As happy accidents go, Roger Sharp snapping his collarbone in a French shore break is right up there. Now that twenty-five years of hindsight has passed since the agony, that is.
“Growing up, I wasn’t into photography at all. It came to me towards the end of school, when I started playing around with a little waterproof Minolta compact. Then towards the end of university I bought my first SLR for £35 – a Russian battleship of a camera that I found in a junk shop. Around the same time, in 1994, I took off with some mates to France for a month, but on the second day I broke my collarbone in the surf. I was kinda forced to pick up my camera, instead of sitting on the beach sulking all day. That’s where the hobby morphed into a job. It was never my intention, until I realised people would, effectively, pay me to go on holiday.”
“That’s where the hobby morphed into a job. It was never my intention, until I realised people would, effectively, pay me to go on holiday”
A quarter of a century later, and hugely respected British surf photographer, film maker and magazine editor ‘Sharpy’, 47, has taken his lens into waters right around the world, shooting the planet’s finest riders for surfing’s biggest international magazines and brands. But despite the ability to make tropical waters of far-flung islands his office, and American and Australian household names his colleagues, the breath-robbing, nut-stealing frosty seas surrounding the UK, and their homegrown shredders, remain his regular workspaces and workmates of choice.
“Yeah, of course, Hawaii is always fun. But I’ve not been in a while and it’s so bloody expensive right now. My absolute favourite place to shoot, though, is Thurso [in north Scotland]. The waves are incredible, the people are really nice, and it’s still really unspoilt. The air is fresh, and if you’re lucky, you can see the Northern Lights. It doesn’t really feel like the same country – it’s got that Norwegian vibe. It’s relaxing in the nature, but that nature can turn pretty savage pretty quickly, too.”
It’s why, as we trawl through Sharpy’s archives with him for ten of the most pivotal images of his career, shots from cold grey homeland waters make the cut far more often than we might have expected. Heavy slabs in Scotland and secret spots in Ireland intertwine with photographs of poster boy chargers pulling into pristine waves in world-famous European breaks and on far-flung idyllic islands. What unites them all, though, is the truly epic and envy-inducing stories behind them. Take a look…