Dave Kelly is a world-renowned surf photographer and pioneer of water housing - developing custom rigs for some of the best in the game for over 4 decades. Dave’s handy work has been instrumental in the progression of surf photography/ filmography during this time and chances are you’ve seen plenty of images and clips shot with the help of his gear. We were lucky enough to recently spend some time with Dave in his Mayfield home, getting an insight into his story and process… while checking out what could possibly be the best collection of surf photos in one person’s possession.
Born in the now-demolished Royal Newcastle Hospital overlooking Newcastle Beach in 1962, Dave was always going to be drawn to the ocean. While he spent his early years in Mayfield learning the ropes as a Motor Vehicle Builder, his love of surfing and the now era-defining visuals he was experiencing in early surf films and magazines saw him take a punt at surf photography.
Using the skillset from his trade, he developed his own camera housing that would allow him to get out in the water and remain competitive in a growing wave of surf photographers. However, when a couple of them started to catch on and enquire about Dave’s setup, he saw a new business opportunity.
As far as what’s involved in creating custom world-class camera housing, Dave will tell you that it’s not exactly cut-and-dry. With endless variations when it comes to camera models, lenses and other components, Dave has to work with each camera owner to provide specialised requirements – a process that can take anywhere from 2 weeks to 2 months. Building everything from scratch in his workshop using his bare hands, resin, fibreglass and other bits and pieces, it’s incredible to comprehend that he has made hundreds of these setups over his 40 years in the biz.
When asked what still drives him after all this time, Dave assured us that his passion is still stoked from knowing that his hard work is not only contributing to something that may appear in top class publications or feature films, but also helping bring to life the dreams of those shooting this footage.
Dave credits his work ethic to growing up in Newcastle. Seeing his steel-worker father pulling double shifts as a kid and watching close friends slogging it out in all kinds of industries has certainly rubbed off on him and his approach to taking on the long days and responsibilities involved with running your own business.
And when it comes to rewarding himself after a long day on the tools,
Dave holds many local watering holes close to his heart. From the setting of his first ever schooner - The Stag and Hunter, to The Great Northern in the East end, to beachside favourites; Bar Beach Bowlo, The Prince and The Beaches in Merewether and live-music stalwart The Lass O’Gowrie, Dave notes that the characters you’ll find at each of these venues make them what they are.
Find out more about Dave and his work here.