Photos & Words by Chris Grant | Presented by InsuranceSurfers.com
In 2003 for no apparent reason that I can recall, I registered the domain name JettyGirl.com.
Wanting to revisit a hobby I hadn't done much since high school, in the spring of 2005 I gathered together as many coins as I could find and purchased a Canon 20D along with a lens that was better known for bird photography than for surf photography, the Canon EF 400mm f/5.6L
. At times it's been humbling to set up my gear between professional photographers and their 600mm behemoths and at others I've been asked by a few pro surfers why I'm using such a small lens on a particular day. Overall though, I have to admit that this quirky little "bird" lens has treated me well these past six years.
On July 21, 2005 I was standing on the beach at Oceanside Harbor taking photos of a couple of good friends. Midway through the session I caught sight of a young female surfer on a bright orange Ambrose
speeding along an inside right. Nothing excites a surf photographer more than watching a surfer carry speed because you know when a section looms up, something good is going to happen ...so I quickly tracked her through my camera as she approached a foamy, little closeout section.
I would have never guessed it at the time but Kim Mayer's energetic tail throw off the foamy section would become the first stepping stone toward the future launch of JettyGirl. I can remember this turn like it was yesterday and as I searched the outside peaks, I discovered that Kim was not alone but was surfing with a talented group of women that included Kyla Langen, Prue Jeffries, Claire Bevilacqua, Kassia Meador, Mary Bagalso, Summer Romero, Malia Fuertes and CJ Soto.
After this first session I became friends with this crew (except for Claire who I didn't meet in person until 2006) and we began to shoot occasionally when they were in town. At the urging of someone, probably Kyla Langen, I began sending in some photos to Sunshine Makarow's fantastic surf magazine, Surf Life for Women. Sunshine gave me my first chance and she started using some of my images in her surf mag, even crediting one of my photos of Sofia Mulanovich to Jim Russi to which I'm still honored years later.
My mind goes blurry at this point but I believe in late 2005, both Surf Life for Women and SG Magazine shut their doors for good ...which left the United States with exactly zero surf magazines geared toward female surfers. I couldn't believe that I had found a nice surf photography niche and it had disappeared right when I was getting started. More than that though, these talented friends of mine had lost two important publications that had reliably showcased women ripping in waves big and small on boards long and short.
The wheels in my mind began to turn... what was that domain name I had registered a while back... JettyGirl? Could I possibly do anything with that?
Thank the Lord for the long lines at Disneyland for it was while standing in line after line that my wife and I discussed creating a little online surf magazine for women. By now it was a foregone conclusion that the name would be JettyGirl and we set about getting it launched by January 2006.
Our original idea was to provide in-depth coverage of one girl each month and when it came to who was going to be our first subject, there was one person in my mind who deserved it more than anyone else, Kim Mayer. I can't overstate this fact ...if there was no Kim Mayer doing that little tailslide in front of my camera earlier in the year, there would never have been a JettyGirl. Kim is epic in every way! She absolutely shreds in the water, is simply dripping with style, owns the most endearing of laughs and has a smile that lights up any room she enters.
(Sidebar: I've railed on the surf industry plenty for being narrowly focused and shortsighted in who they give support to but nowhere have I seen them blow it more than in the case of Kim Mayer. The girl has it all ...brains, beauty (inside and out) and blistering turns and it's been ridiculous to see someone of her caliber without a major sponsor during her career. Props to Hotline Wetsuits
for recognizing true talent and for supporting Kim with wetsuits all these years. I wish at least one of the clothing companies would have had your same foresight and wisdom.)
Instead of following a chronological series of events in the development of JettyGirl, I'm going to bounce around with this ongoing feature ...sometimes posting stories while at other times just sticking a photo on the wall with a simple caption.
Thank you for reading this first installment of "Reflecting on a New Venture" and thank you for all of your support for our little grassroots project. Without all of you readers we wouldn't be continuing and without you Kim, we would have never even started.