surf photographer

We chat with young gun Joel McManus, a passionate surf photographer and Northern Beaches local who dreamed big and worked hard to buy himself his very own camera – going viral on Northern Beaches Living in the process…

It’s not every day you come across a 12-year-old who is willing to put in the hours to earn his way to fulfilling a dream. So when Joel’s post (see image below) on Northern Beaches Living Facebook group became the talk of the town, we realised we weren’t the only ones impressed.

When Joel posted an update not long after, it blew everyone’s socks off and went nuts on the NBL Group all over again. We just had to chat to this enterprising young man to find out what he thought of all the fuss he’d created…

It all started four years ago…

“My passion for photography began four years ago when we took a newly purchased camera on a family holiday,” Joel explains. “The surf was too rough for me so I took photos of my brothers and my dad instead. I really enjoyed it and loved seeing people enjoy the photos that I was taking of them.”

Joel discovered a particular passion for surf photography and it was this that really what drove him to save up for his very own camera and its water housing. From his images, it’s clear he’s found his calling.

surf photographer
Image: Joel McManus

“I have always dreamed of having a camera and water housing ever since I started taking photos,” he says.

“I started collecting bottles from around my street and getting them off family members. Though I did that for a month I wasn’t making as much money as I wanted to. It was my brother who came up with the idea to post on the Northern Beaches Living Facebook page.

“I was a bit skeptical at first but he really encouraged me. I was amazed when I looked at my phone 10 minutes after posting to see everyone offering me bottles and giving encouraging comments. This is what drove me to complete my mission.”

Over the moon

surf photographer
Image: Joel McManus

It took him three months of perseverance and hard work to make his dream come true and raise the funds – no small feat via bottle collecting! – and Joel’s simply over the moon for accomplishing what he set out to do.

“Three months and 10,000 plus cans later, my dream finally came true and I am more excited and keen than ever before to pursue photography.

“Now that I have achieved my goal I feel awesome. I have been out a few times since getting my camera and I have loved it. I can’t wait to continue photographing some nice swells and put my new camera and housing to good use!”

He knows there’s still a lot to learn

While super enthusiastic after reaching his goal, Joel is fully aware he has a long way to go to master the art of surf photography.

“I am ready to learn it all! I have already gone to a surf photography get-together down at Freshwater with fellow photographers and I loved every minute. It is good to see how other photographers take pictures and learn tips off them.”

Where does Joel see himself in the future? Erm, he’s ONLY 12…we almost forgot. But still, he has a bit of an idea.

“In the future, I would love to take a path of filmmaking and still continue my passion for surf photography. I could also sell my photos on the side whilst working but who knows, I am still quite young. I’m also not really saving up for anything in particular. Perhaps some fishing gear and camera accessories but we’ll see.”

We’re stoked for Joel’s success and wish him nothing but luck for whatever he chooses to do next!


Our Northern Beaches Living blog is full of inspiring stories. For more feel-good tales, read the posts linked below:

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