Fred Pompermayer is an internationally renowned and award-winning professional photographer specializing in Big Wave Surfing and Adventure Sports. He has graced the covers of some of the world’s most prestigious surfing magazines, featured in several books, and appeared in hundreds of publications worldwide.
While Fred spends much of his time capturing amazing images of big wave surfers doing their thing, he also enjoys traveling around the western United States with his family in his Sprinter van to explore new places, surf, rock climb and bike.
Catching Up With Fred pompermayer
Award-winning big-wave photographer Fred Pompermayer is at the top of his game. When Fred isn't globe-trotting around to shoot the biggest swell, you'll find him and his family loaded up in their Sprinter van, searching for the next adventure in California.
We've had the honor of calling Fred a friend for a few years, and we couldn't be more excited to welcome him as a Flatline Ambassador. To kick things off, we asked him a few questions about his life as a professional surf and adventure photographer.
Please give us a quick rundown of where you are from and where you are living now.
I was born and raised in Brazil and have been living in Los Angeles, California since 2004.
When did you first start getting serious about photography?
Photography was something that evolved in my life. I was exposed to using a camera when I was in college, and I was already on the track to graduate as an Architect. While in college I took a gap year to travel, surf and see the world. It was then that I bought a camera and started taking photos as a hobby. I loved using the camera and learning about how to get the best photo possible.
What was your first camera?
This makes me feel so old, but my first camera was a Pentax K1000, an old-school manual film camera. So much has changed between now and then!
When did you know you wanted to pursue photography as a career?
I graduated from college where I studied Architecture. I realized quickly after working one year in an office that I wanted more out of life. I decided to combine my two passions, surfing and photography, to pursue my new career as a Surf Photographer. It was risky at first, but I am so glad I did it.
What advice would you give to an aspiring photographer?
Always follow your passion - hone in on your personal style and don't let the outside influence you.
What challenges do you face when shooting in the ocean?
There are a lot of variables to juggle on the ocean - understanding the waves, the current, and surfing is primary - you have to understand all of that so you can position yourself in the right spot. You have to have the right gear and know how to use it for each occasion, which makes shooting the ocean complex and expensive!
How do you deal with the potential dangers of shooting big wave surfing?
Yes, shooting big waves can be dangerous; we are going out when most people don't want to be there. The only thing you can do is to prepare yourself mentally and physically. I am calculated, it's all about risk management - you have to use the right safety equipment and manage the conditions so you can avoid trouble.
How do you balance being in the water and being on land when shooting?
Since I was very little I have always been fascinated with outdoor adventure. I started my photography career shooting in the water, and loved that! But over the years, I moved into the big waves so I had to get more in-tune with using a jet ski so that I could move around to be in the right place at the right time and quickly. On the West Coast the big wave season is mainly during the winter months, so during the spring, summer and fall I love shooting, climbing and other outdoor activities.
You've had cover shots on countless magazines in the surf and outdoor space - does any shot in particular stand out as your favorite?
I ended up making over 50 magazine covers, and some book covers too over the years. There are a few special ones: Surfer Magazine, August 2013 "The Greatest Rides of All Time" Surfer Magazine, May 2015 "California Dream Run" Surfer Magazine, January 2013, "The End of the Machine"
What's in your camera bag now?
It depends on what I am shooting but it would always have a snack inside!
What does an ideal day in your Sprinter van look like? What activities are you doing, and what people are you with?
My ideal day would be to spontaneously load up my Sprinter with good food, surf board, bikes and climbing gear to spend a long weekend with my family. Nothing better than that!
How many days do you spend on the road on average in a given year?
I usually travel every month. Most of the time they are strike missions, 3-4 days. But my wife and I always try to get out during the summer when the kids are out of school for a long road trip. We love showing our daughters what's out there and going off the grid for a while. It's refreshing to unplug and soak in nature.
What's your go-to meal in the van?
I love to cook in the van, I prefer to stop the van, pull out my kitchen to make a good meal. I don't have one go-to meal - I like variety!
What bands/artists do you like to listen to when you are road tripping in your van?
I am pretty open and love being introduced to new music. These days I have been listening to Stick Figure
Got any big plans for 2023?
Live life to the fullest! Enjoy good quality time with my family.
Where can people connect with you online?