My story

The beginning

Living on the Southside of Brisbane for most of my life my parents would frequently drive to the beach on the weekends. My love for the ocean was passed down from my father and mother who spent a lot of time walking the golden sands of our beautiful beaches.

At the age of 8 my father bought a foam body board on our holiday, he would drag me along the sand like a fisherman searching for pilchards in the early hours of the morning. I was instantly hooked on the beach and the surf. Shortly after playing in the shallows my dad would take me out past the breakers to catch bigger waves. It was then that a true love for the ocean and surfing started to emerge from deep within me.

I began body boarding with my friends all throughout high school but it wasn’t until I got my licence that I started to venture down the coast almost daily, searching for waves and the perfect conditions to surf.

The break

Shortly after my 21st birthday a cyclone swell hit the Gold Coast. Waves were big and windy like a washing machine. My friend Luke and I were so excited for the weekend for when we would venture down to Snapper rocks and surf “the Super bank” from Snapper to Kirra. The Coolangatta area is a picturesque location and a very popular wave that we often surfed when the swell was too big for other beach breaks.

It was a dark and stormy morning; low lying clouds graced the horizons with small bursts of rain throughout the morning which made it all the more exciting. Not many people were out there surfing, “perfect” I thought to myself as the crowds are always an annoyance. We proceeded to jump in at Snapper rocks and make the paddle past the white wash that was sweeping us fast towards Greenmount where I caught my first wave. A barrel in front of the onlookers at the point was the first wave I managed to catch. Several more waves were had at Kirra Groyne whilst we paddled against the ocean currents trying to get the most out of the trip. I was at peace with the ocean, nothing else mattered and all the worries disappeared whilst taming the waves.

The sweep was taking me further and further north, by now Luke and I were far apart from the sweep, I decided it was time to head in to do another lap. The drift had taken me down towards North Kirra surf club where one other surfer and I were out there attempting to catch our last waves before making the long walk back along the coast line

 

The world famous "Super bank" and distance travelled 2.44km's

“My last wave and I’ll go in” I said to myself and I took the biggest wave I could find. The subtle rain drops bouncing off the oceans roof was splashing back into my face whilst I waited for a set wave to appear on the horizon, a wave rises off in the distance and we both paddled. I’m on; hook line and sinker, gliding along the face of the wave lining up the barrel and all of a sudden, BANG, silence, darkness and a split moment of nothing. “Did I black out?” GASP for air, holding on tight to my board I tried to lay down on it however my legs weren't moving all I could think was “What the hell, why can’t I lay straight, what have I done?” CRASH another wave landed on my head and I was ragged dolled around the washing machine for what felt like a good 30 seconds. I gasped for air yet again when another wave hit me on the head. Several more waves landed on my head whilst I continued to struggle to get to shore.  The white wash was large and I couldn't surf them. I felt a sharp protruding severe pain like a knife in my back as adrenalin started to wear off. I thought to myself, “I’m going to die; I don’t have the energy or lung capacity to keep doing this”. Within 10 seconds the same surfer who I was competing with to capture the last wave came in 20 meters down the line. I waved furiously, trying to scream for help but nothing came out, my lungs had been hit hard and I was winded from landing on the ocean floor. He sees me, and looked confused as to question why I was not catching the white wash towards the beach. A look of realisation appeared on his face and I gave a sigh of relief with renewed hope and a will to survive.

We struggled to get in from the waves as my ability to lay straight was impossible. I continued to get rolled over by every wave that came through our way like tumble weed in the mid-west.

Finally we arrived at the shore.  I tried to stand, my legs failed me and I had no control from my waist down. The water continued to wash over me and slowly pushed me along the sand just like my Dad used to do all those years ago. I felt a weird sense of feeling at home and that I would be ok, until my rescuer Dan asked me “what’s under your wetsuit?” “Nothing, why?” I replied.  He responded “I don’t want to alarm you but you have a large lump sticking out of your wetsuit the size of my fist”. All of a sudden I started to get a sickening feeling that I had done something that would change my life forever. I reached back to feel how severe it was, all I could feel was a ripped wetsuit and a huge lump. Dan continued to help me by dragging me on my board up the beach to get out of the water and to keep my spine from moving, a critical decision. He raced away for help as I laid there on the beach, clutching my board, waiting for some assistance. I remember feeling cold and wet lying in the sand as the pain began to get worse and worse. Some men from the Gold Coast City Council came down to my aid. I can’t remember what they said or who they were but shortly after the team from RACQ Careflight arrived. They landed on the beach and I was air lifted from Kirra beach.

