SHE PUT THE LIME IN THE COCONUT – Project Cococam

WORDS AND PHOTOS BY EVAN NETSCH AND LUCAS ARSENAULT

Trying to get that shot is what it’s about for many pro kiters. The best shot stands out by being more creative and unique than others. You’ve seen a video or photos from many of the famous lagoons in Brazil. They’re a great place to ride and a great place to shoot. It’s easy to get up close to the camera and generally has a nice backdrop and great lighting. It is the full package. Mix in many of the best riders in the world and as you can imagine just about every shot has been done. Getting a unique shot that doesn’t look like a re-run from the past ten years can be challenging. 

Trying to get that shot is what it’s about for many pro kiters. The best shot stands out by being more creative and unique than others. You’ve seen a video or photos from many of the famous lagoons in Brazil. They’re a great place to ride and a great place to shoot. It’s easy to get up close to the camera and generally has a nice backdrop and great lighting. It is the full package. Mix in many of the best riders in the world and as you can imagine just about every shot has been done. Getting a unique shot that doesn’t look like a re-run from the past ten years can be challenging. 

Some of the best photographers can manage to get their work to stand out. They can capture a better angle, perhaps have nicer gear for a crisper image or incorporate a flash at night or even during the day. Many riders have experience using professional gear and are better than your average photographer. They travel with their own equipment and have the know-how to properly use it. We all know it is a small industry and for many riders, that means making things happen themselves; trading off behind the camera, sharing shots and producing content for their sponsors. It does force a new set of skills to be learned and I have really come to enjoy doing my own amateur work. 

Lucas Arsenault and I met up in Taiba this year. I had just come from Saudi Arabia and was traveling with a lot of gear so I decided to ditch all my camera gear excect for my GoPro as it takes up no weight in my luggage allowance for the trip to Brazil. For the past few months, I had not been riding much, I was busy working at home on the east coast and also plagued with a few minor injuries that had kept me out of the water. Finally healed up for the most part, I was looking forward to spending a couple weeks in Brazil and decided taking photos was not going to be a priority. Brazil is generally overshot and for a change I wanted to focus on riding, not getting any shots, but here I am once again drafting up a short article as we surprised ourselves and came up with a bit of a new perspective. 

The lagoon in Taiba gets crowded, mostly with good riders better than myself, and it’s great to have people pushing you to improve on your own riding. I only had a few days in Taiba to ride and it is easy to spend an entire afternoon shooting and not really fully enjoying a session, so my plan was to ride as if I were on vacation, not for the purpose of working. That all changed pretty quickly. I showed up and Lucas had access to a ton of gear. We had cameras, water housings, gimbals, drones; you name it, nearly everything short of a helicopter and a Red Camera. We decided that we would get up early one morning and just get a few shots before the crowds at sunrise. 

Alarms were set for 4:45 a.m. with high hopes of getting the sun as it came over the horizon. Alarms went off and we opened the door to be blasted by Brazilian heat. It was 5 a.m., and you could have told me it was 9 and I would have believed it. We had totally missed the sunrise. Oh well, it was still early, the lagoon was empty and we could get some photos even if we did miss our intentions. We headed down just as some clouds started to roll in covering the sun low in the sky. We were playing around trying to get some cool photos over a bit of a sand hill that separated two lagoons. With the light fading in and out and trying to sort out a good angle, it just wasn’t happening for us. We ended up changing locations a few times, even got shut down by a quick blast of rain. It was a total flop, and not a single photo was half decent. 

We decided to move down the lagoon, the water was a bit nastier as it was near the cattle pastures and has the odd rock on the bottom to watch out for but the scenery looked nice. Not having a wide enough angle lens for Lucas’ Sony camera we decided to swap to a GoPro for a second and just see if things looked better. It was already getting later, nearing 8 a.m. and we had not gotten much after hours of work. Finally we decided it was about time to pack it up, and we noticed a cool sand wall that we thought might be interesting. We decided to dig a little hole in the wall, stash the Gopro inside and snap a few photos. Pretty simple, and what do you know, the shots actually came out pretty good! We thought what else could we do? We collected some sticks, stuck them in the sand in front of our GoPro sand hole and attempted to bonk off of them at the edge of the water. It was all a bit different and had the photo perspective of peering out of a little cave. Then it hit me, a coconut! We were already pretty tired and both needed a proper breakfast so we decided to go for round two the next day and try to expand on what we figured out. 

That night we came up with a plan. We were going to keep it simple, no fancy gear; we would take down a GoPro, two batteries and a coconut to see what we could create. I made two coco cams, cutting the nuts open down the middle to put the camera inside. We gathered a few spare as well, brought a sharp knife so we could make some modifications if necessary and got to work. We set the 4:30 a.m. alarms and woke up to no wind. While Brazil is consistently windy it really doesn’t turn on until the sun comes up. We slowly made our way down to the lagoon and around 5:30 the wind was still dead but we took our time prepping for some shots. We went to our sand bank and made five or six holes for the camera. Since the holes were sideways they were pretty easy to collapse, one bad jump into the bank and the hole was crushed with the camera inside. We dug all our holes ahead of time so we could move down to the next one as we ruined them and made some adjustments to our coconuts. We waited with a 9 meter pumped up and ready to go with about 10 knots of wind. All of a sudden a few clouds cleared and within minutes the wind was on, with a small kite rigged and ready to go. 

Prepped and ready, Lucas and I traded off manning the coco cam for each other. We had the camera wedged in the coconuts and using the GoPro app on a phone we fired off 30 shot bursts at each pass by the coconuts. We moved between the sand bank and our coconuts for hours laughing out loud at how cool some of these shots were looking as we got them. Not due to any crazy camera or riding skill, just something so silly and simple, yet so unique. Shooting 30 frame bursts the shots add up quick and it didn’t take long until we had a few thousand shots to sort through. 

These are the fruits of our labors. A valuable lesson learned that less can be more. Keeping it simple and adding a little creativity was even more interesting than what we could have gotten with the highest end equipment. A coco cam derived from a trash heap on the side of the road on the way to the lagoon. While shooting with it may have smelled a bit funky and attracted a few flies, it may be my new favorite lens filter!