The best surf photos do three things: showcase the wave at its most beautiful moment, highlight the surfer riding it at his or her peak of action and style, and still provide enough of a surrounding view to place everything in context. This shot of Micha Cantor running and gunning through an inside screamer on the Outer Banks satisfies all of those criteria, even as it embraces its challenges and overcomes any shortcomings.

The overcast conditions on offer this March day, for instance, are far more difficult to shoot under than a vibrant bluebird day. The water color isn’t striking, either — not quite green, not quite brown, and definitely not blue, but instead some in-between hue impossible to accurately identify but instantly recognizable to anyone who grew up surfing on the East Coast. But that’s all a part of what makes Bob Hovey’s shot so money.

Take that sheet-glass wall and shoulder — how often is it big and barreling here with dead-calm conditions like that? You know that bump in the middle will soon jack up on the inside, serving as the right-hand yin to Micha’s left-hand yang. And then there’s that perfect peak rising slowly out the back. Lines on lines on lines, as they say, except in a disjointed, this-way-and-that sense that’s unique to our slice of the brine. Combine those sea oats in the foreground with the classic rickety North Carolina pier, and you’ve got a photo that has “epic East Coast” written all over it. We’re just thankful we could keep it in our back pocket for a few months before presenting it to you the way it should be — as a big, bold, Page One claim about how you CAN catch the wave of your life, right here at home, on any given day.

Beyond that, we’ve got a few more of our favorite 2016-2017 shots highlighted in our annual Just Photos, Just Because feature, along with a look at the rapidly developing talents of pro-surfers-turned-photographers Asher Nolan, Darren Muschett, and Raven Lundy. Stay tuned for more and enjoy ESM’s 201st issue.

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