” To be modern is to find ourselves in an environment that promises us adventure, power, joy, growth, transformation of ourselves and the world around us,
at the same time threatens to destroy everything we have, everything we are, everything we know.”
Here is what i know, Kai Neville, the Quentin Tarantino of surf cinematography is making a film, a moving portrait, of Jordy Smith, one the most exciting surfers alive today.
For those of you who have not yet discovered Kai Neville, he makes movies that are not broken, in other words, they are complete, polished, works of art. The brains and talent behind the game changing Modern Collective, the recently released Dear Suburbia, and the very, very, relevant What Youth media platform. Kai is injecting fresh life, new energy into a stagnant genre of the industry. He is a visionary, who has chosen to embrace the unique characters of free surfing culture rather than the worship at the alter of ASP rankings. You wont find Kelly Slater in these movies. His ability to marry high performance, mistakes, ordinary moments, surprising angles and fresh music makes his product unique, surprising and emotional. He not only makes you want to go surfing, but his films have the ability to make you want to live better, to embrace the moment. Jordy has chosen him to build his first ever signature film. I managed to pin Kai for a bit of insight into the project during a tight deadline
Jordy was notably absent from your latest movie, was that purely due to him logging film for this project? How long have you been building this film for?
”Yeah jordy is so busy with the tour and competing it didnt make sense for him to work on my independent release Dear Suburbia and also try and log footage for the Bending Colours project with red bull. Schedules are tough as these professionals compete for a huge chunk of the year.”
Jordy was a big part of modern collective, and the reunion session was somewhat of a climax when it came to pushing the boundaries, you guys returned there this year, did that spot work out as again? can we expect this to close out the film…
”That spot is probably one of the most progressive wave i have filmed. It’s very exposed I swell, the trade wind blows from the side, and the reef allows for you to have a huge roll into a big ramp. Perfect for airs. We got lucky again with that spot, having Julian on the trip was great too. Jordy surfed with two goofy footers for modern collective and having a regular foot go head to head helped Jordy get psyched. The boys went wild. It’s safe to say it closes the Movie out.
Explain ‘Bending Colors’ to us, what is the angle you have taken on jordy,s story, what’s the story behind the name?
”The name is Abstract twist on modern surfing. The film documents jordys free-surfing. It shows the progression through the early years until today. We slowed his surfing down with the phantom technology and it’s a completely fresh angle on modern surfing. It’s bent.”
How involved has Jordy been in the direction of the film, you obviously have an incredible understanding of how to document and package his type of surfing, but has he relinquished all the creative to you, or is it more of a collaboration?
”It’s a collab but this film defiantly takes on direction from jordy. He has specific taste on music and angles that he wanted to capture in the film since he was really young. It’s fun to get the subject psyched and tough as I’m used to being totally independent. So we would work at it together.”
How well do you get along with Jords? Is it a very natural sort of friendship/understanding or purely a professional respect for each others skills that brought this team together.
”I think its a combo of both, we became friends working on modern collective, it was awesome as we were both young running round the world documenting the fun. Now it’s tougher he’s in the top 10 focusing on a world title so we don’t get to peel out on freesurfing trips as much. But when we get to do trips like reunion it’s exactly the same, the boys just having fun and the work side of the trip comes naturally.”
RED cameras have been used a fair bit in this project, what do you feel they bring to the movie
“The ability to slow surfing down is the biggest plus, just watching jordy throw down a huge carve at 300fps is pretty amazing.”
You have done a fantastic job so far of telling the modern surf story in a way that keeps surfing relevant in a fast moving world of trends, but still managed to capture the soul of surfing freedom and creativity. Where do you think the future of professional surfing is headed.
“I think the future of professional surfing is in a good place with guys like jordy, john and Julian. They exciting to watch. I will always draw a line in the sand and focus on doing surf trips and document freesurfing, traveling and thrill of new discoveries. Surfing should be natural and not too Competitive.”
Jordy is a smart kid, he knows how this works, he is on the backend of hot streak, His runner up to Kelly in 2010 being the pinnacle so far. Things came so easily then, it was as simple as show up, blow up… Now its different. a bad run of luck has seen him swimming against the current recently. he’s only 24 years old, but he has been marketing himself for nearly 2 decades, he understands the importance of staying relevant, and who better to remind you that Jordy is relevant, than Kai Neville. i caught up with Jordy on his way to Europe fresh off a rejuvenated trestles performance that saw him back into the quarter finals.
“How good is your life right now?…
“yeah its unbelievable at the moment, having the greatest time doing what i love”.
Bending colors?.. Who came up with the name, what does it mean?
“well myself and kai came up with the name..to me its about the Bending of all the colours in the wave ,when your fins are slicing though the water and though a turn.with the light shining on the face, also we travelled a bunch for this film, Cape Town , Durban , J-Bay , Mexico , Maldives , Reunion and a bunch of free surfing allover the world. so it kinda represents these elemnts”
How was it working with Kai Neville on this project?
“it has been really good. We have worked on a bunch of films together and have a great friendship.. cause being in front of a camera is tough already so you have to be as comfortable as possible to really be yourself. there weren’t any bad parts, because the crew we had was so cool. Anything we did, we just made it a good time, even when swells didnt show up… and we all no how frustrated one can get at those times… waiting for waves.
What was the best part of making this movie?
