We were on a chartered spearfishing trip with Benthic Ocean Sports in Destin, Florida approximately 40 miles out to sea. We’d checked the fish finder and found a large school headed towards us at around 50 feet, so masks were donned, spears loaded and deep rhythmic breathing ensued as we attempted to lower our heart rate breathing through our diaphragm. The first of four divers descended into the deep blue ocean, we were med by hundreds of fish swimming around us seemingly oblivious to the sharp spears pointed in their direction. Moments later, Matt, a seasoned spear-fisherman spots a large King Mackerel and he’s off, using his metre-long carbon fibre fins to their full potential, attempting to get in the perfect angle for his one chance at a successful shot. Moments later we’re at the surface, it’s a big fish and Matt is out of breath having had to wrestle it to the surface. High fives and hoots are given all round as we see the boat bobbing silently in the distance, I glance back and see through the cloudy red blood being emitted from the fish that a shark is headed straight toward me showing no sign of slowing down. I hovered in the water frozen to the spot, as my mind whirled with possible outcomes from this encounter. I lifted up my camera, made from solid aluminium, held it in front of me and fired a quick shot before I kicked the shark away from me. That was close.
All of my photography and achievements (although somewhat minor) can be attributed to my late father, Chris. Below is a brief write up I put together for him, wherever you are, I miss you mate.
Chris Bystrom started off with humble beginnings, and like many other teenagers growing up as a young Californian in Redondo Beach, loved surfing with a passion. He earned his daily keep wheeling and dealing, selling records at swap meets for double the price he originally paid. It wasn’t until a close friend handed him a movie camera in ‘67 that Chris found his true calling. So at age 17, fuelled with the love of surfing and capturing photographic images, he began shooting.
Since that first encounter with a camera Chris has produced 3 feature-length 16mm surfing documentaries and 27 surfing films. He holds the standing record for the most surfing films released by any single individual. Included in that list are such shortboard classics as “Blazing Boards”, “Beyond Blazing Boards”, “Cyclone fever”, “Gravity Sucks” and “Primal Urge” to name a few amongst many.
In an era when most surf movies were being shown in high school auditoriums and community centers Chris brought surfing back to the big screen. His 16mm films were shown at the Sydney Opera House and cinemas across Australia and the United States.
In many ways Chris was way ahead of his time. He had a flair for recognizing trends in the surfing industry and saw the longboarding revolution coming almost before it had started. In the mid 90’s longboarding had been somewhat forgotten, Chris is credited for helping resurrect the longboarding scene and make it what it is today by producing films that influenced generations. Classics like “Blazing Longboards”, “Longboarding is Not a Crime”, “Full Cycle”, “Longboards the Rebirth of Cool” and “Soul Patrol” are amongst his legacy.
Chris’s covers featured famous surfing artists like Rick Griffin and Jim Davidson. His eye for talent brought underground bands at the time like “INXS”, “Men Without Hats” and the “Hoodoo Gurus” public exposure when he incorporated them in his movies.
Although more widely known for his movie making, Chris also had literary and business talents. He founded, published and edited the influential “Pacific Longboarder Magazine” in Australia for two years and also owned a surf shop cum museum called “Retro Groove” in Coolangatta.Chris’s vast surfing roots gave him the knowledge to author “The Glide” which was the first comprehensive look at longboarding in nearly thirty years and was a forerunner of today’s longboarding books.
Tragically, Chris was killed in a motor vehicle accident at Tumbulgum NSW in May 2001.
As one of the primary film makers of his time Chris’s contribution to the sport of surfing will never be forgotten. He is sadly missed by family and friends alike.
This site is dedicated to my father, Chris, and as his son I hope to continue his legacy into the future.
Check out www.chrisbystrom.com for movie trailers and further info.