Jack Bober is a name you may have heard of in the surf photography landscape. What you might not know is the Californian is only 19-years-old and producing images most of us can only dream of capturing. Breath-taking lineups and Golden Gate Bridge barrel shots might be his forte, but Jack’s motivation is very simple — surf photography is his purpose.
Marin Country, CA, is a stunning part of California. It’s basically America’s answer to the Amalfi Coast (go ahead, Google it). It is also home to many things. Tiered rainbow-coloured houses, rolling hills, and if you’re photographer Jack Bober, endless inspiration for exploration and creativity.
Spot guide: San Fransisco County.
“Growing up in Marin has been amazing, it is just so beautiful with the ocean 20 minutes from my house and rolling hills surrounding the little valley that Marin is in. It is really inspiring living here and just being around great art and artists.
“My photography journey started five-years-ago when I got a GoPro for my 15th birthday. I had always been really interested in the ocean because I have family on Oahu and would bodyboard and body surf while I was there.
I would visualise the pictures that I wanted in my head weeks before a swell even came. This is a habit that I still do today.
“That summer I went to Oahu to visit my family and right outside of my grandparents’ house there is this beach with a small shorebreak (like 1ft waves) and I would stand and take videos of these waves and then screen grab pictures from them. I remember being so stoked seeing what I had captured and that feeling is still the one I have to this day.
“I would continue to try and get better and better. It was all I could ever think about and I would visualise the pictures that I wanted in my head weeks before a swell even came. This is a habit that I still do today.
“I think being obsessive over my pictures and what I want to capture is a big reason why I have had some success in the surf photography world to this point. My pictures were not always great, and actually I was looking at some the other day and I was laughing, thinking to myself: 'why did I ever think this is good?'
And, who has inspired Jack on his short yet meteoric journey?
“I would say that creatively, my biggest inspiration are all of the local San Fransisco photographers, more specifically Adam Warmington, Sachi Cunningham, Jon Weiand, and there are many more I could name but I think that anyone who swims out to huge Ocean Beach is very inspiring.
“It is hard enough to just make it out and to actually compose an image out there is incredible. I have always looked up to Jeremiah Klein and Ryan Craig as well because of their compositions and their dedication to chase swells around the world."
Jack has created his own book project ‘California Winter,’ which is now on its third edition, in order to produce a physical body of work after months spent shooting in the water around the Golden State.
“It basically started as a way to get away from posting my images on Instagram. The first one I put out in 2020, I was not expecting to sell any, but was blown away at the support that I got when I first announced it. From there it has given me something to work for each winter and it sets a goal for me to put together a complete body of work so I have enough to make a thorough book.
“The book itself is a soft cover, 50-60 page book that has no words and is just filled with pictures of waves! I love doing it every year even though it is a lot of work, it is one of the most rewarding things I have done in my short photography career."
As with most lenspeople, Jack’s had a couple of spine-tingling situations. “My most recent one was last winter. I was swimming at Ocean Beach on a pretty solid day (8-10ft MSW report) and it was breaking solely on the inside bar. The inside bar is very heavy and can get really shallow.
“As soon as I made the swim out there this huge set that capped on the outer bar came in and just shoved me into the sand. I lost a fin and had to endure a 6 wave set with one fin, by the end of it I was so exhausted. Days like that really humble me and remind me that I am not invincible out there.
“I think that the best thing about it is the people. The surf community is very tight-knit and we all kind of look out for one another on the big days. The waves are just so powerful and critical that it truly is expert level surfing."
When asked what the most important thing he gets out of photography, Jack said: “Happiness and a sense of belonging.
“I think that photography really brings me a sense of purpose more than anything else. It gives me a voice and I can really express myself through my work.
“I am really going to focus on photography more than I ever have over this next year. Really put my all into it and just see what I can do with it. I am planning on travelling a bunch and spending some of my winter in Hawaii.
“I think if I was to give someone advice who is just starting to shoot, it would be to try and shoot whenever, wherever you can. Just putting the time in will make you a significantly better photographer.”