Every morning, hundreds of people receive an email in their inbox from a local legend.
Clarrie Bouma is the man behind Sandon Point Photos. He’s lived in the Northern Illawarra for 40 years and has what many people would consider a dream job. He spends his days taking photos of local surf and surfers, then posts a daily surf report and photo, as well as a few words of wisdom or an entertaining story for his followers, and he’s loving every minute of it.
Clarrie has quite a high local profile. He has been a long term regular on the local music scene, a high school teacher, a university tutor, an army conscript and now, a surf photographer who not only snaps the best our region has to offer, but also travels the world taking photos of the greatest surfers and the greatest waves.
A successful singer- guitarist, Clarrie was a familiar face for many years as part of the duo ‘In and Out’ at local venues including Headlands Pub. “I worked in bands like Ersatz Kitsch right through the 70s and 80’s,” he says. “Then when midi came in I worked solo or in a duo. We did heaps of local venues, as well as six consecutive seasons in a Val D’Isere/Tignes, a well known French ski resort, which was fantastic! Skiing every day and getting paid to play music 6 nights a week for 5 to 6 months a year is pretty hard to beat.
“I never thought I’d retire from the music scene by saying ‘this is my last gig’ but once I hit 60, as expected, I started to get fewer bookings, then the calluses softened on my fingers. Plus I wasn’t singing as much so the vocals started to struggle in the second and third sets, until it all became too difficult.
“My dad had been a photographer and I wanted a hobby that I could still do as I got older. I’ve always surfed and windsurfed, so taking sporting photos was a great option.”
Clarrie got to work and set up ‘Sandon Point Photos’ where local surfers can see photos and videos of themselves and buy the pictures. From there, he’s forged associations with other surfing publications and media and now occasionally follows the WSL events, has travelled to Indonesia for The Perfect Wave, and travels to France every couple of years to visit his son and shoot the Quicksilver Pro.
“My eldest son Woodie was an elite skier on the Salomon International Freestyle ski team, competing in Winter X Games in America and Australia. He has now based himself in Hossegor in France running his own Bar/Restaurant called Le Surfing soit’s also a great excuse to visit him,” says Clarrie. But Clarrie can mainly be found snapping away at Sandon Point. “I think it’s the premier spot in the area,” he says. “To get the best surfing photos you need the best waves and the best surfers, which is Sandon Point to a T. Kids are great subjects too. They love surfing and getting to see photographs of themselves surfing and parents love to have professional shots of their kids doing what they love.
“The highlight of my surfing photography career was at Sandon Point just after I started in 2007,” he says. “That winter was a standout for surf. For lengthy periods during June, July and August, our coast was blessed with astounding surf. When you get consistent swells like that and a bit of sunshine, it makes for amazing photos.”
Clarrie says while he’s photographed the best surfers in the world, there are a lot of extremely talented local surfers who don’t compete on the circuit. “The local freesurfers are amazing, and when Sandon is pumping, many of them head on down.”
Clarrie’s photos can also be found on Perfect Wave Travel and Swellnet. “I have done a boat trip to Indonesia with Perfect Wave which was fantastic,” he says. ” I just sit on a boat for two weeks and take photos and write articles. It’s a dream job.
“Actually I have accumulated a LOT of photos,” he says. “When I die I think I’ll write in my will that my hard drives should be connected to a computer at somewhere local like Finbox so people can go through and download what they want. I have around 40tb of photos taken over the last 10 years, so it might take a while…”
And a fun fact, while Clarrie loves the surf, he’s also got a load of other interests. He’s been to the Himalaya half a dozen times (up to 6000 meters), has a library of more than a thousand books on mountain climbing and is proud to say he’s read every one of them! He’s also been a PE teacher, spent six years as sportsmaster at Wollongong’s Edmund Rice College, and went back to Uni to study Coastal Geomorphology, which is the study of the coastline and the forces that shape it, then stayed on to teach in the Geography department!
So what are Clarrie’s surf tips? “For me, the most enjoyable place I have ever surfed is Sri Lanka,” he says. “The atmosphere is relaxed, you can stay close to the waves and the water is warm. During the 80’s, when we visited a few times, crowds weren’t a problem.
“But Indonesia is the surf capital of the world for consistently hollow waves. The winter storms in the Indian Ocean are a great swell-generator and Indonesia is right in the firing line for these swells and full of coral reefs. There are still a load of infrequently surfed breaks. There’s no better way to surf there than to jump on a boat to the Islands, The Mentawi, The Banyaks. The Telos Islands etc. It’s unrivalled.”
If you’re looking for somewhere rarely visited and surfed, Clarrie suggests aiming for somewhere like the Nicobar Islands. “They are remote and difficult to get to, but down at the bottom of the large island is a point and if you check Google Earth, the left and rights just peel off on both sides. I’d be pretty sure it’s been surfed, but it would be rare because they’re not really set up for tourists. You would need a boat.”
Having spent most of his life based in the area, Clarrie says it’s the traffic that’s changed the most. “You really want me to comment on that?” he laughs. “Actually, I’m surprised it’s taken this long for Sydney to discover the Northern Illawarra,” says Clarrie. “As far as I’m concerned it’s a little slice of heaven. “