NYSEA/Clifbar Cold Shot Challenge 4.0 Awards
For the past four years the New York based surf culture organization known as NYSEA has been putting on a contest for winter enduring photographers and surfers called The Cold Shot Challenge. The event is co-sponsored by the energy bar and nutrition company Clifbar and they have been big contributors to the event putting up prize money, gift bags and trophies to the winners. The Cold Shot Challenge contest gathers entries from surf or water photographers that either feature empty waves or surfers in action during the cold winter months ranging from the time frame of December 31st to March 31st. Additionally to stay in the theme with the cold shot Moto the entries can only be from cold water regions in the U.S. ranging from the Outer Banks in North Carolina to Maine along with the newest area to enter the contest the Great Lakes region. The competition can be stiff and features excellent work from both men and women photographers that are hungry for the prize.
This would be my second year entering the contest and so far have found participating in the event to be quite enjoyable and fulfilling. Something NYSEA really does a fantastic job at with this contest is how they assemble a quality crew of judges that will review your work. Speaking of Judges this years contest was loaded with top industry icons from both the photography and surf communities. Featuring surf and water photography industry leaders such as Clark Little, Chris Burkhard, Todd Glaser, and Taylor Steele. From the surfing industry side the judges panel was composed of various world champions such as CJ Hobgood, Carissa Moore and Paige Alms. With this type of industry leaders being the judges of the photographs it is really inspiring to want to put your best work out there.
Some back story to how the image I submitted came about and the lead up to how everything occurred. I had spent the months of January and February in physical therapy recovering and healing a neck and shoulder issue that admittedly at the time had me questioning how long I’d be able to push my limits for never mind that there was a great contest going on. I had been waiting by on the sidelines has the cash prizes were pretty lucrative so the incentive to participate and do well was pretty high. In the prior years event the Cold Shot Challenge 3.0 I had taken home a third place and was happy with that and the prize money that came with it so I had a hunger to at least do the same if not get a better result in this years contest. Has each week went on it was hard to watch the clock tick by on the opportunity. After my physical therapy was over I had taken a trip to Death Valley for a week to recharge myself and find new inspiration and inner depth through challenges and upon arriving home I felt a fresh breathe of motivation and momentum. Around the same time and now approaching the final couple of weeks of the contest there was a run with a few opportunities for waves that produced pretty good results in terms of light and quality that from these sessions I was able to collect a nice body of work with some of my best images of the year.
Has the entry date closed I felt pretty good about my entries and considered there may be a decent chance of pulling off a nice cash prize. At the same time one thing I’ve learned about photography and art contests is it is all up to the judges and their collective subjective tastes and opinions. So from the experience of doing plenty of contests and putting my work out there I try not to put to much expectations on any results if for some reason one particular set of judges doesn’t appreciate your work than whats to say another set of judges or even just someone else will and most importantly is that your satisfied with your work.
Once the semi finals where introduced it was nice to see two of my images in the top thirty two. This was the same result at this point in last years contest so I started to feel like my chances of making it to the prize round started to increase, but it was still you never know so I decided to remain humble. Eventually NYSEA would announce the quarterfinalists and when they made the final cut to sixteen one of my images was still standing and really anyones guess of who could win. Has the awards announcement show date came which would have to be virtual this year due to the pandemic, the NYSEA staff asked for a brief video discussing the photograph the entry that would be shown during the awards ceremony.
Eventually the date for the awards ceremony would come and I was asked to do a zoom call into the broadcasted event, which at that point defiantly peaked my curiosity about the results. Also the event would be broadcasted on the OutdoorTV channel so there would be a live viewing audience available. Has they ran through the event and entries making their way through to the final four, my image was still in the mix. Than with the announcement of the third and fourth place finishers the pressure was definitely upped a bit to find out I was on to the the winners round. It was down to the wire and which would it be first or second as they would announce that I was first a rush of excitement was inevitable. This was a great feeling for a lot of reasons one I felt pretty down at the beginning of winter and this was a nice comeback, secondly to have my work to stand out like this to some of the individuals who inspired me to get into water photography in the first place and felt like a coming of circle and of course who wouldn’t be happy about winning $1500. Additionally the image would go onto get a great compliment from Eastern Surf Magazine saying “Taken by David Sieczkiewicz this is by far one of the best photos ever taken of an east coast empty wave” to hear that from a media outlet who has probably seen countless empty wave images in their long existence was really an honor.
This was such a nice uplift in spirits for me to what has been an interesting 2020 to say the least, so this was very much a highly appreciated award. I was thrilled with the image itself and it was great to see it gain some rather nice recognition with being the winner of the contest. It also has me excited and looking ahead to the next NYSEA/CLIFBAR Cold Shot challenge mostly because I like the competition I have amongst myself. Another first place would be great but to me personally I have more drive to go out and capture an even better image next winter although in the end I guess thats what keeps a lot of us chasing to either maybe witness a more spectacular moment and/ or to create your next personal best piece of work.