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.
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.
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.
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.
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.