Though DroneDJ has on occasion both described and thrilled at the ways drones have improved the photos and videos captured of surfers carving up some of the largest or most difficult waves on the planet, it now draws attention to a clear downside of increased UAV activity over the lineup – a collision of craft that nearly took a rider out.
Footage of the crash was uploaded this week by Jamie O’Brien, who currently manages his pro surfing career from the North Shore of Oahu. Among the myriad activities related to the sport O’Brien is involved with is regular uploading of videos shot of himself and other surfers in a wide variety of circumstances – often taken from drones. In his most recent offering, the UAVs themselves play a starring role – alas, as the villain.
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The video captures a goofyfoot surfer riding a hollow, peeling left-breaking wave at Pipeline as a pair of drones follow his progress from above. Both craft appear to be DJI Phantoms seeking to film the rider as he advances toward them. But in their shared rush to zoom into that ideal position, the UAVs clip one another and begin spinning out of control.
One of the craft continues its spiral down into – and under – the surging white water, only missing the rider’s head by a yard or so as it plunges.
The proliferation of UAVs over Pipeline shooting video – including a third drone that captured the crash – may well be why the surfer being filmed had a helmet on.
Though often cheered for the up-close-and-terrifyingly-personal video footage of surfers deep in the pocket or in front of collapsing giant waves, drones themselves are often regarded with annoyance – if not outright hostility – when they appear above the lineup.
A fine example of that was reflected in schadenfreude-laced responses to the crash.
“Imagine how annoying it must be to be totally unugged, zenning out in the water and then you hear the whirring of 5 drones above you,” groused Rickey Koga in the comment section.
“RIP,” mocked Fu King Idiot.
More revealing still was the exchange that flowed from accomplished drone video photographer Steven Tiralongo noting, “Mine was the one that survived.”
“Are you proud of that?” fumed blitzy. “You just destroyed that dude’s drone by flying into it.”
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In reply, Tiralongo elicited one of the reasons surfers love to hate (and vice versa) the thickening cloud of drones capturing video from above.
“(Y)ou think it was on purpose?” he asked incredulously. “Do you have any idea what it’s like flying with 8 other drones in the same airspace?”
Perhaps the best framing of the video – and surfers’ mixed feeling about drones – was summed up by action sports site The Inertia, which featured the video.
“Drones create insane footage,” it noted. “But they’re still kind of annoying.”