Nikki Brooks captures Seea Mermaids on film

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Nikki Brooks photographed her friends wearing Seea in the kelp forests of Monterey Bay. 

One thing that we love about seeing customers wear Seea is all the different ways that they make the suits their own. We were touched to hear from Santa Cruz photographer Nikki Brooks that she was inspired by the beauty of the suits to create an underwater photo series of Seea Mermaids in the chilly waters of Monterey Bay.

Nikki wanted to create a proper sub-marine presentation for the swimming ladies, so she constructed “portholes” to put them in, which were made from salvaged appliances and nautical memorabilia from Jack O'Neill's “Marie Celine" schooner. Yes, the very same Jack O’Neill that invented the wetsuit!

As a born and raised Santa Cruz native, Nikki has photographed the local surf culture for and traveled to document events like the Vans Joel Tudor Duct Tape Invitational. We asked her more about her brave photography subjects and what she loves about surfing in Santa Cruz.

How Nikki’s photographs were displayed at the Robert Blitzer Gallery in Santa Cruz for the "Oceans of Art" exhibit, curated by Shawn "Barney" Barron. 

Where did you get the idea to photograph your friends underwater? 

It all started with the Seea suits, for reals! I loved the style and was inspired to do something creative with the suits besides lifestyle or glam photos. I figured I would do the unnatural thing and take underwater photos of my surfing friends swimming in the ocean. Usually one sees underwater photos of surfers duck diving or swimming in clear, coral laden, warm, tropical waters.  Here in Santa Cruz and across the Bay, the water is cold year around, full of nutrients, resulting in murky green water, full of life and strewn with kelp forests. I sought out my friends that could bare the cold to venture into the water donning Seea suits.

What was the inspiration for putting the photographs in salvaged marine parts? 

I wanted to create a visual means to see what I was seeing underwater, a moment encapsulated in time, but something you can always look at and feel like it is happening right this moment… The treasures on loan from Jack O'Neill's schooner and the O'Neill Sea Odyssey were on display for the exhibit at Robert Blitzer Gallery only, not to be sold.  My dad, Denny Dederick, helped create the weathered nautical fixtures and portholes with his crafty patina work, resulting in something salvaged and from the past, but with a twist.

Nikki's photography display for the group art show at the Robert Blitzer gallery. 

What kinds of people, places and things do you like to photograph for fun? 

People I love to photograph are my own children, my friends, people I admire or honor, people that interest me or inspire me.  Places I photograph have often been nature oriented.

I am drawn to the adventure or challenge that is involved in order to get the shot.  Whether it is scrambling to get on a ski at a big wave spot, hiking along the Lost Coast, or swimming into the lineup, for me photographing my subject means I am involved or partaking in the experience as well.  Other times it is just really cool to be in the same frame of mind and connect myself to the person I am working with, and really be on their level, so in a way, I am working to capture a moment that truly represents them.

How did you get into shooting women's surfing? 

As a female surfer, it was natural for me to gravitate to my own female kind as my photography subjects. To document grace and beauty and style in surfing is something I really appreciate and I am drawn to. And I also wanted to document the women's surf movement, and it has been such an amazing adventure and I have met so many talented surfers and friends in the process.  I really wanted to showcase females as athletes, maybe they look like they are dancing on a wave, maybe they are powerful, maybe they are just charging.  And there was and is so much fun in the process, the lifestyle, the laughs, the travels, the adventures.  Beauty is a part of it all.

Surfing was not only about the one shot of a girl's butt cheek, doing a bottom turn. There is such natural beauty in surfing, and I just wanted to document it in its true form. However, it is both female and male surfers that I enjoy photographing, riding crafts short and long, on waves big and small.

What is special about the women's surf community in Santa Cruz? 

The women's surf community in Santa Cruz is diverse and rich, filled with living legends (Jane the Lane, Rosemary Rice, Kim Mayer), astounding big waves surfers  (Savannah Shaughnessy, JamStar, Sarah Gerhardt), craftswomen and stylish surfers such as Ashley Lloyd Thompson, strong community leaders (Zeuf Hesson), and up and coming groms.

The surfing community as a whole is full of many characters, both male and female, and all energies are vibrant in the water and create a family. The surfing community here is one whose respect should be earned, like all solid surf communities. Once earned, there is a strong bond and we are all connected, here in this northern nook of the Monterey Bay, and around the world.

It really is something, no matter where you are in the world, the ocean bonds us all together, and no one realizes this more than surfers.
Thank you Nikki for sharing your art and we are happy to be connected to you too through your creativity and our mutual love of the ocean! 

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Nikki Brooks captures Seea Mermaids on film

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Nikki Brooks captures Seea Mermaids on film

4 Minute Read Time
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