To make a career out of any surf related sport, you must receive exposure, through product endorsement, prize money, or just by creating an image the public likes to see. Erik Aeder’s job is capturing moments of time so people can visually be a part of life’s extremes. At the very top of his field, which is water sports photography, he has helped open doors of opportunity for some of the most elite athletes in the world, all the while sharing his vision through the art of photography.
Growing up with the picturesque backdrop of La Jolla, California, Erik naturally began taking photos of his surroundings, and by the age of fourteen, was already selling surf shots to his friends at 50 cents apiece. Seeing the excitement it brings to people to see shots of themselves doing what they love was all he needed to realize his life’s work.
Traveling and documenting the world’s best surf fueled his desire to learn and experiment with photography. He sits behind the camera like a pilot flying a plane, and has been following his lens around the world since his last year of high school. “I used to work restaurant jobs, save all my money, and then travel. I did this for years,” he said. Erik would often find himself in places that no other surfers or photographers had ever been. Since many of his photos were being published in magazines, he felt the need to protect these sacred places by not naming locations he was shooting. Erik has helped the evolution of surf travel through his unique blend of photography.
Erik has been living on Maui for the past twenty four years, shooting pictures for just about every surf related sport. He is currently senior photographer for Surfer magazine and has been working for them since he moved to Hawaii. Over the years, he has graced some of the world’s most prestigious books and magazines, and has between 30 and 40 cover shots.
His reputation as a leading sports photographer enables him the freedom to choose where he aims his lens. “Lately I’ve been shooting a lot of longboarding, tandem, windsurfing, canoe, and kite surfing,” he said. Most likely, a company or magazine will pay him for what he does. “I feel all the experience, perseverance, and creativity is what has paid off for me,” he said. “If you take pictures for a living, you constantly have to be looking for a new and different angle.”
He has been primarily focusing on Rush Randle these days, along with other athletes that are into extreme sports. He does shoot an occasional swimwear ad, or model shoot, which is all part of the job. He is also the exclusive photographer for the strap team, which is a project that is taking him to Fiji next week.
Currently living in Haiku with wife Bonni, son Xander and daughter Allegra, Erik feels his life now is the most exciting it’s ever been. He enjoys the satisfaction of growing with his family.
Through his image filled emotion, Erik hopes his pictures will expand people’s horizons for travel, adventure and beauty. “If everybody could travel, the world would be a much better place,” he said.
As I was leaving the Aeder house, I thought back to how many surfing shots I have religiously looked at over my life, and how some images are etched into my memory forever. You can’t help but to be lured into moments of time that stand still, and pictures that capture the beauty of nature’s studio.
Maui Time would like to thank Erik Aeder for his countless contributions and positive support.
This story originally ran in MauiTime’s March 17, 1998 issue.
Photos of Erik Aeder: M. Oswin