FRIEND'S MIDAS TOUCH
A ribbon of gold, curled just so by the reef at HT’s to make it look like a gift-wrapped present from some divine being to surfers. There are other subtler elements that contribute to the magic of this Indo moment – the halo of spray caressing the lip, the hint of electric green in the tube; the dramatic, giant cotton balls of cumulus cloud in the background and the light ripples on the oily surface.
Not a single surfer is riding the gold-brushed coil so the photo becomes more universal – much easier to imagine that it could be you on that wave. However, the presence of a few surfers in the lineup adds the necessary human element – reassures you that it’s not just an illusion, it’s something very real, it’s HT’s or Lance’s Rights or if you like the most perfect wave in the world.
Surfing magazine ran it on the cover and went so far as to suggest it was, “Quite Possibly the Single Greatest Surfing Image of All Time.”
Pete Frieden, who was still shooting on film at the time, can’t remember if it was 2004 or 2005, but he can vividly recall what was happening when the image was taken.
“This golden moment at HT's was first light in the morning. It wasn't planned at all, we just happened to get there before the sun came up on our charter boat. I had an all-star Hawaiian crew, but they were all sleeping or eating breakfast. I shot this from the main boat, eating breakfast as well. The people that are out there are from the land camps.”
If they weren’t already sold on the Mentawai, anyone who saw the image instantly fell under the region’s spell.
As for Frieden and what the serendipitous shot did for his career? “It has been my most famous shot for sure and I’ve been selling it in many ways since.”