BEHIND THE LENS : Joey Meddock

Any name you care to mention, Joey Meddock has ridden with and shot. He began as an aspiring wakeboarder himself, but blown knees and time off the water meant that he spent more time behind the lens than the boat: A setback that he turned into a career.

From Magazine Contributor to Publisher, Joey Meddock has, in one way or another captured the sport in a progressive and unique way. His publication, the Standerd Wake Quarterly, although now dormant, still echo’s down the sport hallways as a source of genuine innovation. He is, simply put, one of the most respected men in the game.

We are you from? And umm… The Basics? Yeah. (Laughs) I guess, the basics: The start of Joey Meddock? Well, it all started early 1979 – born and raised in Orlando. I started wakeboarding when I was probably 12. I’ve been shooting wakeboard stuff now for 15 years coming up in March. I got my degree in communication, which you probably can’t tell from this interview (laughs).

So what about your family background? My dad had worked for Nautique most of my entire life. So I’d always been in a boat and on the water. Which was cool, because I have watched wakeboarding evolve form it’s beginning. One year, my Dad bought us a skurfer, so both my sisters and myself go try this out. Later I remember my dad coming home and saying the R&D department had just come out with the wakeboard tower, and they wanted me a to go and try it out. To see if we could basically wreck it; to be sure it worked just for safety’s sake. So it was really cool, that I was able to do things like that. I didn’t think anything of it at the time but I was riding the first tower, that’s pretty cool when you think about it.

How did you get into the wakeboarding industry? Well, I’ve always been around water. I’m a Pisces, and I find it peaceful. I don’t know there’s something about it I have to be around it. Be it the ocean, river, a water fountain or a cup of water or whatever.

You just need your water? Yeah. (laughs) Waterman! ? (Laughs) Anyway, I worked at Performance Ski and Surf, which is a wakeboard store in Orlando, I was about 16 or 17 then. I was thrown into the retail side of things with Bill at Performance, and I actually met Brian Grubb back then when we worked together. I learnt a lot about the industry and the sport working there. Then from there I went to SeaWorld where I wakeboarded in the show. The ski show back then, was centred on an X-Games theme, with wakeboarding being a part of X-Games, obviously. But I blew out my knee at SeaWorld.

So you blew your knee? Yeah, and what do you do? I bought a camera to start shooting photos of all my buddies who were still a wakeboarding. So then I became the guy with the banged up knee who would shoot everyone. That was 15 years ago and it just snowballed from there.

You became pretty close with the Aussie boys, Daniel, Ike, Josh? I guess I met Daniel first then Sanders then Ike. Ike was a construction guru, so he was always down to shoot some experimental stuff. Ike would bring all these ideas to me, like cones over the lens, or fire or whatever and we’d try it. That was the whole fun of it. Shooting film back in the day, with those guys, it was all about fun.

You’ve seen a lot in the sport. What is your most memorable era? Umm, I don’t know, for me I guess there is the before and after (Darin) Shapiro Generation. Murray is in that group and he’s still involved. Nelson. Then there are guys like Watkins. Plus around that time, I met Chase Heavener and Matt Staker with their whole style of riding. Then the pointless guys, I hung with them a lot because we were all the same age. We all hung out together. I think I met Ruck and those guys through riding Junior Worlds or Nationals because I’d ride against those guys back in the day. I don’t know what the most memorable era is; I made so many friends through the sport, throughout each time.

You rode against, and with, guys who have since gone on and made names for themselves as riders. Did you originally want to make professional Wakeboarding your career? I guess I had thoughts like that at some point for sure. When you’re young and dumb you tend to live in the here and now (well I did anyway) and never really think ‘long term’ or ‘career’. Wakeboarding was and is fun, period. That’s what I was concerned about mostly, just having fun. I thought sponsors and getting free stuff was rad, why would anybody want that to end, ya know? Now, as an old turd, I enjoy and understand the business side of it all.

The obvious question then is: Do you think you would have got into photography if you hadn’t injured yourself? And either way, would you change it now? I’m not sure if I ever would have picked up a camera or not if I didn’t get injured. I’m a firm believer in everything happening for a reason. I wanted to ride a board for as long as I could until my legs fell off. All I knew was school sucked and wasn’t for me, and I couldn’t see myself sitting at a desk. I’d go stir crazy. However, here I am sitting at a desk. Difference is, I’ve created an occupation that I love and when you love what you do, it never feels like work. I agree with 75% of that. But no, I wouldn’t change it for the world. It all happens for a reason and I’m grateful for the cards I’ve been dealt and the learning experience that comes from it.

