The Coast: Q&A with Photographer Ben Moon



In 2010, Ben survived a 45-minute long swim to shore through 25-foot heaving shorebreak and rocks at Nelscott Reef on the Oregon Coast. He captured this photo on the same day.

Photographer Ben Moon makes a cameo in The Coast, and offered his own expertise during the production, editing and wave riding involved in the making of the film. Ben first met Hayden Peters through mutual friends, and the two have been surfing together (and occasionally collaborating on work) ever since. They became great friends mainly, says Ben, “through our mutual love of the ocean.”

Much like Hayden, Ben has his own unique relationship with the ocean as a place for gathering perspective. We sat down with Ben and asked him to share a bit about what The Coast means to him. Here’s what he had to say.

NRS: How were you involved with The Coast?

Ben Moon: Skip has been enamored with the Pacific Northwest coastline and its characters for quite a while now, and when he mentioned creating this homage to the coast I knew he would create something really beautiful. I offered a bit of feedback during the editing process and spent a couple of days with Hayden during the production, sharing some great waves and laughs.

NRS: Having battled cancer at a young age, how does Hayden’s story resonate with your personal relationship with the ocean?

BM: During my own battle with cancer at age 29, the ocean was an important source of perspective, and I spent as much time in and near it as I could, both in Oregon and on Kauai. After one of the many doctor’s appointments, I received some unsettling news about surgeries I would need to undergo, so I drove straight to the Pacific and dove in. In my need to be immersed to rinse away the experience, I hardly noticed the numbing 50-degree water temps!

NRS: You spend a lot of time out at the coast, what does it offer you that the city and other landscapes don’t?

BM: Having grown up near the shores of Lake Michigan, I feel hardwired to need and appreciate the feeling of openness that happens while gazing across a majestic body of water. On the coast the weather and surf are ever changing, and the air has unique quality… there is a unique fluidity and movement found there that I cannot find elsewhere, especially not in the city. Also, when in or around the ocean you have to be tuned in and aware of your environment at all times.

Ben Moon

NRS: What do you admire about Hayden?

BM: Hayden is always so positive and psyched for anything, whether it’s going for a surf, working on a film, or just to share great conversation. I admire his honesty, his upbeat attitude no matter what, and his insatiable curiosity and drive to learn new things.

NRS: What do you think Hayden’s story can offer to others about a different way to live?

BM: When faced with a potentially terminal illness, you’re forced to be present and to relish each moment. I feel like we can all benefit from that philosophy in our daily lives, regardless of the challenges we are facing.

NRS: You’ve spent a lot of time shooting on the coast. How do you structure a shoot with such temperamental weather and conditions?

BM: To shoot on the coast, you have to move quickly to adapt to the conditions and be resilient with your schedule. The temperamental weather can be a huge asset if you keep your eyes open and work with the conditions—unexpected magic is almost guaranteed to happen.

NRS: Can you tell us a most memorable story from a shoot on the coast?

BM: In 2010, I was shooting a big wave contest at Nelscott Reef here in Oregon and the surf conditions were insane—the waves were breaking around 40 to 50 feet that day. The reef is around a kilometer offshore, and the jet ski I was shooting from lost power when the driver tried to outrun the first wave of a set.

Long story short, I feel fortunate to have survived the beating from those four massive waves—as well as the long swim to shore through 25-foot heaving shorebreak and rocks—with only a torn MCL in my knee. By far the most intense 45 minutes of my life, it brought with it an almost involuntary calm and an acute knowledge that I simply was not in control of my fate.

Photo: Ben Moon

Ben Moon is an adventure, lifestyle, and music photographer and filmmaker based in Portland, Oregon. You can learn more about Ben and his work at