As a child, Bakersfield native Anthony Ghiglia, spent hours in the pool where his mother taught him to swim the old-fashioned way -- sink or swim. After graduating from Garces Memorial High in 1991, he moved to San Diego. Having fallen in love with surfing during high school, Ghiglia surfed almost every day.
Ghiglia began his career as a photographer shooting landscapes and documenting surf trips with friends. In 2000, he landed a coveted gig as a staff photographer at Surfer Magazine, where he's been for 13 years, chronicling the sport in more than 30 countries. Ghiglia is making a triumphant return to his hometown Friday to unveil some of his best shots at Ice House Framing and Gallery.
Did you learn anything at Garces that prepared you for a career as a surf photographer?
Garces is a great school but being two hours from the nearest beach does little to prepare you for a career as a surf photographer. However, having good friends in high school who loved to go to Ventura on the weekends to surf made a big difference for me.
Have you ever seen a shark?
When I am working in tropical locations I see sharks all the time. The last trip I made to the Marshall Islands I probably saw 30 sharks in the waters I swam and photographed in. Luckily, I have not seen a large shark in California. I believe that they've seen me though.
Have you ever seen something in the water besides a shark that made you want to elevate out of the water?
I've had 700-pound sea lions swim up to me and bark 2 feet from my face. That's not cool. I've also had whales pop up next to me while I was swimming. That will get the heart rate up pretty quick.
Biggest surf you've ever been in while shooting pictures?
Puerto Escondido, Mexico. I was there with big wave surfers Greg and Rusty Long, about eight years ago. They were calling the waves 12 to 14 feet as measured from the back. That equates to a 25 to 30 feet face. As I jumped into a rip current to suck me out to the lineup faster, I remember thinking to myself, "This doesn't feel right." When the waves are that large everything seems to happen in slow motion, with the exception of the point of impact. I remember imagining the consequence of one of those waves landing directly on top of me with a force that could easily break my neck or back. I shot one roll of film and somehow made it back to the beach without getting too beat up. Surfer Magazine ran a half-page image and I think I made about $60.
Do girls like surf photographers as much as they do surfers?
My wife does! I'll leave it at that so I don't get myself into trouble here.
Five best surf breaks?
1. Pipeline has to be No. 1 as it is simply a wonder of the world when viewed from the water.
2. Cloudbreak on Tavarua, Fiji, is paradise.
3. Southern Mexico has some of the most amazing right-hand point breaks I've ever witnessed
4. Uluwatu in Bali, Indonesia
5. Pavones, Costa Rica. One of the longest left-point breaks in the world. Rides up to a kilometer long.
If you could return to one place you've visited and live there for the rest of your life, where would it be?
I couldn't choose one place for the rest of my life. Here's an attractive scenario though:
January-March -- New Zealand's east coast on the north island. Great waves and amazing trout fishing.
April-June -- Somewhere in Mexico. Coconuts and Coronas blended with early-season south swells without all the summer rain.
July-September -- Bali, Indonesia. Your money goes a long way here. The people are friendly and the waves perfect.
October-December -- San Diego. Best weather in America. Offshore winds. Holidays with the family.
How do you stabilize yourself in the surf?
I wear swim fins when I am in the surf zone. Positioning is the most important ingredient in surf photography. You have to know how the ocean works and be able to read the waves.