JOSS: The Boss Of Paddling Pics

Ron Mizutani
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Wednesday - June 11, 2008
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It’s often said, “you have to be good to be lucky.” The idiom describes professional photographer Joss Descoteaux, who is proof that people with ability create their own good luck. In his case, he is someone who is always at the right place at the right time.

“I have a precise visualization of a concept before attempting to create an image, but a lot of my compositions are done by feel,” says Descoteaux, a photographer known professionally as JOSS. “Letting feel instead of technique guide the trigger works great for me.”

When he’s feeling it, the results can be breathtaking. He is blessed with an artistic eye and a wonderful sense of nature - especially in the ocean.

“The ocean and how the water moves as a main subject in a photograph is very exciting to explore,” says JOSS. “To be able to dance with it and visually create strong and pleasing pieces is an awesome reward.”

Originally from Canada, JOSS fell in love with Hawaii after racing in the Molokai Hoe when he was 17. The annual world championship race from Molokai to Oahu was his first taste of the Islands.

“I was a flat-water long-distance paddler in Canada, which led to a seat with the Canadian team, and we did great,” he recalls. “Only years later, after a few crossings as a photographer, knowing the veterans personally and sharing their stories, I realized the raw power element and the human legacy I had been a part of.”

Today, he is a full-time Hawaii resident and one of the state’s finest photographers. His images of canoe paddling, surfing and other ocean-sport activities have brought international attention to the Islands.

“I have to admit that if a stranger from the Mainland or foreign land comes up to meet me, shake my hand and thank me for my work, it is a big jolt of feel-good adrenaline,” he says humbly. “It is very motivating and guides my pursuit to maintain a high level of quality and creativity.”

One of his recent projects,Paddling in Hawaii, is a wonderfully produced photo essay that captures the essence of Hawaii’s rich paddling history.

“The subject had not been explored too much in the late ‘90s, and I made a full dedication to learn the craft and to the outrigger subject,” JOSS recalls. “My passion for photography was building at the same time as it helped exposing the sport at its growing peak in faraway places.”

His work often triggers the question, “How did you get that shot?”

“Just playing around,” he answers. “I go in with an attitude of always trying something new, which is a big part of the results in the ‘WOW’ shots!”

The truth is, preparation is critical. Whether he’s treading water in 8- to 10-foot seas or waiting in the impact zone at Pipeline, JOSS knows his profession can be physically demanding.

“My clients know that no matter how long or how hard we have to go on an assignment, I will last the full run with juice to spare,” says JOSS. “I follow a year-round endurance and strength-training program, spend a good amount of playtime in the water, and I follow proper nutrition habits - that’s the discipline.”

His discipline has taken him around the globe, but he admits there is nothing like capturing the images of Hawaii and its people.

“The Hawaii lifestyle, its ocean sports and people, along with the warm sea and stunning locations are something that you can always try to describe to friends, but the deep feeling of this place and its magic cannot be described,” says JOSS. “Yes, we’re lucky, very lucky!”

You could say that his “luck” is our reward.


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