For those of you that might not know who Clark Little is, you probably do, but you were unaware. Or maybe I should say you have probably seen his work before, but didn’t know it was him. I mean, he’s taken the cover of National Geographic and other international publications, he’s been on Good Morning America wearing shorts and slippers, he has 1.5 million followers on Instagram and there’s been an email circulating around the world 100 times over with a handful of his beautiful surf images that your cousin from Idaho probably sent to you knowing how much you love the ocean. So, if you haven’t heard of him yet, you might be in the demographic of my grandparents or you might literally be living under a rock, and that’s OK.
Clark is most known for taking photos with a unique point of view, from inside the barrel of a shorebreak wave, looking out into the scenic backdrop of palm trees and orange/purple skies. But the time we spend interviewing Clark will not be about what he is most known for. It will be focused on his other passion…. donuts! (And the various definitions of the word.)
You’ve been back in Cali for about four weeks, and you’ve posted four different donut shops on your Instagram. One donut shop a week is pretty solid! What is your favorite kind of donut these days?
We went to Sidecar Donuts after shooting The Wedge and for some reason you don’t get the burpage after, you know what I mean?! (I laugh) So I like Sidecar for that reason. But Krispy Kreme’s hot off the press is really hard to beat. I also LOVE the buttermilks from the mom & pop shops.
Are buttermilks your thang?
Ummm…. I mean I love maple bars, and I love Krispy Kreme for their glaze. It tastes like a malasada mixed with a fricken donut. And then I do cinnamon rolls once in a while. I keep it pretty simple. I don’t do the bacon and ham stuff. Some people do that, but I just like the sweets. Although….. I do like to eat me a McGriddle once in a while. I love that maple and sausage! (I laugh again, even harder)
I know you eat donuts when you’re in Cali and a few years ago you told me that Hawaii donuts are not the same. Is that still true to you?
Yeah, it’s still true. Hawaii does not make a good donut. Malasadas at the Punahou carnival, yes, that’s really good, but that’s just once a year. In general, Hawaii donuts just taste like dough. It doesn’t have that extra yumminess that California does.
What are you actually eating for breakfast in Hawaii?
I try to eat an oatmeal square and a banana. That’s when I’m on my good healthy mornings. Then I drink my cup of coffee with two shots, standard. But since no more Starbucks at Foodland (North Shore, Oahu) I go to Coffee Gallery, The Bean (Coffee Bean) or I just make it myself at home. But that’s when I get most creative. When I sit down, drink my joe, and the endorphins start to pop and I start to think about cool things and editing and shooting or whatever…
Well you eat donuts for breakfast, but what is your definition of donuts in the water?
Donuts is getting lickens, or getting your butt kicked by a large wave. I mean, I try not to take many donuts. I try to avoid it at all times. I don’t mind getting donuts when I get a good breath, but sometimes there are moments when mother nature delivers you a gnarly blow and that’s when your instincts and all the years of experience of playing in the shorebreak have to kick in…when there’s 10 waves in a row and you’re caught inside and you can’t get in and you can’t get out. That’s the spot I don’t want to be in. I try hard to not get myself into situations where I think I’m going to die. I’ve had that happen and it’s scary. Especially when you have kids and family and stuff.
How recent was that?
It’s been about three years, winter time. I was crappin’ bricks. I was in panic mode, I dropped my camera and started floundering around trying to survive.
Photo Above: Clark Little, possibly about to eat some powdered donuts for breakfast. Courtesy of clarklittle.com.
Well we’re all stoked you made it out of that one! There’s plenty of footage of you still charging big shorebreak. Do you ever hold back if you feel it’s too dangerous?
Very rarely I’ll sit back and just shoot from shore, but it happens if for some reason I feel it’s just not right that day. For the most part though, I’m out there on the best days still. I love to get shots and stay active. I’m 46 and I’m out there with teenagers charging. Keeps me young. I put myself out there because I want to be out there, not because I have to be.
Are you doing any conditioning to stay in shape?
I jog a couple miles when I’m not in the shorebreak. Sometimes I lift with my brother (Brock Little) and the lifeguards in Wailua for an hour. Keeps me strong. I hate it, but I do it and it feels good after!
With the help of GoPro making water housing and cameras more accessible, there are thousands of people in the shorebreak, aspiring to follow in your finsteps. But just because you can buy a camera doesn’t mean you can jump in the water into gnarly shorebreak. To all the aspiring shorebreak photographers out there, groms and adults alike, what advice do you have for them so that they don’t get themselves into the wrong kind of donuts?
In regards to safety, study the ocean for 15-20 minutes before going out in the water. Watch for freak sets and just be very aware of your surroundings. Regarding more technical preparation, have your camera locked and loaded with your settings set the night before. That way when you wake up at 5 a.m. to go shoot, there’s less of a chance you’ll be shooting without your memory card in your camera. Trust me, it’s happened before
Do you ever do donuts in the dirt?
I used to… that’s why they call me Turbo! I used to do them in my truck when I was younger. I love doing donuts, but I don’t do them as much as I do when I was more rambunctious. I love it, though, and have a 4-wheel drive Toyota Tundra if I feel the need.
What’s new and exciting that we can look forward to for 2015 and 2016?
Our new gallery location in Haleiwa is doing great! There’s also lots of traveling and collaborations with Hurley in the plans, we have new turtle and wave calendars about to be released for 2016, we have our own clothing brand that we are growing slowly and I’m gonna keep shooting pictures. I’ve been into sharks lately, whales, dolphins…. I love it!
Speaking of sharks, I’ve seen your shark photos. But with the recent buzz from Mick Fanning’s live shark encounter that went viral, what are your thoughts about sharks?
It’s insane. It took me a while to warm up to it and understand that sharks aren’t out there to eat us. I’ve looked into the eyes of a tiger shark before, knew it wasn’t going to hurt me and I got to pet it. It’s just education. We’re all animals and we just need to respect each other. Once the sharks know that you’re not trying to hurt them in their home, you are good.