Surf Travel, Bali, Lombok

How Surfing Birthed a Business: The Creation Story of Waipa Studio

When the rebirth of Wavecation was in it's infancy we were introduced to Agustina and Wiki, an Argentine couple who were dear friends of friends. They had both put their careers on pause to pursue their surf travel dreams, and visit some of the most coveted breaks around the world. Agustina is a professional photographer, and Wiki is a designer, most recently a senior designer at Airbnb. When we caught up with them they were in Sri Lanka and were living the dream of chasing waves and pursuing their creative passions of music and photography. They were supportive of our idea, and Wiki helped connect us with key talent to build Wavecation—we wouldn't be where we are without them!

Fast forward to the summer of 2019, and after a year of gallivanting around the world they realized what they had been pursuing as a passion could also become a business. Read Agustina's account of how simple bartering gave birth to a creative studio.

Around the World with Waipa Studio 

I’m Agus, a photographer that lives in Santa Cruz, California. Like many people in the neighborhood, we moved here with my husband because of the waves. Although it wasn't until recently that I started surfing.

I was born and raised in the city of Buenos Aires, Argentina, and my contact with the ocean was scarce.

Surfing, at that time, was indifferent to me. My interests were music and art, and I did not even practice any sports!

When we moved to California, my brother in law, Martin, insisted that I should learn how to surf. We traveled to Maui together and had our first surf trip where he gave us a few tips on how to paddle out and stand up—and I was hooked! In the next years, we switched out our party weekends in San Francisco for waking up early to explore local peaks.

Getting ready to surf in Yamba, Australia.

My experiences vary from ecstatic moments like surfing amazing waves, swimming with turtles, sea lions, and dolphins, and watching the best sunsets; to broken fingers and bruises all over, panic, and extreme muscle exhaustion.

Last year, my husband and I gathered up our courage and decided to take a year off. We had been living in San Francisco for the previous seven years and we were dreaming of leaving everything behind to travel the world and go surfing. Well, we finally did it and our trip was incredible! We surfed in Hawaii, Japan, Indonesia, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Australia, and New Zealand.

Cloud 9, Siargao in The Philippines
Morning sessions in Gerupuk, Lombok, Indonesia
Pipeline, Oahu
Surfers at Bells Beach, Victoria, Australia

While traveling we were constantly searching for accommodation, and we discovered that most of the places we stayed at did not have a great online presence. Based on that finding, we decided we should offer professional photos in exchange for accommodation. Thanks to this we stayed at hotels way beyond our budget, remote villas, and terrific beach houses.

A colonial hotel in Luang Prabang, Laos
An Airbnb in Okinawa, Japan

Everybody loved the images we created for them! Our work was to showcase their property highlighting the best areas, choosing the right composition, and utilizing the best light available. The results were striking pictures with a natural look that brings out the authentic vibe of each place.

A remodeled villa in Bali, Indonesia

I remember one job in Indonesia. We didn’t know what the actual house looked like because the images online were scarce and very bad. We arrived at night time, therefore it was very difficult to get an idea of how the place truly looked. The next morning when we awoke, we discovered the house was beautiful. It looked like a treehouse, constructed with parts of wood, bamboo, and concrete.

Located on a hill, the views of the ocean and the sun setting were magnificent: it was a perfect setup. I couldn't believe why the owner wasn't showing every nook and cranny of the property! It was clear why they weren’t getting so many bookings. Even with good reviews, people just want to see images, real images.

Lombok, Indonesia

I got very excited and I started to plan all the shots. I knew it was going to involve a lot of work, but I love staging utilizing what is available at the properties and organizing spaces, so we carried on. It is surprising how some people buy props for a photo shot of this type and when the guest arrives with certain expectations they find out that some items are not there, like a cozy blanket, white cozy towels, or a plant. Is important to avoid false expectations, don’t use objects you are not offering to your guest!

It took me two full days to cover all the spaces—the house was huge! After a few days of editing all the images on my laptop and tweaking a few things in Photoshop, I delivered the images. The owner was super excited about the new pictures. After a few months, she contacted me again to thank me because her bookings had increased dramatically. And that's when we thought, why not make a business of this?

We returned to California and promptly created Waipa, a Photography and Web Design studio focused on the hospitality industry. If you are curious about the name, Waipa is shortened from Waipapakauri, a break in the northeast of New Zealand where I had a very special session. I still remember the euphoria when I caught that wave. I felt like William Finnegan in Barbarian Days “more deeply connected to the rhythms of the wave than ever before”.

Surfing changed my life. I can't imagine how different it would have been!  It transformed our lifestyle, and especially our holiday destinations: now we opt for sunny beaches and mellow waves.

Costa Rica

If you are looking for incredible professional photography for your hospitality business, or are in need of a website makeover, look to Waipa Studio for all your digital needs. Not only do they travel the world over, they are a small independent business that can work with your budget to make your business get greater exposure and increase your reservations.

Waipa Studio
Waipa is a Photography and Video studio with focus in hospitality and architecture.
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About Ren Fuller-Wasserman

COO at Wavecation. Passionate about helping folks find their perfect surf destination so they can spend more time surfing, and less time planning!
  • Mexico City