“i would have to say surfing with Tom Curren,that has been a long time dream of mine and to surf with just me and him out was a dream come true.. iv watched him surf ever since i was a kid and he has always been someone i have looked up too. It was incredible. i found myself relaxing a lot more watching him surf. He made me go for different lines on a wave and do things i would never do before.. it was a great to have him come surf, because i found things about my surfing that i wanted to change and by watching him that helped me do it.”
What do you want people to take away from this movie?
“i just want people to understand how much power and technique is going into each turn,and show them that with all those elements in a turn yet it looks so easy and i think that is one of the things people seem to take surfing for.. its looks so easy..thats why we have the fantom camera to slow things down, so that people can see whats really going on and how much effort is going into each move”
Did the R.E.D. Cameras improve your technique? I know you guys got to study a lot of the footage after each session, did it change the way you were approaching turns the next session?
“yeah it definitely helped, but at the same time it took for ever to watch the footage because the files are so big it runs in slow mo. so one wave would take 2 minutes even if the wave was only 4 seconds long, hahaha, but overall it was super crisp and really appealing to the eye.”
Who were some of the behind the scenes people that nobody knows that made this movie happen?
“Well there are so many people….i would say the boys that worked the cameras.. Rick Rifici , Kai, Blake K ,Blake M , Steve Michelsen .If they never got the clip then there would be no movie. Thanks boys”
In the world of competitive sports, in the gladiators ring, where blood thirsty fans want to be entertained… sometimes you must pay to play. Jordy paid in full, August last year, in a defining moment for world title race, the biggest , heaviest waves ever for a world tour event, and the career best result of his childhood friend and fellow South African, Travis Logie. Travis, a relative tour veteran, and somewhat mentor for Jordy, faced a difficult reality at the start of the Tahiti event, semi’s or back to the qualification tour. Jordy knew Travis was going to go all in. Travis knew Jordy was going all in, he was rated number 2 going into the back half of the year. Both charged, both won, but Jordy broke his ribs in the process. Travis finished in the semi’s. The friendship continues… Travis elaborates:
Jordy has looked up to you in big way since he began the tour, and we all know he was pretty controversial in his first few years, what was the hardest part of guiding him and keeping him out of trouble?
“ya he came in all guns blazing and just smashed everyone! But there were definately moments here and there when he needed advice, I think I was able to help him learn how to respect his competitors but still want to smash them in a heat and then be civil after the heat was done regardless of the result. Sometimes he didn’t know when to turn off after the heat , I was the same in the beginning. He came on your with a reputation for being arrogant but within a couple months was one of the most liked guys on tour.”
Your best years on tour have been while jordy has been around, and even during heats where you have matched up, does he fire you up more than anybody, is the rivalry as strong as the friendship?
“traveling with jordy , free surfing with him and surfing against him has for sure pushed me. We are both unbelievably competitive in everything we do not just surfing so it’s been good. Those heats we had against each other at Tahiti I think showed it perfectly caus we were both going a little bit harder then I think we would’ve had we been against someone else. But at the end of the day we leave everything in the water and once the heats over we friends same as before just with more reef cuts.”
what does he need to do to win a world title?
Surfing-wise not much I think he surfs just as good and in certain conditions better then the guys that are winning events now . I think it’s just confidence thing, when his self belief is back so will the title race. He’s fitter and more focused than I’ve ever seen so he just needs to add confidence again . It will come, it just takes one event.
Travis’s words are prophetic, Jordy puts on the best performace of his year to reach the quarters at trestles, but is stopped short by a trending Joel Parkinson, the judges make that call. Jordy visibly frustrated is still sportsman about it, but mentions…”its good to be back”. Building confidence after his 2011 injury has been a conscious decision, learning to push it to the limit again regardless of the consequences. he is surrounding himself with the right people. New tour friend and ‘surf your heat like its a free surf’ pioneer, Josh Kerr has been spending a fair amount of time travelling with Jordy, and their female counterparts being good mates, and their love of taking to the air, it’s a natural synergy.
“yeah, I have been mates with jordy for a few years now but this year we have been hanging heaps. We have fun surfing together and hanging with our chicks on land they are good mates too so it’s fun.”
Even Josh is surprised at Jordy’s commitment to putting the winning formula together,
“I never knew how much thought he puts into his boards before each event! He really likes to confuse himself and ride heaps of different boards! Ha, ha, I think that’s his way of prepping… but when he puts it all together, his is real strength is flow! I love how he can flow such crazy moves together without any bobbles it’s super rare to see someone do that and he does it every surf!! He is the full package! “
The full package, its true, that’s what he is. Jordy Smith gets paid millions to go surfing not because he is one of the best in the world at doing it, but because he is a visionary, a game changer… he is the future. At the pinnacle, where the best of the best rise up to prove themselves time and time again, that is where the pressure is the highest, the stakes are the most. That’s where Jordy shines. The ultimate showman.
2nd in the world would be enough for many in his shoes, a life long dream of achieving relevance on the world stage, doing battle against his all time favourite hero, Kelly Slater and giving the greatest surfer of all time a serious run for his money. his dreams are literally coming true. An incredible feat for the young man from a humble family on the Durban Berea.
It seems so fresh that none of this is part of the movie, almost swept aside to document the important stuff, his talent, and the beauty of what he does on a wave.
So to finish where we began, perhaps Jordy’s movie will bring us hope, adventure , transformation and there is a very good chance that it will destroy everything that we know. I look forward to Jordy’s modern moving portrait and the new future it promises.