Anywhere But Here: Rider on The Storm

Surfer on beach in rain

Over to Gunner with the Weather

Chasing hurricanes has to be the collective east coast surfers (and surf photographers) favorite pastime. They’re unpredictable, spurring last-minute strike missions up and down I95, sometimes ending in glory, other times disaster, and a lot of times both, talk about a dopamine rush, the chase is always better than the catch. I was in South Beach in Miami shooting the best waves I had ever seen in Florida when Hurricane Sandy passed by the sunshine state in 2012.

wave crashing over road
stormy ocean with dune fence
boiled peanuts sign
american flag in sunset sky
woman riding horse on side of highway
Category 4 hurricane televised weather report
jesus is your hope for heaven written in sand on the beach
back of surfer's car
Ven Seas sign
stormy palm tree and dashboard through windshield
people at restaurant with eat no mullet sign

By the end of that day, Sandy was my favorite Hurricane ever, painting an unbelievable canvas for a college-aged wanna-be-surf-photographer. That favoritism lasted about two days until my friends started evacuating my hometown in Maryland. Ocean City suffered some serious flooding, but compared to the havoc Sandy wreaked on my friends a few states north it was nothing. As Sandy destroyed lives all over the Northeast it was very much not my favorite Hurricane anymore. Quite the double-edged sword, high risk and high reward.

couple sitting on beach
stormy coast through car window
boy with head in hands by surfboards
surfer walking up stairs to house in OBX
boy taking picture of Moby Dick's souvenir shop sign
ocean and coast in the Outer Banks
two boys sharing bubble gum on dock
surfers walking across sand
foggy road through dashboard
Live alligator feeding storefront sign

Those photos I shot on South Beach that day still mean a good bit to me, it was a pivotal day in my career, and a pivotal storm in my lifetime, but typically, when a real photojournalist disguised as a surf photographer looks back their career and work, it’s not the peak action moments that stand the test of time, that one barrel that so and so got ten years ago no longer really matters, someone has gotten a better one since, a thousand times over.

beach shack in stormy weather
surfer on beach with broken toe boot
young boy hiking up hill with fishing rod
sunset surf session
surfer during hurricane Ida
surfers on grass with multiple boards
group of friends looking at waves from cliff
guys hanging in hotel room watching tv
store sign with large bull statue
young boy watching older man play billiards
curling wave on beach with palm tree
highways air patrolled sign
Bag of smoked alligator strips

No, what matters is the moments in between, the chase is always better than the catch, ten-year younger versions of your friends crammed into a car that now seems ancient packed to the brim with surfboards, that’s the photo you, and I, want to look at down the road. Good portraits, genuine lifestyle shots, and the occasional empty lineup photo, will last decades. I chased and shot four hurricanes last fall up and down the Atlantic and in the Gulf of Mexico, here are some photos from those road trips, none of which contain any actual surfing. 

two people on beach, one laying down to take a photo
shark jaw banner hanging on fence
man with can on motel balcony
prosthetic shark statue
Florida Airboat on trailer
wall and doors covered with stickers
surfer walking over sand dune
young boy holding surfboard on steps
clear open road in Outer Banks
Repent sign on highway
young boy in grocery store
sharktooth necklace and live hermit crab store signn
excited man in car
young boy playing billiards

It’s 2022 and we’re still trying to convince Gunner not to take photos while driving moving vehicles—but the best-laid plans and so on. The Anywhere But Here series follows the exhaust fumes of somehow-unscathed photographer Gunner Hughes through adventure and misadventure across the country( and sometimes other countries). Usually finding the backwater towns, roadside religions, old-salt locals, cash-only dive bars, and much more character than you might see off the main highway.