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Jake Darwen On Winning The Pro Photographer Showdown

Jake Darwen is a humble Kiwi skateboarder who lives in Melbourne, but he’s also one of the best photographers in skateboarding. When he scored a free trip to Whistler, Canada for the Olympus Pro Photographer Showdown, he was hyped for a free holiday but not expecting much. As he said on Instagram: “The motive was to enjoy a global cook off with two of my best mates… [Alex Lawton and Kayle Lawson]”

As it turns out, Jake won the Best in Show award [beating some of the best in the business], and took home the $10,000 prize purse, which was a real nice surprise. We asked him about how it all went down.

How did you hear about the comp?

It was so out of the blue. I was sitting on the plane flying home to New Zealand and I was just refreshing my emails before the flight left. I got one saying, “Congratulations you've won a free trip to Whistler for the Olympus Pro Photographer Showdown.”

I wasn't sure if it was real or not because I didn't enter anything. So for the whole flight I was just reading the email over and over again. I was so confused about how I was in it. At first I was unsure if I’d go because it's so far away for just five days, but after talking to some close friends, and my sister, I knew it was too good to turn down.

What was the criteria?

I had to create a slideshow (running eight to nine minutes) with all of my work. The main thing that the judges wanted was to be taken on a journey. After a few sleepless nights I slowly created a story in my head, then I asked James James if he could help make it happen. He was so down to help out.

It took roughly eight days to edit it because I kept wanting to change things. I would leave James's place with the edit late at night and then come over first thing in the morning and want to change heaps of things again. Even when we signed off on the final edit I wanted to tweak it.

Essentially I kept thinking of making it like a skate part. I have all of these photos and if the beat or music doesn’t match right it's just not going to be remembered. Massive thanks to James for helping me with that! And to Kayle Lawson and Alex Lawton for travelling with me. 

What went through your head when the announcer said your name?

I heard my name but I couldn’t move. I completely froze. I dreamt of winning the competition, but seriously I was just so content with the free journey to Whistler and to see snow for the first time. Everyone else had the most unbelievable imagery, so I was in disbelief when he said my name. It was the craziest feeling ever.

What did the dude say right before announcing that you’d won? Was it “beers mate”?

Yeah, he said “beers mate” because we were just drinking and celebrating the trip like we had already won and I took a beer on stage with me [laughs]. Then there was an after party, so it was pretty much a black out from the announcement until the next morning. 

So, this trip to Whistler was the first time you’ve even seen snow. How did you go snowboarding?

Man, snowboarding is so hectic. It’s easy to watch it on the computer and not really appreciate it much, but as soon as you stand up it’s like you’re on a hill with soap on it. I got the hang of it after a few days but I nearly took a few bad slams. 

Are you going to enter some more photography competitions in future?

I would love to be a part of more in the future. This was randomly out of the blue and really opened my eyes to what’s possible out there.

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