Tom Servais

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Tom Servais Photographer

In 1977 I was auditioning to work in the Surfer Magazine darkroom under the direction of the great Art Brewer.

Art was a perfectionist, and I wasn’t sure I was going to be a good enough printer to pass his audition. In the end, I got the job with Art’s help and was basically hired by Art. Art became a dear friend and one of my two mentors, the other being Jeff Divine. Of course, I wanted to be a photographer for Surfer, but the darkroom job got my feet in the door. Art helped and nurtured me thru many lessons in photography. His thought was that you needed to be well-rounded, able to shoot almost anything. I eventually shared a photo studio with Art, he taught me about artificial lighting in the studio and outside. In those early days, you couldn’t buy a pre-made water housing, but Art helped me make my own.

I continued to work in the Surfer office’s in the darkroom and later in the Photo Dept. as an assistant to Jeff Divine handling mostly photo sales and doing Jeff’s job as photo editor when he was out of the office traveling on Surfer Mag photo trips. I owe everything to Jeff and Art as far as my career in photography is concerned. Jeff and I stayed at Surfer until 1998, Jeff went to work as the Photo Editor at The Surfer’s Journal and I went on the road for Surfer as one of their main freelance photographers.

I’ve been able to travel all over the world with the very best surfers, everyone from Jeff Hakman and Wayne Lynch to guys like Joel Parkinson and Kelly Slater. I’ve spent the most time on Tavarua Island. I gravitated to places in the South Pacific like Tahiti and Fiji. Been on the North Shore of Hawaii every winter since 1981, minus a couple of covid years. A lot of time in Australia and Indonesia, as well. And random trips to the Aleutian Islands, South Africa, Reunion Island, Samoa, Europe, Mexico, Nicaragua, St.Barts, Barbados, ect.

I was born in Miami, Florida around the ocean, mostly fishing and then came surfing.  I did all kinds of sports, and if I had the talent I would have been a professional athlete.  Since I wasn’t that talented, I figured being a surf photographer was my next best option.  After a couple of years of  college in Fort Lauderdale and undecided as to what I wanted to do with my life, I moved to California to surf.  That led me to photography and landing a job at SURFER Magazine, the most prestigious surf magazine in the world.  I worked in the office as an assistant photo editor and staff photographer for many years.  I eventually became a full time staff photographer and was paid to travel around the world.

It’s been a great run and wish I could start all over again.

One of my most influential mentors always taught me that it was important to be a well-rounded photographer.  So I’ve shot almost everything, used large format, complicated lighting, and had a studio. But my real passion is traveling with the best surfers in the world like Kelly Slater and documenting these trips.  Along the path I’ve also shot other types of ocean photos as well as travel and portraiture.  Being a surfer myself, we love to search for new waves in remote locations.  And finding great waves is the goal, but the process of getting there and seeing all the different cultures is just as important.  The sights, the sounds and the aromas!   It’s that passion and enthusiasm for adventure and travel that make great and unforgettable images.

Masters  Image: Andy Irons, in what’s he called his most memorable and life changing wave, “I was frozen with fear”.  With Shane Dorian swimming in the wave face.  Lot’s of back story on this.

Flotsam International Masters Of Surf Launch
2024 exhibition music panel

Flotsam International Masters Of Surf Launch

Fri, May 3

1:00 pm — 5:00 pm

Kirra Beach House

Flotsam International Masters of Surf Exhibition
free event
2024 exhibition

Flotsam International Masters of Surf Exhibition

Tue, May 7

9:00 am — 4:00 pm

Kirra Hill Community and Cultural Centre