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Photographs have the unique power to preserve short-lived, magical moments for a lifetime. One such moment was captured in 1991, by renowned surf photographer Tom Servais who immortalized the iconic moment of Tom Curren from the Pipeline event. Servais’ extraordinary skills beautifully defined the meaning of a perfect surfing moment. However, what makes this image truly special is the fact that the surfing conditions at the beach weren’t favorable for that kind of picture. Yet it was Servais’s perseverance, and a hint of luck that gave a perfect moment to the world of surfing.

While many fans have admired and applauded the photographer’s skills, not many people know the interesting back story that lead to the iconic moment.

Patience was the key to the iconic picture
The Pipeline is popular for the challenging conditions that it offers to surfers through powerful waves. However, during the 1991 event, the conditions were not up to the mark as the winds weren’t really facilitating the waves. Tom Servais was present at the North Shore of Oahu since morning, trying to get a good shot but wasn’t having any success. The photographer had almost given up on the hope of capturing a good image but still decided to stay for a while before going home.

Little did the veteran photographer know that time it was going to be the best decision of his professional career. As Servais went back to the beach after taking a small break, he saw Tom Curren, then two-time champion attempting to ride the waves. Despite conditions being far from ideal, Curren, known for his smooth and stylish surfing decided to take his best shot. Seeing the professional surfer out in the waves, Servais took out his camera and started capturing the moments carefully.

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He sat there patiently clicking the photographs as the surfer made his way through the waves. Curren was captured in top form, surfing the wave’s barrel with elegance and precision. According to The SC Times, Curren’s calm and focused look, the crystal blue-green shades of the wave, and the spray of water all combined to create a genuinely breathtaking picture that American Surfer Taylor Knox would later refer to as “Perfect Surfing.”

The photographer wasn’t sure about his luck
However, even the photographer didn’t realize that his patience and timing had captured one of the most valuable moments of surfing history. “When we looked at the shot, I think we all kind of went, ‘Wow, yeah, that’s a good one,’ but with photos, you never really know.”, Servais said. He also got the charm of the luck as the man of the moment switched from his regular surfboard to a comparatively longer one just that year. This brought more detail to the picture making it nothing short of a masterpiece.

The story behind Tom Servais’ famous photograph, “Perfect Surfing,” is the perfect example of the unpredictability of surf photography. It also emphasizes how crucial it is to have patience, timing, and intuition in order to catch those fragile moments that capture the spirit of a rapidly changing sport like surfing./

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