As a reservist, he fought the fires in San Francisco’s Marina District during the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake which devastated the San Francisco Bay Area. Frank then utilized his Air Force training during a nine-year stint with Delta Airlines as a mechanic.
Somewhere around 1996, Frank and his cousin, MavSurfer.com co-founder Jeff Nagy, were introduced to an Apple II computer by Jeff’s dad. The two learned to create websites by copying and pasting source files, and what began as a casual endeavor has turned into fifteen years of MavSurfer.
Around that same time, Frank resigned from the airlines to help Jeff Clark put together a Personal Watercraft rescue team at Maverick’s and pursue a life in the surf industry. After Mark Foo’s death there was a need for a volunteer PWC rescue team out at Mavericks. Every other big-wave spot at the time had jet-skis in the water, but not Maverick’s. Shawn Alladio, owner of the K38 Water Rescue Team, trained the two. During this time Jeff was in talks with Quiksilver to hold the first big-wave surf contest at Maverick’s.
Alladio was impressed with Frank’s PWC skills and invited him to join her team on the Jet Ski professional racing circuit. Frank spent the summer of 1997 honing his PWC rescue techniques as Alladio’s top course marshal in the dangerous, high-paced world of Jet Ski racing. Shawn then trained Frank as one of her top rescue boat instructors. Her K38 unit has trained hundreds of fire departments, military units and local harbor rescue teams across the nation.
Soon thereafter, Quiksilver hired Quirarte to run the water-safety team for what would be the first contest at Mavericks. Dubbed the Quiksilver Maverick’s Men Who Ride Mountains. With his experience as a lifeguard and many hours on a Jet Ski, it made perfect sense. The first contest was held in 1999 and was a great success. Frank went on to assist organizers with the rest of the contests held and was Water Operations Director for one of the Biggest Paddle In Contest ever held (anywhere) in 2010.
But what about photography? In order for users to return back to MavSurfer.com, they needed photos and video clips. Obtaining shots from the few photographers out at Mavs seemed next to impossible. So Frank borrowed Clark’s camera and started shooting his own photos. The two fumbled through Photography 101, Maverick’s style, and managed to take a few decent shots, even getting one published in Surfer Magazine. Frank’s initial shooting platform was on the back of local abalone diver Tom Monahan’s glass Moppy, a 28-foot commercial diving boat. Frank then hopped aboard Clark’s Zodiac, a primitive craft by modern standards. After a season or two of close calls and harrowing conditions on the ailing Zodiac, he began depending on the more reliable PWC.
Quirarte started working with Grant Washburn and Lili Schad on the their surf documentary, “Maverick’s,” providing water and graphic design support. Schad, a local filmmaker and photographer lent him his first high-quality camera and talked him through the steps. After a few hundred bad rolls of film and some invaluable tutelage from world-class surfing photographers Vern Fisher, Don Montgomery and Doug Acton — along with noted magazine photo editor’s Larry (Flame) Moore and Rob Gilley — Quirarte started taking some amazing shots of his own.
Frank’s skills as a photographer over the past 17 plus years have landed him multiple magazine and book-cover shots, and his work has been published in over three hundred different publications worldwide. He has won multiple photo awards within the surf industry, most recently the 2006 Photo of the Year by the readers of Surfer Magazine. His PWC skills have been recognized around the world and landed him jobs working on television commercials and feature films, and he served as Logistics Co-coordinator for the Billabong Odyssey, Photo Editor for the Billabong Global Big Wave Awards and Clipper projects. He has trained with the world’s best water rescue units, including the Hawaiian Water Patrol, the U.S. Coast Guard and the U.S. Navy in some of the most dangerous and challenging conditions on the planet.
In the summer of 2005, representing the Mavericks Rescue Team along with Bill Sharp and Matt George of Surf Zone Relief and Shawn Alladio of K38, Frank volunteered to utilize his rescue-boat skills in the hardest-hit parts of New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina. The team’s presence in New Orleans helped save many lives.
At Maverick’s, meanwhile, Quirarte’s formidable reputation grows each year. By dropping his camera and tearing into the notorious impact zone on his personal watercraft to pull endangered surfers to safety, He has earned respect from both his photographic peers and the surf community. Showing no signs of slowing down, Frank will continue to provide us with some of the most amazing stories and images to come out of the world’s most dangerous wave.
A few articles written about Quirarte online,
Behind the Lens – by Heidi Trilling, Coastviews Magazine
Bad Vibrations – by Matt Palmquist, SF Weekely
Hurricane Katrina – Surfer Magazine
Quirarte’s Eye View – by Neil Pearlberg, Santa Cruz Sentinel