Darrell Jones: Windsurfer Sharp—Shooter

He has photographed seven continents and over 200 islands, but always comes back to windsurfing

LIFE IMITATING ART in Aruba: Charles Dasher, Aruba’s premier windsurfing instructor stands with wife Snezana atop one of Jones’s photo props. (Click to Magazine View)

FORTY-FOUR YEAR-OLD Darrell Jones was in New Guinea on assignment for Aqua magazine. The chief of the Huli Wigman tribe brandished a set of arrows used to kill enemy neighbors. Drawing an arrow, the chief took aim at a narrow banana tree stump about 150 feet away. On his fourth try, the arrow found its mark. He then handed the black bamboo bow to the visiting photographer and gestured toward the banana tree. Jones sighted the target with the unfamiliar weapon and fired upon the stump. On his third shot, the arrow dove into the heart of its target. Suddenly, the thought crossed the photographer’s mind that maybe this wasn’t a very good idea. After all, the Huli Wigman made wigs from the hair of their human prey, and this great white visitor might just be the exotic dish on tonight’s menu. Seeing a way out, Jones quickly praised the bow’s accuracy and offered to purchase it from the chief. He waited for a response. The Wigman thought for a moment, looked up at his nervous visitor, and smiled.

EARLY DAYS IN ARUBA: It was in Aruba that Jones discovered windsurfing and his passion for photographing the sport. An early photograph of Gert Van den Berg taken in 1981 reveals a sight quite different from the Aruba of today. Missing are the high rise hotels that deflect the wind and the crowds of tourists that flock to the island. Jones spent much time covering the evolution of windsurfing in the 80’s and into the 90’s. Aruba is still his favorite place to photograph windsurfing. (enlarge)

Globetrotting around the world, Jones has photographed seven continents and over 200 islands. But he always comes back to windsurfing.

Though cannibalism was thought to be extinct by the 1960’s,  there are still random accounts of this tradition. For Jones, who has a quarter Native American blood in his veins, the encounter was a small reminder that he is no longer photographing windsurfers in Aruba.

HAVE CAMERA WILL travel: (right) Scott Trudon under attack by a squadron of stingrays off Grand Cayman. (left) Snorkeling in the crystal waters of Ihuru Island of the Mali Atoll in the Maldives for Islands Magazine. (top row, left to right) Family Island Regatta, Exuma Island, Bahamas. Sunset, Norman Island, BVIs. California Lighthouse in Aruba. Buddhist temples in Pagan, Burma. Sunset India Pacific Railway, Australian Outback. Fifty foot seas on board the Frontier Spirit in Antarctica. (bottom row, left to right) La Fortaleza, Old San Juan, Puerto Rico.  Ricefield worker Bali, Indonesia. School of Oriental Sweet lips, Ari Atoll, Maldives. Maho Bay in St. John, U.S.V.I. Mt Eribus, Antarctica. (enlarge)

Jones began his career as a surfing/windsurfing photographer. His photographs documented the pioneering days of windsurfing and helped establish some of its great venues. Windsurfing does not exist in a bubble, though, and Jones was introduced to many different people and ways of life through his work. It wasn’t long before Jones’ talents found fertile ground in magazines such as Outside, Islands, Travel & Leisure, and National Geographic publications. Always giving people a fresh look at culture, Jones’ work has often been rewarded with the coveted cover position. The time has long since passed  when the sharpshooter was able to count the numerous magazine covers he had vanquished


ABOVE AND BELOW: Jones’s photography never wanders far from the water. Whether above, below, or both, his photographs have a signature of simplicity and elegance. The results are uniquely memorable. (left) Swimming close to home in Panama City, Florida, Jones captures man’s favorite aquatic mammal and frames it in a spectacular angle. (right) A tender moment of King Penguins on the Macquarie Island, Antarctica. (Top row, left to right) Rasta fisherman in Queen Cays, Belize. Baie de Bourayne, Huahine, French Polynesian. The alluring beauty of a Tahitian girl in a canoe seems to capture the imagination. Sailing over the Caye Caulker, Belize. (bottom row, left to right) Surfer Jeff Solness, Sydney, Australia. Always back to windsurfing, Aruba, Tobago Cays, Grenadines and Maui. (enlarge)

Being the hired gun that he is,  Jones’ work has flung him to the far corners of the earth. Covering the Wigman Tribe brought him to Papua New Guinea, part of a large island that makes up a portion of Indonesia. And while Jones may have become accustomed to flip-flops and tank tops in his more tropical settings, he has allowed his camera to lead him to more cold and desolate regions of the globe, including the Antarctic. 

While success may have found Jones, the photographer’s heart still sails with the wind; he is the Senior Photographer here at American Windsurfer and continues to face up to the windsurfing outlaws who come looking for the sharpest eye in the west.The pictures that follow trace the career of a dynamic photographer.  Jones, now living in Miami, takes us from those early days in Aruba to remote locations spanning seven continents and back again. The meticulous body of work presented here should give some insight into just why Darrell Jones garners the attention of so many viewers.

Huli Wigman along a jungle trail in the southern highlands of Papua, New Guinea. (far right) Cooling off in a Grenada waterfall. A WORLD OF PORTRAITS in a variety of headdresses and colors. (upper left to lower right) Member of the Cuna Indians, San Blas Islands, Panama. Wife in mourning, Huli Village, Papua New Guinea. Tahitian beauty, French Polynesian. Muslim maiden, Feydhoo Island, Addu Atoll, Maldives. Young monk, Pagan, Myanmar, Burma. Huli Wigman warrior, Tari, Papua New Guinea. (enlarge)

by Jon Leahy

Jon Leahy is a summer intern at American Windsurfer. He grew up in New Hampshire and now attends the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia.