Go-Fast Photo Boat Becomes Kawasaki Watercraft Billboard

Photographer Robert Brown captured this image of big-wave surfer Mike Parsons at Cortes Bank.

Next week I head out to the Colorado River in Arizona for a round of high-performance boat testing with the Powerboat magazine test team. Among the members of Powerboat crew is photographer Robert Brown, a guy I’ve worked and traveled with for the better part of 12 years.

It’s no secret that the go-fast boat business is in the middle of rough times. Boat company closures and bankruptcies make that all too obvious. But what most folks don’t see are the people who are affected downstream.

Brown is one of those people. Three years ago, he was second only to the late Tom Newby on the hierarchy of Powerboat magazine photographers. Like Newby, Brown, who also is the world’s top big-wave surfing photographer, helped the set the standard for high-performance boat photography. From offshore races to interior cockpit shots during at Powerboat’s boat tests, Brown’s was always impeccable.

Photographer Robert Brown at the wheel of his Twin Vee photo boat.

But when a market all but evaporates, even being one of the best at what you do doesn’t count for much. When boats don’t sell, boats don’t get built. Boat companies stop advertising and magazines shrink. The result is that fewer photos (and less text—gulp) are needed for each magazine issue.

Brown's work for Powerboat magazine has included shooting scores of poker runs.

So Brown faced tough times—he almost lost everything. That’s why the story, “Photo Boat Becomes Billboard” on Boats.com inspires me. Sure—full disclosure—Brown is a good friend. But he’s also excellent at what he does and works his tail off. His creative solution, at least for the moment, is helping to keep him afloat.

Brown's photo boat, pre-wrap, at the Mavericks Big Wave Surf Contest.