Skip To Main Content Skip To Footer

Riding the Wave with Zak Noyle

Professional photographer and insatiable waterman Zak Noyle has a unique perspective on surf and sea. Born and raised on O’ahu, Noyle grew up around two of his greatest passions: Water and photography. His father, a commercial photographer who photographed Mauna Lani in the 1990s, introduced Noyle to a camera at the age of 16. From shooting friends on film to visiting the world’s hottest surf spots as SURFER Magazine’s Senior Staff Photographer, Noyle’s photography is now featured in National Geographic, ESPN, Sports Illustrated and Transworld Surf.

The Thrill

Beyond the sheer beauty of his work, Noyle’s photographs have a way of conveying the distinct thrill that comes with surf photography. Following the first of many trips on Mauna Lani’s sleek powerboat, Kalama Kai, we sat down with Noyle to talk about shooting strategies, humbling moments and Hawai’i Island.

Right place at the right time

“Positioning makes all the difference when you’re shooting surf. If I’m not in tune with the water or I find myself sitting in the wrong place, I might miss the wave. But if I’m in the perfect spot, I could make the most amazing shot.”

Only a 45 minute flight from O’ahu, Hawai’i Island is home to cascading waterfalls, idyllic beaches and primordial lava fields that have stood the test of time. Situated on the western side of the island is Mauna Lani, where programs like Kainalu Ocean Sports transmit wisdom that has been passed from one generation to the next.

After spending the morning on Kalama Kai, Noyle reminisced on the stories Captain Vivas shared. “We have some of the best watermen and waterwomen at Kainalu Ocean Sports,” he said. “Captain Ikaika’s knowledge and stories are insane. Back in the day, that’s how Hawaiians passed on knowledge – through storytelling.”

Generations of families call Mauna Lani home. They often return year after year, following in the footsteps of children, parents, grandparents and even great grandparents who came before them. The Noyle family is no exception. His father, a photographer who specializes in food, fashion and hotels, shot the resort in the 1990s.

“Hands down, the Big Island is one of my favorite islands. I grew up coming here with my family – we spent a month in Waimea during the summers and a month at Kapoho. My dad photographed Mauna Lani and my uncle lives down the road, so it’s always been a part of our family.”
Zak Noyle

Humbled by the Sea

“I shot the Eddie Aikau Invitational in 2009, and later in 2016. It was massive. I kept missing the shot because the jet skis were moving around, so I jumped off and swam for eight hours straight. I was diving more than 20 feet deep, the water was pitch black as I swam under the waves, and I could even hear boulders rolling around underwater. I refused to go in because I didn’t want to miss the best wave of the day.”