Maui Photographer Catches the Big Wave

May 9, 2011, 3:38 PM HST
* Updated May 12, 7:28 AM
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By Katie McMillan

Maui is at the forefront of the big wave surfing scene and many Maui big wave surfers such as Laird Hamilton have become household names.

Now, Maui has a new big wave icon to add to the line up: photographer Batel Shimi.

Batel Shimi and Shane Dorian (photo credit: Frank Quirarte)

Shimi recently took home the first place prize in the Monster Paddle category at the 2011 Billabong XXL Global Big Wave Awards in Los Angeles. Her stunning photo captured surfer Shane Dorian riding down a 57-foot wave at Jaws, the largest wave ever paddeled into in recorded history.

Not only was this a significant accomplishment, as the Billabong XXL attracts some of the world’s top photographers, but it was also the second time Shimi took home a first place award. In 2010, Shimi was the first female photographer to take home first place in the Billabong XXL Global Big Wave Awards.

Batel Shimi's Award-Winning Photo (photo credit: Batel Shimi/Billabong XXL)


In an interview with Maui Now, Shimi described how she first got into photography by begging Mercer Richard, an underwater photographer and videographer, for a job. “He didn’t want to hire me because I had no experience. I told him I wanted him to show me what he knows. I literally would not give up and finally he took me under his wing,” said Shimi.


In 2002, Shimi started taking photographs at Jaws every time the massive waves broke.  Her determination and patience fueled her talent.

Illustrating that high-end equipment doesn’t make someone a great photographer, Shimi shoots with much less expensive equipment than many big wave photographers. “Many photographers shoot with gear that costs around $15,000. Mine costs around $5,000.”

Batel Shimi accepts her award at the 2011 Billabong XXL Global Big Wave Awards in Los Angeles (photo credit: Mike

One of the highlights of her recent win, according to Shimi, was “standing in the line with some of the world’s top photographers and working with surfing icons such as Shane Dorian and Billabong is a dream come true.”


For more information about Batel Shimi and to view her work go to

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