If you haven’t heard of Maria Fernanda Bastidas before, you’ll be very happy you have now.
Maria personifies the word inspiration. From swimming and shooting in 20ft-plus surf at Pipeline, Waimea Bay and Puerto Escondido through to being extremely friendly and welcoming when contacted by a no name from Newcastle, Australia asking for an interview :)
She believes in the daily practice of choosing commitment over fear in order to achieve the extraordinary and as a result her incredible images put you in the front row of many of the most beautiful and dangerous waves in the world.
Learning more about this extremely talented photographer was super inspiring for me and I hope you too will enjoy this view into her world.
Can you please tell me a bit about your journey into photography? I understand you have a competitive swimming background?
I was a competitive swimmer since I was 7 years old until I turned 19.
Almost 10 years ago I spend a summer at a beach town in Mexico called Zihuatanejo, where I fell in love with the surfing culture.
When I graduated college I took a course in digital photography and I started practicing photography around my city.
You are swimming around in some big and potentially dangerous surf for a lot of your photography. I have also read you would prefer to be in the water than on a ski or a boat regardless of the size of the conditions. Can you give us some insight into this mindset and what drives you to put yourself in these situations that most people wouldn’t?
I think I can be a very competitive person and I love adrenaline. Swimming in big waves to capture what only a few can actually experience and see in real life, is the perfect activity. The energy and raw power of the ocean and the rest of the elements make me feel alive. I love competing with myself, so everyday I take better shots and swim in bigger or more challenging waves. The fact that I’m immersed in Creation, not in complete control, sometimes not even of my own body when I get pounded by a 20ft wave, but depending on God and His nature is something incredible and powerful. No matter how much you train or prepare for it, every session has different outcomes. Being surrounded by water and experiencing the energy of the waves breaking, while some dareful surfers are riding them; this combination of things captured in one shot is what makes me enjoy this so much. I would never change that feeling for anything.
Two of your Instagram captions I love are “The most common but tragic truth about human nature is to put off living” and “You always have two choices: your commitment versus your fear” - What practices or methods do you use daily to consistently choose commitment and living over allowing fear to dictate?
It’s so easy to get carried away with the everyday life, stress, responsibilities, even fear of stepping out of comfort zones, so we end up forgetting to really enjoy life to the fullest, the little moments, the people we meet, family, friends, adventures, nature, being thankful, etc. When we are committed to something and remember why we want it so bad in the first place, it drives away fear, fear of failing, fear of getting hurt. This is something we have to choose, practice and decide everyday.
Do you have a favourite wave to shoot?
That is a hard one, I feel like every wave has its own charm. I think currently Zicatela in Puerto Escondido, Mexico might be my top. Such a challenging wave, has many faces to it and every day can be so different from the last one.
Have you had any close call situations in heavy surf? Is there any one story you can share?
I was in Hawaii and it was my starting years and I remember being caught in the impact zone on a big set and was left with not much air. I won't forget I prayed to God very sincerely, to help me make it through one more wave because I couldn’t hold my breath anymore.
I also tore my knee (ACL,MCL and Meniscus), last year in Puerto Escondido, I was swimming in, and a big wave came out of nowhere, I just curled up in a ball but I was so close to the explosion that my leg was pushed to the side, causing my knee to crack. Had to get surgery to reconstruct the knee and couldn't walk for a couple months, its been a long recovery, but almost at my 100% now!
I think you try to prepare and train as much and as best as you can to avoid all this, but at the end you are dealing with the power of nature and it always ends up humbling you.
How tough is it to get shots at spots like Pipeline when there are now so many photographers in the water. Can you provide a brief insight to the experience of shooting in that situation?
It is definitely crazy and frustrating at the same time, I also think every year it gets more and more crowded. The challenge is always to get a different angle or different shot from the other 30 photographers, or how not to get them all in your frame either, you always have to be moving position
Are there any photographers that inspire you?
It depends on the season, but I feel like right now I’m loving the work of Ray Collins & Philip Thurston
Are there any bucket list waves, or conditions you still dream to shoot in?
I do wanna go Fiji and Australia, for sure in my bucket list. I also always wanna take photos on my favourite waves with less photographers in the water or cleaner and bigger conditions, it’s like the forever search for better photos.
Can you share any advice for any aspiring surf photographers?
To always chase their dreams and fight for the goals doesn't matter how crazy or big they seem. To always work hard for them, prepare as much as they can and train. To not give in to fear. When we have a gift or a passion we are responsible to use it for a greater good, help others and share it with the world.
Dive into Maria’s world further here