There is the cliche "snap a picture of a surfer catching a massive break at Pipe or surf competition" or the photograph of the photographer in the scene taking the photo described above. Now many profits are being made by surf photographers documenting other aspects of sea life and wave breaks. While I see most of their work as decorative, there are still parts of their work and certain pieces that I see as falling under the fine art aspect. Artists may not find their work that impressive because most of it is made up of repetitive imagery of waves breaking from inside the barrel facing outwards with the same composition of the shore, landscape line, and sky, but I find their work compelling because some of their compositions are interesting in the way they frame and compose the shot.
The reason for the part decorative and part fine art comment is because some photographs are entirely left up to chance and how the wave breaks/the lighting and that it can very easily be seen as snapshot photography but at the same time, the whole idea of it being "chance" and that "decisive moment" of the photographer to depress the shutter button makes it fine art. Also on the presentation of the piece. While they offer prints of their work, when they present it, it is often in a gallery setting with some pieces presented on canvases and larger prints.
While I find the process extremely interesting because they have to submerge themselves into the elements to be able to get the shots they do, I can see why it would be difficult for them to get others to see their work as art.