margarita salyak

PHOTOGRAPHER INSIGHT: Close Calls While Shooting, Margarita Salyak


WINNER OF 2018 Mermaid Society Surf Photographer Search Presented by Braven

Interview by Fiona Mullen

Looking at this mermaids photos, would you believe she has only been photographing surf for three years? Well, it’s true.

Born and raised in Moscow Russia, Margarita Salyak, 24, was a fish out of water in Russia’s frigid temperatures. She has now dedicated her life to photographing world class tropical waves year round. She spends every winter on the North Shore of Oahu, Hawaii and summer in Indonesia, with time spent in the Maldives in between. She lives almost every surf photographers dream.
Margaritas photos speak for themselves- perfect barrels, colourful skies, crystal clear waters, and lineups from above showcase the best reef breaks from her tasteful and talented eye. Shooting and surfing with friends, while sharing stoke in the lineup.


I get lots of jokes around my name, I like my name, it means a flower and purity in Greek. Nothing to do with cocktails.


It all started in Bali, I got offered to work as an event photographer, got creative with it and people like my work. I started to do more lifestyle and fashion, but it never felt natural to me or sparked interest. My friends invited me on a boat trip to the Mentawais and it changed everything. After that, surf photography became my thing. That was three years ago and the passion keeps growing everyday.


Moving pictures allow me to tell a story of how I see things. Simple as that.


It’s fun. It’s the best feeling for me. I get so happy watching people getting big barrels or nailing airs. Feels so good to be there in the midst of it all.

It is important to be smart and respect the ocean. It has so much power, it gives us joy but it can also turn into hell in a second. Respect it, care about it and being smart while swimming is so important.


I have had a few close calls while shooting. I was shooting big HT’s in Mentawai at low tide. Suddenly, a huge set came and I was held on the reef for two waves of that set. It took me a good while to get my breath back and everyone from a boat thought I got washed to the beach, they totally lost me.
Another time at HTs 20 other people and I got washed with a huge double up set. I almost got knocked out with someone’s board after the first wave. The second one – I had somebody’s leash going around my head underwater and I had my camera in hands. It was a struggle. The third and the last washed us to the very shallow part of the reef. My back and head were so close to hitting it and It felt like ages before I got back to the surface. Thankfully, everything ended up ok in the end.
Every time I get worked at Pipeline is pretty scary, but I still go back. It is my happy place but also scares me at the same time.


The ocean is my biggest love and inspiration. My friends inspire me too. I’m lucky to have met some of the best surf photographers and filmmakers in the surf industry.
I’m passionate about photography and I don’t see any reasons to stop. I have many ideas about how I want to develop my photography, but I’ll definitely shoot surf for as long as I can.

Margarita was the WINNER of the 2018 Mermaid Society Surf Photographer Search presented by Braven. Her three images were selected as the best of all the finalists by the seven judges including; Fran Miller, Brooke Farris, Leah Dawson, Cait Mears, Kirstin Scholtz, Amber Mozo and Fiona Mullen. View the 20 finalists HERE.

Check out more of Margarita’s work on her Instagram.

Margarita Saylak “Glassy afternoon in the Maldives.”

Margarita Saylak “Mikey Redd at Pipeline.”

The light, the wave, the composition. To me, this is simply a brilliant surf photo. To capture such an intense moment on a critical wave is extremely difficult, and the glowing light adds to the impact of the photo. This photo would look great in any surf publication.” – Fran Miller, Judge of of the 2018 Mermaid Society Surf Photographer Search


Margarita Saylak“Nic Von Rupp at Kandui, during the biggest swell of the season.”

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