When Wakeboarders Paint the Night With Stunning Rainbows of Light

In the pitch-black darkness, shimmering lights cut through the water and looping streams of color appear out of nowhere. Each splash is illuminated by a mysterious radiance far too elaborate for simple explanation, and certainly this has nothing to do with marine bioluminescence. It’s as if whatever is responsible is navigating a glowing slide of light, and the effect is truly jaw-dropping.

If you were viewing this action from above, the swiftly moving loops of color would give the appearance of a ghostly light zipping, flipping and dipping above and around the surface of the water. It would be enough to make even the most cynical person rub their eyes with disbelief.

In fact, these incredible images and their fluid, funfair-looking patterns were created as a result of a groundbreaking photoshoot that combined “sports, art [and] technology” to produce something truly beautiful.

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The shoot took place at the Orlando Watersports Complex over three nights, from sundown to sunup, in March 2013. The visually arresting images are the end product of a collaborative project involving Red Bull and photography supporter Snap! Orlando.

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The pictures were later entered into Red Bull’s prestigious photographic competition the Red Bull Illume Image Quest, which has been staged every three years since 2007.

In order to get the shots, Red Bull wake riders Dallas Friday, Adam Errington and Mike Dowdy and renowned light painter Patrick Rochon were allowed to explore the Orlando Watersports Complex after dark when all the regular customers had gone home.

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As you might expect, this suited the action-hungry wakeboarders perfectly, and the photographs they subsequently helped to create are quite breathtaking.

“It really is my movements painting this picture and helping this photo come to life,” said an excited Errington at the time.

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Dowdy shed more light on the amazingly beautiful images, saying, “Pretty much everything out there was just all me and Adam goofing off and having fun, and I think it made the best pictures.”

To realize the project, Friday, Errington and Dowdy’s wakeboards were customized with colorful, water-resistant LED lights. These cast an eerie glow as the talented riders enthusiastically confronted the park’s kickers and sliders.

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The next obstacle to overcome was figuring out how to physically shoot the pictures, as fast-moving sports are notoriously difficult to capture at night – even without light painting thrown into the mix.

Photographer Rochon needed all the skills of his team to both fit the lights to the wakeboards and shoot the boards in motion. He described the logistics of the three night sessions as “very challenging.”

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The testing nature of the shoot was intensified somewhat by the fact that what was being undertaken was a totally novel experience for everyone involved.

Rochon agonized over issues like where to position his cameras and lighting equipment in order to find the best angle on the action. He also communicated with his team by walkie talkie during the shoot to make sure they got it right.

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When the riders were actually in the water, though, the photographer was driven by a single-minded mantra: “Focus on the art, the creativity and the beauty.”

And in the end, things – it seems – couldn’t have gone any better. “I’m really impressed by the athletes. They’re so fluid in the water and they understand, very naturally, what we’re trying to do here,” said a visibly pleased Rochon at the time.

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In April 2013 Rochon reflected on the project again on his website in a post titled “Motion to Light.”

In the post, the photographer described the innovative project as “purely experimental,” opining that, together, the team “mixed sports and technology to create art.”

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In closing, Rochon offered a philosophical explanation for the shoot, saying that it captured “the inherent emotion and creativity of athleticism.”

That’s it in a nutshell: creativity and athleticism. And the landmark project is another strong reminder that when it comes to being creative, the only limitation is imagination itself.

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