Everyone loves having a good picture of himself. Deniers and contrarians can piss off, because they secretly want some too.
I'm here to share little experience I have with sticking a GoPro onto everything, but first..
Three things GoPro won't beat
Somebody on the shore with a big telescopic lens attached to an adequate camera. Ask a friend, pay a professional, get that ridiculous SOLOSHOT tracking system (i wouldn't tho).
A close-up done by somebody with a camera in a water-proof case. There's plenty of waterproof phone cases for photography too, just make sure your friend doesn't drown there, ocean is no joke.
A drone shot.
With these three absolute winners outa the way, what IS possible?
GoPro surf shots, accesories and camera placement
Let's unwrap some, starting with the most obvious one
1. "Point and shoot"
Imagine you only have your gopro on a floaty handle. You point it at your friend, you hit record, camera goes beep-beep-beep, what you get is this
You can capture a take-off or a funny wipeout of a friend, that's it. You're stationary, ocean and all your friends are not, you are going to stay behind.
Wide-angle camera dwarfs the wave height, you can't stay too far or too close. Position is very tricky in general, so anything you "get" - you'll rather get out of pure luck, not because you've planned it.
All and all: worst way to shoot, still worth trying because of how easy it is. Point and shoot, see what happened afterwards.
2. "Party wave" shot
I hold my GoPro on a bite mount and follow the person catching a wave.
The advantage compared to first shot is - you can direct it a bit. Do a party wave with 3 people on a wave, ask yo buddies to ride it laying on their backs, throw your gopro in the air afterwards - you just get more to work with, which is cool, no doubt.
3. Bite mount POV shot
Now it's all about you and your skill (or lack of, as it is in my case). Hold it with yo teeth, try not to die.
Once I get cocky (or the wave is small) I get the cam into my hands and point it EVERYWHERE I WANT, that's the bread and butter of POV surf shots, no doubt.
4. Adhesive mount shot
Lazy man's shot. Lighting conditions and the color of noseblocker are the only variety you get.
Ocassionaly a lucky accident might happen and you'll get some interesting b-roll, but don't hope for it all that much. Makes you think a lot about your posture too :D
Surfing in sub 60fps looks choppy to me. Set it to 60. Going for 120fps and 240fps is fine if you're shooting slow-mo of you being in a tube. If that's not the mission of the day - dont, it drains your battery, eats up the space i.e. pointless.
For shots of other people "WIDE" setting is the best, since that's how you will get least of lens distortion. For "POV" and "on-board" you really want "Superview" for max fov.
Every lens distorts image, human beings are used to it and usually don't overthink it. Photo = Some kind of distortion. You splicing wide and superwide shots with a DSLR clip won't make anyone rise an eyebrow if colors are matching. "Linear" setting takes your already distorted wide footage and just distorts it another way making everything look and feel "wrong", there's no use for LINEAR ever, period.
1080p is good, 2.7k is better and would allow you to crop in a bit. For POV/on-board shots you're unlikely to crop EVER, so once again save battery and card space.
4K and higher is for people who produce 4K content, professionaly. I'm glad I'm not one of those. Your camera will run outa juice FAST, will run outa space FAST and WILL overheat and crash all while being in your mouth, just before you catch that one good wave.
Last bit of advice: shoot for edit. You want a shot of you or a friend catching a wave, right? - The moment a set starts, if one of you in position or done paddling out - start recording. Perhaps hit it a bit earlier to not think about it. 30sec - 5min later you're definitely done. Stop recording.
Want a cool transition? - Rotate the camera / throw it up in the air / punch it into water - bake motion into video, that's the easiest and imho best way.
There will be a dude with 240FPS 4K GoPro ALWAYS ON, filming 20minutes of him struggling to paddle out. Dont be that dude, it's dumb. Processing this long videos is a nightmare, even if there's something cool happening - you won't find it, I guarantee.
How not to lose your GoPro
Floaty door attachment (or case) are a must. I have my bite-mount slid into an on-board adhesive mount, when I feel like it - I just pop it out and shoot. If your camera FLOATS, it can't DROWN. 160 IQ facts here, from a person who's drowned an action camera in a lake once.
I used to have a bodyboard leash on my hand tied to GoPro, to not lose it. Some people use lanyard around their neck and both are fine I suppose, yet I feel better without either. If i'm confident - it's bite-mount time, if not - leave it on board, that easy.
Last bit of advice: Don't film your first day after a long break. Take a day or two to get back in shape. And don't take the camera with you when you're not sure you'll film - i've scratched too many lens protectors with sand and keys, so you don't have to.
Closing words and "How not to get too frustrated"
Action-photography is a lot to do about taking chances. If you're ready, your subject is ready and all stars align - you will get the shot. It won't happen every time, it's fine. Don't worry about it, keep shooting.
Don't worry about assholes giving you shit for having a GoPro either. They're secretly jelous, 100%. As long as you're respectful and not putting anyone in danger - aint nothing wrong with doing things your way.