Filmed in California and on the North Shore of Oahu, ‘Watching Water sets out to explore the visceral essence of surfing. From that first turn, to the first win. The local break and being far from home. The changes, those moments – and the courage to face them. Being with friends – and losing them.
This is a story, about what it means, to be out there.
Tom Carroll. Lisa Andersen, Mark Healey, Reef McIntosh, Damien Fahrenfort, Bruce Raymond, Richie Collins, Alex Knost and Balaram Stack.
I began working on the film in January of 2010. I was living in New York and working as a photographer covering mainly fashion as well as events. But it was winter and I missed the ocean. I had an idea to fly to California for a couple of weeks to shoot black and white photos of surfers. I later decided to try to put them together in a film format with a voice over. Which I had never done before. I borrowed an old camera from a friend, and booked a ticket to Newport Beach. It was on the flight over there that it truly occurred to me, I had no clue how to use the camera, no idea about editing, and didn’t know any surfers.
I had always been passionate about the ocean and was born in Durban, South Africa before moving to England. We lived far from the coast and yet I’d sit through hours of surf films I had no understanding of totally in awe. I was hooked without ever touching a board. On holidays on the west coast of Cornwall I’d watch cold people in windy car parks struggling into wetsuits, staring at grey sea and always wanted to know what they were looking at and why did they even want to go in?
I arrived in Newport and was picked up by a family friend who asked me “So you want to make a surf film?” ” Yep”. “Do you know anyone?” “Nope.” In the true style of how the whole film was made he suggested I talk to his friend, who then asked his friends and before I knew it I was in a kitchen on 52nd Street with a room full of slightly intoxicated pro surfers.
It just carried on like that, and never stopped. I had no training, no clue how to edit and the camera I was using shot at less megapixels than my phone. I had no idea who anyone was, or what contest they had or hadn’t been in, I just filmed what I saw and asked questions I wanted to know the answers to. I had no underwater gear, or sound equipment. So there are no prefect barrels or airs, or helicopter shots. It’s just a fascinating people talking about what they love.
From the start I knew that I didn’t want to just film pro surfers. It was important to me to feature people who also represented what every surfer felt. The fact I didn’t know who anyone was I think helped, everyone was treated the same and therefore responded in a similar way.
I never want my films to be about status, or who’s winning what. I want to explore the differences and the commonality of this lifestyle. I want my films to be about the underlining thread that makes everyone the same. Whether you’re just a grom starting on an old beat up board, or a true pioneer of this sport, the ‘stoke’ is the same, and that’s what I want to capture.
Everyone I’ve worked with or interviewed has been so gracious with their time and were all amazingly patient with me.
Meeting people and discovering their own connection to what they love continues to have a profound affect on me. It’s what I strive to capture more than anything – honest, real insights into individual people and what they’re passionate about.”