Ever heard the saying, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again”? Getting the cover shot for the July issue of Alliance Wakeboard Magazine proved this all wrong. The staff talked about potential cover ideas that would be good for the issue following Matt Maloy’s rad shot of BT on the shipwreck in Mexico in June. We came to the conclusion that a shot of a “next generation” rider boosting off a double up would be ideal. Nothing crazy with flashes or location, just some good, old fashioned, big ass air. As fate would have it the very next day I was out in Clermont shooting with Kevin Henshaw and Dustin O’Ferrall and Steel asked me about how the magazine picks who gets a cover. I jokingly told Steel that all he had to do was ask and then he would get one, no problem, but then told him the discussions the staff had a day earlier about the next cover.

“Dude, if I ever get to shoot for a cover, that’s all I want to do, something big off the double up,” was all he could say at the time. I set up a time to come back out and shoot with him and talked about some tricks he had in mind that might look cool off the double up. Initially I was pushing for his toeside backside 180 that he pokes out with a mean late melan grab, but he was really into the idea of doing a tail grab scarecrow. I told him as long as he was down to huck himself off a bunch of double ups to get the right shot, we could go for it.

A couple days later we went out behind Steel’s fully loaded X-Star and he immediately went to work. Props to Steel’s landlord Kevin Henshaw for putting some serious meat in the double ups, ’cause Steel was flying from the beginning. I drove myself around on a PWC so I could get in just the right position to show the double up and have Steel coming toward me. The first shot we got was huge, but the lighting was a little off, so we had Kevin change the line a bit and tried it some more.

Steel's first double up was a monster, but I wanted to change the angle a bit to get some better lighting on him

Steel fired off a few more huge tail grab scarecrows, which after seeing how big he took them and how well he poked them out, I knew was going to be the right trick for the cover. Shame on me for ever thinking otherwise… Afterward we looked at the results and were pretty stoked, but I wanted to try a couple other ideas that required a dawn patrol session.

After getting the lighting and angle dialed in, Steel fired off this monster

This was another big one, but I was a bit too far away and Steel's head was too close to the trees in the background

This time I was too close and lost too much of the water/double up in the frame, plus it's too much of a "butt shot" for obvious reasons...

Two days after the first shoot I was back in Clermont. This time we took Steel’s boat out into the more open waters of Lake Minnehaha. Like a lot of Florida lakes, Minnehaha has very gradual, sloping bottom, allowing you to wade out pretty far from shore. I wanted to shoot from the water with the boat driving right at me and have Steel hit some more huge double ups. We got a couple cool shots, but not exactly what I was hoping for. I told Steel we should try again and he was totally game. We had to wait until the PWT stop in Georgia was finished and Steel would be back in town. We went back out a few days later hopeful to get something awesome, but Mother Nature changed the weather forecast on us and brought clouds and wind. The next day we tried again and scored some more awesome photos from some different angles than before and with a different lens.

One of the options from one of the dawn patrol shoots. This one was actually a bit too soft to run large on a cover

I wanted to get a shot that showed the impact of Steel's takeoff from the double up, so I used a longer lens to compress the frame a bit. The downside is that using a longer lens means you're farther away, which means you're not panning up with the rider as much as he goes airborne, which ultimately means in the picture it doesn't look like he's going as high...

After all that we had a handful of options that I considered to be solid enough for use on a cover. I was stoked on how professional Steel was about it all, working around his schedule, making sure his boat always had gas, and just taking care of business in general — plus subjecting his body to well over 50 double ups over the three different shoots we did. In the end all the extra effort we put in after the first shoot didn’t do much to help the cause. The shot that ended up being the best was one of the first double ups Steel hit during the afternoon in his backyard. Afterward I jokingly told him that I knew all along and just wanted to torture him and make him “earn” the cover by doing multiple shoots. We were both stoked with how it turned out, it’s definitely a cool, unique trick that nobody else does like Steel, and it’s definitely the good, old fashioned, big ass air we at Alliance were looking for.

Camera: Canon EOS 1D MarkII N
Lens: Canon 70-200mm f2.8 L IS (shot at 80mm)
ISO: 200
Shutter: 1/2000th of a second
Aperture: f4.0


The final product