A conversation with Moa Machado as part of our shooting the surf interview series.
Moa Machado | SWEDEN
Swedish surfer and photographer Moa Machado took some time out from her nook in the archipelago outside Sweden to answer some questions about surfing and shooting in Northern Europe. This is part of an ongoing conversation with our favourite female ocean photographers.
Gobe: Thanks for your time Moa :) How are you? Where are you answering these questions from and what are your plans for the day
Moa Machado: Thank you! I’m really good. Spent my weekend in the archipelago outside Stockholm, read a book about storytelling and kind of came back as a crayfish. Apparently, the Nordic sun can be strong too… and these days it’s around 30 degrees outside, which is way too hot for me! Right now I’m in my apartment reading a book about animation. I got these read-in books before I start a program called Motion Creative this fall. Later I’ll bike to a cliff nearby and have a swim.
What gets you up in the morning and what is the first thing you do?
So I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about our phone usage and how it impacts us, waking up with the phone glued to our faces and falling asleep in the same manner. This I try to avoid. I use the alarm clock, turn on the news, make a smoothie with granola and try not to rush too much. I like my routine now, before I just ran around as someone was chasing me, but that totally sets the wrong mode for the day.
When did you start making photos, was there an initial reason or inspiration?
Well, at home when I was a kid, we had these analogue cameras with negatives and photo albums, I loved that and miss it! My friends and I recorded videos and created our own tv-shows on tape after school and I started to learn Photoshop and other programs. Apart from my friends, my father was into photography as well and encouraged me to keep going. My parents gave me my first SLR camera on my 18th birthday and that changed a lot for me. I am so thankful for that gift.
What is your gear set-up for shooting in the water?
Now I have a mirrorless Fuji X-T2 with a 23mm f1.4 lens and a water-housing from Meikon. But the previous photos have been shot with a Fuji X-T20, using a similar Meikon house (my friend’s gear). Some are also captured with a basic Canon 750D camera house and a 50mm lens using a water house ”bag” (Ewa Marine U-B100) that I borrowed from the surf school I worked for. And flippers of course!
Sweden and surfing don’t generally go hand in hand. How did you get into surf photography living in a country where it can snow whilst you’re out in the break?
You would be amazed how many Swedish surfers there are compared to the number of good waves! All of us are so desperate to score while back home. So when it’s on, people skip their jobs, schools and jump into these super thick wetsuits with boots, gloves and hoodies, and freeze our faces off in a crowded line-up just to catch some choppy waves inside the storm. I completely love it. But that wasn’t how it started for me. I got a job at a surf school down south and have been going back and forth to Sweden every third month more or less for 4 years now! I didn’t start shooting in the water until recently though, and now I’m totally in love, just longing for some more ocean time!
What’s your favourite Swedish surf break? Any hot tips for surfers or photographers heading that way?
When I started exploring the Swedish breaks I realized that people won’t tell you anything! You have to find your own spots. Look at charts and go try it out. It’s a very ”local” vibe, which is a bit crazy in my opinion, although I can understand it too. But there are some breaks that are more known to people, like Torö near Stockholm, which is where I’ve surfed the most. It’s a pretty long beach made of stones and it’s absolutely beautiful! It’s always fun and has several spots that work better on different swells. Otherwise, I really enjoy the south of Sweden. On the east coast, Österlen has many fun waves. There is one log wave I adore, protected from the wind usually. But you can basically surf the whole coast of Sweden! My boyfriend even surfed on a lake up in the mountains at New Years. It looked freezing though, with a 45kph wind and temperatures in the minus degrees… I’m not really there yet.
Is there a women’s surf community in Sweden?
Yes! For sure, but not the same as abroad perhaps. I don’t really feel that I’m in an organized community, but I think there are groups people join and make trips together.
Where has been your favourite travel destination to photograph and surf?
For photos, Sri Lanka, and for surfing, Southern California has been my favourite destination for a long time now and I can’t wait to get back there!
What is your favourite photograph you’ve ever taken, and could you tell us the story behind it?
I love this one of Thili Mauranga. It’s around one hour before dark, and I was super excited to borrow my friend Agnes camera and water house for some shooting. Someone had seen a crocodile at that reef a couple of days earlier so I was kind of on an edge, but as soon as I started shooting I forgot about everything, and this rush of joy was just flowing through every fibre of my bones. I felt so free and happy, and told all the surfers to just ”go over me!!!” since I wanted as close shots as possible, almost losing a finger or two in the process! You see, before that I’d been struggling with these water house ”bags”, but Agnes was using a real water house with buttons, and the camera was completely still inside the house! I knew right then that it was something I needed for more rushes like this…
Who or what are some of your inspirations? And what keeps you motivated to keep creating?
I love the simplicity of things and the flow of water and nature. People are interesting but also very complex, right? I like blur, shade, lines, and old photos. Photos that aren’t as crisp and with too much contrast. There are so many things that inspire me! Space, architecture, people, materials, flavours, joy, science, blue, green and yellow. Old books, photos and life. I can’t really explain it. It’s just a feeling that makes me stop for a second, stare and feel ”aah”. And that is truly what motivates me. I love learning new things and I ask a lot of questions to people who have a lot of knowledge or are passionate about their work or hobby. People who really enjoy the art they’re creating inspires me.
Who are your favourite female photographers?
I always find it interesting in that every photographer will give such different advice to younger people looking to get into the industry. What advice would you give your younger self?
I would tell myself to go for it sooner and keep shooting! No hesitation or doubt, just enjoy it and trust the intuition. If you find something beautiful, that’s what matters — not what everyone else might think.
If you could photograph any person or any place, who or where would it be? I know my list for this topic grows every day, so maybe who or where is at the moment?
Two surfers that have inspired me for many years now are Tyler Warren and Leah Dawson. I would love to shoot them. Or Andy Nieablas! He has the most fascinating style I’ve ever seen! Maybe in Mexico… or Alaska!
What personal projects can we look forward to from you next, what are you enjoying exploring at the moment?
Right now I’m trying to learn more about motion, animating and film. I hope to create some fun surf projects with my new skills! And for sure, keep shooting! I’m based in Sweden now so hopefully, I’ll time the swells and snap some cold water shots.
Thanks for your time and thoughts Moa.
Sweden, Stockholm, Gärdet