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In Sync

Photographer captures a Boomer moment

Those who bodysurf at Boomer Beach, such as Durdam Rocherolle, say it is a “spiritual place.”

For the La Jolla Shores resident who has been bodysurfing at the La Jolla beach since he was 17, the spirit gained new meaning on Thanksgiving weekend.

That’s when a photographer’s eye caught Rocherolle in a wave with a Western gull soaring in nearly perfect “sync” beside him.

It was already one of those great winter days when the break is often at its best at the renowned beach below the Bridge Club building at Scripps Park — offshore breeze, glassy conditions, good-sized waves that kept the 39-year-old in the water for seven hours that day.

That Einar Gall captured the moment with the “bird emulating and flying along” with him was something special, Rocherolle said, particularly because the photo was taken at a place that commands “tremendous respect for its history and heritage.”

Gall, a La Jollan who frequents the Cove for its wealth of bird-watching opportunities, said he was walking in the area that day and decided to get pictures of the waves.

The senior vice president and director of research at The Neurosciences Institute has been “taking pictures on and off for 40 years using devices from film to electron microscopes” and all over the world.

“There were 15 or 20 guys out there ... oh my goodness,” he said last week, noting that he had never seen bodysurfers before and was surprised when he realized the surfers didn’t have boards.

With his 500 mm lens and an interest in “photographing moving objects,” he started snapping away.

He took a number of shots, including a series with the wet-suit-clad surfer and the bird. Gall learned through another photographer who shoots frequently at Boomer that it was Rocherolle, a former decathlete.

As Rocherolle awaited a flight to Vancouver, where he’s working on a project for the Winter Olympics, he said, “It’s so unusual that the bird was there.”

For him, the moment was particularly amazing because he “lives for the experience of flying.”

Body surfing, he added, is the closest thing to it. To look at the photo, it “was like another spirit flying along.”

He said he didn’t realize the bird was there, but saw Dan Williams, a legendary bodysurfer — who was also photographed by Gall — heading back out through the same wave with a smile on his face.

Williams, whom Rocherolle described as “the best bodysurfer in the world,” later told him it was “the most incredible thing.”

But he didn’t realize how incredible, until he saw the photo a day later.

“The photos are so extraordinary,” he said, noting that they captured the essence of bodysurfers connecting with the water. “That moment ... what nature gives you is always different.”