Professor Cunningham Rides the Mountains of Ocean Beach

Friday, August 05, 2016
SURFER MAGAZINE -- There’s a reason that you see few water shots of the surf at Ocean Beach when it’s roaring. It’s hard enough to paddle out on double-overhead days with a surfboard; it’s doubly hard swimming out there with a camera. Well, unless you’re former collegiate swimmer and water-polo player Sachi Cunningham, a photojournalist and professor at San Francisco State University who’s been dodging sets and snapping shutters at Ocean Beach for years. Cunningham has shot photos and video in places like Baghdad, Iraq and Fukushima, Japan, for PBS and the Los Angeles Times, among other media outlets, so she’s no stranger to working in daunting locations. Like most of the women she photographs in the surf at Ocean Beach, Cunningham didn’t start surfing until she moved to San Francisco. “Not having learned to surf in easy, warm waves, I didn’t have anything to compare Ocean Beach with,” she says. “That certainly helped.”