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Behind the lens with Aquabumps

Every day at sunrise, Eugene Tan gets out of bed, grabs his camera, and heads to Bondi Beach.  In fifteen years, the art director-turned-photographer has only missed two sunrises - and those were the days his sons were born.

“Yeah, there are days when I’m not happy with what I’ve shot – but I never not go and shoot,” says Eugene. “I think I’m programmed after getting up early for 15 years. Having small children helps, too.”

Eugene is the founder of the global phenomenon that is Aquabumps, a daily photography blog and email that captures Bondi (and, more recently, other beautiful beaches around the world) at its finest hour.

The images, taken from cliffs, underwater and even from helicopters, speak for themselves and are the reason Aquabumps now has more than 40,000 email subscribers.

Aquabumps began when Eugene started sending his mates snaps of the morning waves at Bondi back in 1999 - well before the word ‘blog’ was a twinkle in the internet’s eye.

The daily escape to Bondi via email was pretty novel in an era before webcams, and as the number of forwards grew, so did Eugene’s confidence. Add to that the frustrations of his day job, and the deal was pretty much done. 

“I had just had enough of corporate life and all that comes with it… the long hours, commute to the city,” says Euge. “I figured I was always going to work hard, so why not do more of what I loved so I at least enjoyed it.”

But quitting his job and living below the poverty line to try to make his project a success was something of a leap of faith.

“The first day I opened my North Bondi Gallery I sold a few big pieces and bought a carton of beer to celebrate with my mates. I thought if I can just keep selling something once a week I’ll be able to keep my gallery open and doing what I love to do.”

Since then he’s renovated a new gallery, collaborated with Speedos on swimwear and boardies, created a special Aquabumps pair of thongs for Havianas, and partnered with the likes of Range Rover, Canon and Corona.

The gallery on Curlewis Street is open seven days a week and is his proudest achievement (“it’s a little oasis – like the daily email”) but he’s also working on a pop-up exhibition for Westfield Bondi Junction, a collaboration with Bassike on some apparel, an exhibition in New York, and a trip to the Cook Islands.

It’s a far cry from that first carton of beer.

“I didn’t dream it would be what it is today,” says Eugene.  “It’s hard work – but I can’t imagine doing anything else.”

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Images from Aquabumps