I’d like to give a special thanks to RACQ Careflight for their amazing care and professionalism and of course to Dan, I wouldn’t be alive without you pal. Four years later Dan and I met again surfing at a local beach break and made sure he understood that he saved a life and I owed him.

The diagnosis

A broken and crushed L3 (lower back) vertebrae in three places. The doctor indicated that I was very close to becoming a paraplegic and am fortunate for some quick thinking from Dan and RACQ Careflight. I’m lucky to be walking let alone swimming and surfing again.

This is what drives me to inspire others to appreciate the ocean and all that Mother Nature has to offer. Whether it is the natural beauty of the ocean and its magical seascapes or the perfection of the surf, or the mountains, lakes and landscapes around me… I want to share it all with you through my eyes and my visions.

 

XRay from the side taken in 2011

The open door

I look at life as a bunch of opportunities. It’s often hard to realise but after one door closes, another will open. I know its cliché’ but it keeps me positive and being positive will change your life.

I had a full year out of the water after my accident, during this time my love for photography really came to fruition. I spent my time capturing my friends surfing whilst waiting on the shoreline like a fish out of water, eager to get in and participate.

One of the first photographs of shooting surf/bodyboard photographs from the shore.

After a year my physio said getting back in the water would be good for me. I didn’t hesitate and jumped back into the ocean surfing HUGEEEEE 1.5 ft. waves ha-ha. I was scared and anxious for the outcome but didn’t want to spend one more second spectating. My muscles were sore for three weeks after that day, more physio was needed but a thrill and excitement was reignited like my younger 8 year old self, stoked to be in the water.

Finally, after several more months of physiotherapy and training in the swimming pool I felt comfortable with my core strength. The next step? Well to buy that water housing I had been eyeing off for over twelve months. When I first told my close friends I was spending nearly two thousand dollars on a water housing for my camera they looked at me like I was crazy! But that didn’t stop me, I had a vision and I needed that special piece of equipment to achieve my dreams.

 

One of my first water shots with my SPL water housing ordered from the USA. Burleigh heads inside out looking north.

After months of teaching myself and learning with the water housing, my images began to get noticed by top surf magazines, international photography competitions and other photographers who continue to inspire me to this day.

 

Once I started to get the hang of it - Josh Kerr getting slotted at Snapper Rocks on the Gold Coast Australia. One of the best point breaks.

 

 

The goal

After many years of developing my own style of photography, which was influenced by many great photographers before me, I try to strive to inspire others to participate in this beautiful world of art and colour. My artwork and ocean images are reflections of my moods and artistic eye, from years and years of capturing the ocean, surf and landscapes on the Gold Coast as well as other parts of the world. Whenever I capture a beautiful image of a wave with sunlight catching its spray, I think back to that day and remember how much it changed my life.  I often imagine where I would be today without that event as I may not have ever been inspired to create images in the art of photography.

 

Underwater dream - Top 3 images in the International Loupe awards, picking up a nice little prize.

My moto from the very beginning has and always will be “IMAGINE, CAPTURE, INSPIRE”

What does that mean? Well it’s a three step process from beginning to end. It’s the way I process a concept, dream or vision before and after I reach a location.

Imagine the possibilities of art and photography, nothing is impossible. I often dream of new concepts and ideas that one day I want to bring to life. Dreams and visions can be made to come to life. The same goes for everyday life, if you have a vision, chase it and make it happen. At first you might not succeed but continue to chase after it and never give up.

Capture the moments and those dreams you have had, no matter what they are. For me this is where I turn the concepts and dreams into art. This is where I want to capture the dream or thought I had for a particular location. Go out and chase those dreams and capture the moments you have been wanting or have experienced.

Inspire others through what you do. This is the last of the process and the most important. I aim to inspire others creativity and their dreams through my photography and art. Whether it is the concepts or the sheer beauty of nature that I have captured I always hope that these images inspire you and your family.

The work

For me, there has always been a sole focus on capturing the ocean, whether it is the form of landscape / seascape photography or surf art and shore break photography. Over the years my portfolio has grown to see many different styles and techniques. You will see a vast range of images on my website and even more on Instagram and Facebook as not all of them make the cut to my website.

@JONWRIGHTPHOTO ON INSTAGRAM