Introducing Dom Bakarich: King of The Mini Wave Phenomenon

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posted by James Willmott

If there is one thing we at SurfStitch admire, it’s creativity. An individual taking something, tweaking it and making it their own is something we can appreciate, respect and follow, regardless of the idea or concept. One man who follows this strategy perfectly is Newcastle based legend, Dom Bakarich. The man behind @miniwavesbydom, Dom challenges himself to put his own flare on things by shooting ankle high waves and then photoshopping some of the world’s best into them, making for some mighty fine mindsurfing magic, leaving us all wondering ‘what if..’.

With the likes of Kelly Slater, Kalani Robb and more of surfing’s who’s who double tapping Dom’s images with assuring approval, his page is one to add to the feed. Excited, we tracked Dom down to learn more about his work and how it all came to be.

Tell us who you are and what you are about?
My name’s Dom Bakarich aka @miniwavesbydom / @blackwavephoto , I have a lovely wife, a couple of fur babies and I live in Newcastle NSW Australia. I’m an ex- Trainee Golf Professional, part-time graphic designer turned photographer. I’ve been a lover of the ocean for 20 plus years. Surf photography, and in particular mini waves, are my favourite subject matter to shoot but at the end of the day I enjoy most forms of photography.

Your miniwaves are taking the internet by storm, getting likes from Kelly Slater, Kalani Robb and other world renowned crew. How did you first get into it?
I was first inspired to photograph mini waves in 2009 whilst on holiday in Thailand. I was amazed at the shape and how much they resembled big waves yet were barely ankle high. When it comes to mashing them up with riders, that didn’t happen until December 2015. I had been taking mini wave photos (seriously) for about 8-10 months and one day at work I thought I’d photoshop some pros in and see how the pic would look. I got a few laughs from work colleagues and that’s pretty much what started it all.

Have you got a favourite you’ve created?
I have 3 favourites actually. The one I did of Mick Fanning is a personal fave. I just love how well he meshes with that 8 inch wave. The recent one I did of Mark Matthews and Taj Burrow is a close second, but not only because of the edit, it’s more because of the mini wave location. I took that shot at a boat ramp near Sydney. My other favourite is the photo of Kalani that Chris Monroe aka @beefs_official asked me to mash up for him (Both pics are his, I just did the mashing up). The reason I love that pic is because of how ridiculously glassy that wave is. I wish I could shoot that spot, but for now I just have to wait until Chris sends me his pics.

Give us a run down of the process of making these masterpieces?
Well the first thing to do is to spend countless hours getting your ankles wet shooting mini waves. I usually go through my ‘day’s takings’ of mini wave photos and occasionally one will jump out as a potential mash up. They’re usually super glassy, or super heavy Teahupoo looking minis. After you have the pic you need to source a pro that will mash up. The toughest part is getting the light right. If you’ve taken sunrise photos you need to find a rider that will have the sun hitting them from the same direction, here in Newcastle on the East Coast of Australia the sun will be coming in low and from the East which will mean a backlit wave. After you get the light right you just need to get your photoshop skills working. In the end I try to make the mash ups look ‘mind surf-able’ without looking real. I want people to get a giggle but not feel like I’m trying to trick them, hence the hashtag I use #ofcourseitsphotoshopped.

How long do they take you?
Anywhere from 10 minutes to about an hour. Some of the more in depth ones I do with people in the channel and boats etc. can take me a little longer but rarely over an hour. To be honest, I still have a day job so I try to do them pretty quickly as it’s usually 9-10pm when I start editing.

What are the biggest challenges when creating the images?
I do two types of mashups; 1, the pro surfers and 2, pics sent to me from followers. They both have challenges. The main challenge with follower pics is that they are often low resolution photos. In regard to the mashups of the pros, the biggest challenge apart from matching up the light would be matching up the angle. Mini waves are usually shot looking on a slight downward angle (they’re tiny and I’m not), whereas most photos of the pros are taken from the water and looking up at the rider. When the angles are right, the mash ups should be pretty smooth.

If there was one you could create, what wave would it be and who would be surfing?
Good question. Let me think for a second… I would love to do a mini pipeline set up as if shot from the beach. Maybe with the crowd and palm trees in the foreground?. Being an Aussie I’d have to say Tom Carroll would be the rider. Maybe if I could get a good pic of Tom wearing that ol’ Gath Helmet that could be an epic mashup?!