Shooting with film is romanticized as photography for the purist. Kind of like Vinyl to MP3’s. You’ve seen first hand the change from Film to Digital. Digital is convenient but you hear people talk about the quality of Film being better. Is that true? Or is it just a case of nostalgia? I use nearly all digi now because that’s what everybody wants, and most can’t tell the difference, other than cost. Ask this same question to an unbiased art director or graphic artist that really knows what they’re looking at versus a photographer. Someone who understands printing, color, whites vs. black, etc. When an image gets in their hands for layout prepping, they’ll concur in favor of film every time. So I guess it depends on your final application for the images you’re trying to create. Digital definitely has is benefits and nothing can match it’s speed or convenience. Most people are lazy, cheap and last minute so digital is perfect! But, just because you have an expensive, shiny DSLR like most businesses do now days, it doesn’t mean you’re a photographer. Whatever your Film versus Digital preference is, a real photographer shoots something a particular way because that’s the way they want it to look, not manipulated later post production. Who wants to sit on the computer and try to salvage an image when you should have just shot it correctly from the beginning? No one wants to polish a turd. Put your time in, do your homework and learn how to shit diamonds.

It seems like you’ve been good friends with a lot of people at the top of the sport, you’ve been able to capture their lives. I think of photography as a way to catalogue life, what inspires you? I think being able to shoot with somebody and have that be a part of their career, their image and their reputation. It’s a cool thing to experience with them. It grows the friendship as well. Riders make a living off hoping you’re good at what you do as well. The image that is portrayed in the magazine is a big part of their career, so that keeps me inspired.

I don’t want to be negative but what about things that piss you off? It really irritates the f**k out of me when people blow me off on mornings shoots. I’m trying to help them out. As a photographer, I’m going to be around a lot longer than they are, because their riding window in the sport is much more limited.

“But photography is inspirational to me. It’s a constant challenge – an equation to try and figure out. Every situation and every place you are shooting is always different.”

Yeah, so you hear that you little punks. Get out of bed! Yeah, that’s pretty irritating, but I don’t tolerate that anymore, I just wont shoot with those people again, because they are pretty much wasting my time. But photography is inspirational to me. It’s a constant challenge – an equation to try and figure out. Every situation and every place you are shooting is always different.

Do you ever get nervous when you go to shoot? Have you had times when you have a big responsibility, like a company’s ad or something and you’ve over thought it? Yeah, occasionally, but it try to think the whole shoot through in my head. Ask a lot of questions first. But it can be nerve racking when you know there’s a lot of money on the line. If you’re travelling and you realise that everyone who’s there, and all the equipment, rests all on your shoulders. You’ve got to produce what they want and if you don’t deliver, you can kiss that job goodbye.

It would have been worse when you were shooting with film? Now you can at least check on your camera to see if you are getting the job done. Yeah, in America especially, people are spoilt now. They want everything yesterday. So everyone has this ‘I have to have it now’ – ‘fast food’ attitude. Digital is good for that, and the idea of film is not only slow it’s more expensive.

All right, so what happened with the Standerd? Basically it ran out of money at the shittiest time possible. We had a Surf Expo setup, we got everything going for the next season and the month after that the stock market fell out and everybody pulled their money, broke their commitments, basically. We got stuck with some bills and we had to make the decision to shut it down, and that was pretty much it.

So you went from the Standerd, to Digital in the form of Wake Journal? Yeah, there is so much you can do digitally. These days video is so important in everything you do. Be it a car commercial or whatever. You go to a website and you’ll see video there, and that’s important with everything. Plus it costs a truckload of money to print, whereas Digital is peanuts compared to printing.

So what else should we talk about? You want a fun fact? Ummm, things you did not know about me. When putting Visine (eye drops) in my eye. I drop it in my left eye first. Because in the back of my mind, I always think that someone might be playing a practical joke on me by putting glue in the Visine. If it really was glue then at least I dropped it in my left eye and I can still use my right eye to shoot photos with. So I’ll still be good to go (laughs).

Ah that’s awesome. I’ll still be good to go with my right eye. But, probably my left eye would be glued shut forever. I would have to wear a patch or something.

You’d be a pirate! Yeah, if you’ve got to pick an eyeball to be first up, I’d go left.

END

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