo landscape changed since you started taking pictures?

A: With more and more people wanting to do surf photography, it’s made me push in a direction of expanding it and getting more creative. I’m going to new places I’ve never been, so I’m super excited. There’s always new possibilities to go and create.

Q: At this point in your career, what does it mean to be able to regularly spend time in Hawaii?

A: It’s home and I feel that it recharges and refreshes me. I look forward to coming back to Sandy’s. It’s where I come to reset myself before heading out again.

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