Zak Noyle

Punahou - Class of 2004

Senior Staff Photographer: Surfer Magazine // Official Photographer for The Quiksilver in Memory of Eddie Aikau

Zak Noyle waited seven years to shoot the Eddie Aikau again and on Thursday, February 25, 2016, Eddie went and Noyle was ready. 

In 2009, he was not the first photographer asked to capture the contest at Waimea Bay, but when the call made its way to him, Noyle accepted the challenge out of the pure desire to be a part of an experience that he had always looked up to. By accepting the opportunity, he pushed through two key barriers: fear of failure and the comfort zone of what he was used to swimming at the time. 

Noyle attributes much of his worldwide success as a surf photographer to the vital element of preparation. When asked how he maintained the physical and mental strength of eight hours in the water on February 25th while still focusing on getting the shots, Noyle shares insight into what was going through his mind.

“I think it was a lot of adrenaline. I’ve been training very hard. This is my job - to be in peak physical fitness and prepared is a must. You know, the Eddie hasn’t happened in seven years, so why be out of shape? Why not be ready for it physically? I’ve been waiting this long for it to happen again. I have to be ready for that moment. I’m not going in for one heat. I’m not going in for ten minutes or twenty minutes. I can push through eight hours right now after waiting seven years. That’s what I kept thinking about in the water,” recalls Noyle.

When you open the figurative doors to Zak Noyle’s photo library, it’s hard to not be utterly amazed by what he has accomplished at just thirty years old. In addition to being the official photographer for The Quiksilver in Memory of Eddie Aikau and the Senior Staff Photographer for Surfer Magazine, Noyle’s images have appeared in National Geographic, Sports Illustrated, ESPN The Magazine, among others. He has traveled all over the world shooting for clients such as Red Bull, Billabong, Chanel and more. Noyle’s ability to combine art, marketing, and business knowledge has driven him to the forefront of his field.

“I’ve formed and shaped my career by studying marketing, business ethics, and developing a market savvy sense. It makes me more than just a photographer, I encompass the whole business side of it. It’s important to not close doors and look ahead at only one thing. Encompass it all. See how you can mix them and make it into something truly unique and successful,” he advises.

For Noyle, success is achieved when passion, preparation, and knowledge meet at the moment when he can share his art with people who “aren’t able to experience it with their own eyes.” As Noyle aspires to continue sharing what he captures on camera with the world, we will most definitely be watching.

Did you want to be a photographer as a teenager?

I really didn’t know what I wanted to do when I was a teenager, that was the thing, I applied for colleges like every normal kid. My dad was a commercial photographer and I was around photography, but he never pushed me into it. I found it on my own which was a great thing. I liked doing art and other things, but didn’t have a passion for photography at all back then.

What advice do you have for a teenager looking to find what he or she is meant to do?

Do what you love and follow what you love, because it will show through in what you do. I’m doing this for more of a love than anything. I love being in the water, it makes me happy. If you can find that, it’s going to show through in your life and in your work.

You also want to be patient as well and not rush or force anything. I understand that not everyone has the luxury of that and they have to start working. I did start working at an early age. At fourteen or fifteen, I was working in a surf shop and at seventeen, I was working at a car place. I had these other jobs and other things I had to do, but with all that, I found what I love.

How do you prepare for hours out in the ocean?

I watch the forecast for weeks out. All night, I’m seeing the buoys and what’s happening. By doing that, I know what the conditions will be. Obviously, you never know until you’re right there, but I have a good idea of what I’m preparing myself for. The night before the Eddie, I knew that it was going to be fast by the buoys; it was really awesome that it happened like that.

Have you ever had a close call in the water where you felt challenged to get back in?

Every time you jump in the water, it’s a challenge because the current changes every day, the swell is different, the waves that come in could be bigger or more breaks are right in front of you. It’s about pushing through, reading the ocean, and being aware of your surroundings.

That sounds like a metaphor for life.

It definitely is.