The story behind Leroy Bellet's ultimate POV photo

April 24, 2019 | Surfing
Michel Bourez: riding the barrel at Teahupoo through the eyes of Leroy Bellet | Photo: Leroy Bellet

Leroy Bellet is a 18-year-old surf photographer from the South Coast of New South Wales, in Australia.

Despite his young age, he has already captured the interest of the surfing world. In fact, Bellet has been risking his life by shooting point-of-view (POV) pictures from within the barrel.

Bellet first got into surfing photography as a 12-year-old in a bid to explain to his parents his obsession with the barrel, and the photography has since surpassed his surfing passion.

Inspired by former pro surfer and POV photo specialist Laurent Pujol, Leroy is taking double-tow surfing to its limits.

Recently, he rode some of the most dangerous waves in Australia behind other surfers, in critical and potentially lethal positions.

In other words, he's putting himself on the line as much as anyone out there, and wiping out to get good shots.

Leroy Bellet is not only an excellent photographer but also a prolific surfer.

"I was an OK surfer and even tried competitions but they weren't my thing. I just really wanted to document tubes," says Bellet.

"I always thought the big POV wide-angel barrel shot was the ultimate. I've definitely got to a point where I don't think about the surfing side of things anymore."

Tyge Landa documented Bellet's dream job. "Chasing the Shot" begins with him filming in Australia with the likes of Scott "Whip" Dennis and Red Bull Cape Fear champion Russell Bierke, using a $100,000 phantom camera, which breaks during a nasty wipeout in the waves.

Despite having drowned the camera, the shots survived, and the session was a success.

Leroy Bellet: risking his life for the ultimate surf photo | Photo: Mosqueira/Red Bull

The Ultimate Teahupoo POV Photo

Bellet then travels to Teahupoo in Tahiti with some of the biggest swells from the Antarctic Ocean. 

The young photographer took some of the beatings of a lifetime but, in the end, he got what he was looking after - the ultimate POV surf photo.

Working with surfers Raimana Van Bastolaer, Michel Bourez, Craig Anderson and Matahi Drollet, Bellet seals a series of stunning images with the one of Bourez approaching sunset gracing the cover of Surfing World's special edition.

Effectively, he is dragged into the big waves by a jet ski with a surfer in front of him and captures the images knowing in his position that he will eventually get hit by the wave, the hope being not to get hurt on the reef below.

"The wipeout is really intense and fierce. You're just hoping you're not going to hit the sharp reef. You can feel it slice," explains Leroy Bellet.

"I didn't think we're going to go on that wave with Michel Bourez in the afternoon."

"It was getting late, and we're waiting for that one. We could see one coming super west of the channel. Michel knows the spot so well and got us into that one, so I just thought: 'if he's gonna go, I'm gonna go.'"

"He let go and dropped in, and I let go and dropped in later and then when we bottom turned, the lip was already coming over, and it was just this sort of fluorescent green-filled room."

"It was incredible. I was just riding along behind Michel trying to balance with one arm behind me. And then he threw his arms in the air, and it was a spectacular moment."

Social media adored it, and Kelly Slater considered it to be an "insane shot. One of the best ever."

Leroy Bellet will continue wiping out in waves consequence. But he loves what he's doing, and the images he's producing will inspire and touch millions of surfers and photographers from around the world.