HANK FOTO photos by Hank Foto.

HANK FOTO

HANK FOTO
INTERVIEW BY JAY ADAMS
INTERVIEW BY JAY ADAMS
PHOTOGRAPHY BY HANK FOTO

 

Hank is a unique character from Newport Beach and he has been on the North Shore for about 20 years. He is always there when the waves are good and takes some of the most amazing surf shots I have ever seen. We did this interview late night and I thought you guys might want to hear some of what he has to say. Here it is.

First of all, how old are you, where were you born and how did you get into surfing?
I’m 99 years old. I started boogie boarding when I was 45. (laughs) No, I’m just kidding. I was born in Newport Beach in 1964. I started kneeboarding, then I stood up and became a man.

Did you learn to kneeboard at the Wedge with Ron Remelsky?
No, I learned at Salt Creek. I went to the Wedge a couple of times, but I had to take the bus. It was too far to go. I learned to surf at Salt Creek because it was the closest.

“I WANTED A JOB THAT WASN’T LIKE  JOB, SO I BECAME A PHOTOGRAPHER.”

I thought you were a Laguna guy.
No, I was more of a Dana Point guy. Actually, I grew up in the Valley in Mission Viejo, up in the hills.

Laguna is kind of gay anyway, right?
I’ve never actually been to the “Boom Boom Room,” but I’ve heard of it.

What got you into photography?
Being a photo editor for “Surfing Magazine” was always my dream. Growing up in Salt Creek, I was always taking pictures and it was pretty interesting. Then one year for Christmas, my mom got me a water housing and it just went from there. I just wanted to be in the ocean all the time. I wanted a job that wasn’t like a job, so I became a photographer. I’ve been doing it professionally, for fifteen years.

You knew from the start that you wanted to be a “Surfer” magazine photographer?
Yeah, I knew after my first trip to Bali in 1983. I went down there with Kevin and Billy and I started off there. At the age of 21, I got a job working for “Surfing” magazine as the little gopher girl. I learned the ropes of photography and by the time I was 26, I was a full-fledged photographer.

What was your first published photo?
“Surfing” magazine in 1984. It was a photo of Greg Mogolon, at the Scrofis contest at Trestles.

How much did they pay you?
$25.

You were like, “Hell, yeah! I can buy a twelve pack.”
That was a case, back then.

Weren’t you a boogie board photographer in the beginning?
I started that in ’85, when they started “Bodyboarding” magazine. It was an out for me, because I didn’t have to pay any dues. It was easy for me, but I grew out of that.

The boogie boarder guys started getting rad. Who were some of the rad Hawaiian guys you got photos of back then? They go off, over here, pretty hard.
Well, back in the day, boogey boarding was kind of cool, but now there are too many of them. I was shooting a lot of Keiki and Waiemea shore break. It was fun. I got good shots of Chris Wan, Ben Severson and Danny Kim. I hung out at Sandy Beach for a few summers and the shore break was nonstop. It was pounding.

Then your surfing photography blew up. I remember seeing you at Off the Wall a lot, hanging out with Archy. How did you get into surfing?
Well, basically, surfing fell right in my lap, once I didn’t have to compete against Chang, Jeff Hornbaker, Divine and all the guys that had been doing it for 20 years. After they started their own trip, I moved up. Surfing was always there for me. I just had to work my way up the ladder. Now I’m a senior staff photographer for “Surfing Magazine” and I’m one of the top three or four guys.

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