The Trouble with… Water Housings
Of course, it’s not just the surf photographers themselves that are unpredictable, capricious, temperamental, cantankerous – sometimes their equipment can be too. Here are some favourite anecdotes from a series of Euro shooters that have each had their grubby mits on a certain Kobetich water housing, before flogging it on to another of their kind.
“I bought it from Matty Thomas who’d bought it from Dale Kobetich and brought it back from America in 2002. When I say I bought it, actually no money changed hands, I traded it for, I can’t remember what now. I loved that it was so light, perfect for my skinny arms. I learned the one-shot fisheye barrel technique with that housing. Then it started leaking, plus those (Canon) 630 bodies are more temperamental than women. So I sold it to Timo (laughs). He thought he was getting a good deal at 250 bucks, but after shooting and abusing it for a year, I knew he was getting soiled goods (more laughs)."
“I bought it from Laurel for 250 euros in October 2003. He’s such a consumer that when his car runs out of petrol it’s time to get a new one. The pistol trigger didn’t work so it needed some wiring. Your camera needs to have custom wiring in it to connect it and that can be a bit of a nightmare to get done. I arrive in Hawaii, waves are firing and I can’t get the camera body back from the service to attach the new cable connection. Waiting. Spewing. Finally I hit the water with it. First shoot is at Rockpiles, got shots of Fanning, Kieren Perrow and Ian Walsh (above). Stoked how light it feels, only a little bit slow on the motordrive side. Three weeks later comes an absolutely sick afternoon at Pipe, cloudy but perfect. I load the 630 with black and white slide film, suit up and hop on my bike, ready to give it a go. Then I try to shoot one frame with it, just to see that everything’s ok, but nothing happens. Dead. My frustration reaches a point where the whole piece of trouble is about to fly under the house and stay there forever. But I managed not to throw it away, and after loading another rig it’s business as usual. As soon as I got back though I sold it to Sharpy - lens, housing and camera, the whole thing. I took his money right there."
“At the time I knew it had leaked and the electrics were screwed so it was a dead housing. I got it at a knock down price off Timo with the intention of fixing it up. Cheap way of getting a back-up housing. Turns out the electrics were deeply screwed and it leaked through one of the top controls. So I sawed off the controls and epoxied over the holes, one problem solved. The electrics in the pistol grip were another matter. Couldn’t be fixed so in the end I sawed off the handle and replaced it with a spare Aquatech pistol I had lying around. Glassed that bugger on and it was now a functional Frankenstein housing. Took it to Ireland. In two months we only got one good day for fisheye. Got the cover of Wavelength with a black and white shot from the rig and a bunch of shots run in the mags. Ended up selling it as I was abandoning film for digi. Miss it though, it felt just right in the hand if you know what I mean."
“I bought it from Sharpy a couple of years ago for 200 Euros. At the end of the first trip I took it on I noticed a problem with the shutter, and I was gutted because I thought all the photos from the trip would be ruined. But luckily, it turned out that every other shot came out correctly, including the best shot of the trip of Manu Portet (above). So I replaced the shutter. Then this September I was swimming at Mundaka with it on that crazy good day, the 22nd. I got axed on a wave of Bobby Martinez. As I was getting smashed it got ripped out of my hand and the leash snapped. Gone. Not only had I lost the camera and housing, but I had fisheye tube shots of Kelly from that session on the roll that I knew had been great hook-ups, so I was freaking about losing those shots. Then I was just getting rolled under big whitewaters when suddenly something hits me on the head and then pops up right next to me. Couldn’t believe it, there was my housing. I’ve got no plans to sell it, I’ll hang on to it. She’s light, easy to travel with, and in spite of the dramas those guys have all had with her, I still think she’s a sweet little housing."