Freddo, vento e neve probabilmente non ne avevano mai visti. Ma la passione del surf ha superato l’acclimatamento e così un australiano e tre californiani hanno imbracciato la tavola e hanno scalato montagne per giungere alle acque del Circolo Artico. Qui si trovano le onde più fredde ed estreme del mondo, in un contesto surreale. Lastre di ghiaccio e neve dappertutto, mentre dal mare sale l’onda.
Dalla spedizione di Matt Whitehead, di Byron Bay (sull’Oceano Pacifico), Cyrus Sutton, Pat Mellin, Christian Wach e Michel Jakobi della California è nato un documentario girato dal filmaker canadese Yassine Ouhilal, dal titolo Artic Surf. I cinque professionisti dell’onda si vedono scalare montagne con indosso la muta e la tavola al braccio, mangiare pesce essiccato e godere della solitudine della lontana Norvegia. «All’inizio sembra di morire – racconta Sutton -. Poi ti passa e cavalchi l’onda, ma dura solo 5 minuti, poi non resiste nemmeno la muta. Devi uscire».
Ecco l'intervista al fotografo e registra Yassine Ouhilal.
What was the high point of the expedition? Low point?
The low point of the expedition was near the end of the trip, after more than 32 days scouring the coastline and going all the way across the Russian border, we found ourselves stuck in a mining town near the border without any access to the coastline due to military restrictions and lack of permits (which have to be approved by the former KGB).
It felt like we were in a James Bond film and everyone was just exhausted from all the traveling/driving etc. It was definitely at this point we kind of all looked at each other and began asking ourselves “What are we doing here?” We had gone to that extreme to try and surf new places and we were beginning to question if perhaps we had gone a bit too far.
The high point was definitely the last day of the expedition. We came back to Norway from Russia just in time to score the best swell of the entire trip, and the very last day was absolutely perfect. This left point turned on with barreling waves and nobody else out – it definitely made it all worthwhile.
Did you do all of the filming and photography?
I shot all the photography a good part of the video. I was lucky to also have some great help as fellow members of the crew were also great cinematographers (from Cyrus Sutton who directed Under the Sun to Michel Jakobi and Matthew Whitehead), which was key when I was too busy shooting photos.
“We used Canon 5D Mark II cameras which are digital SLRs that can shoot both photos and hi-def video so it also made it pretty easy and seamless to go from shooting stills to video.”
Who selected the surfers who joined you on the expedition?
I ran the trip by several people and I’m really happy with the crew that came along for the expedition. It all sort of happened organically – as many of us already knew each other from previous trips.
The group consisted of a really eclectic mix. Christian Wach, the longboarder in the film has been on several trips with me as well as Pat Millin, who is used to surfing in cold places, and we have built a great friendship over the years traveling together. I’ve also been on previous trips with Cyrus Sutton and Matt Whitehead so we all knew what we were getting ourselves into.
Everyone was very easy going which is key for a trip like this where with the amount of driving/traveling involved versus the amount of time spent in the water can definitely be a challenge for your average and typical pro surfers.
To spend 44 days in a cold and harsh environment with a group of people can turn sour pretty quick if you’re not with the right kind of crew and I’m really grateful and thankful we pulled it off as a team, and more importantly, a group of friends.
Did you get to do some surfing yourself?
Unfortunately, I don’t get to surf as much as I’d like to, especially on trips like this one, where shooting around the clock was the norm. There were a few occasions where I did get to go out because the other surfers weren’t in the water or the weather was really too bad for shooting (or too dark) but I can count the sessions on one hand.
It can definitely be a bit frustrating to not be able to surf as much as I’d like to, but in the end I’m happy I get to at least be around the ocean and if anything, see all these great waves. It definitely beats being stuck in a cubicle somewhere and it also fuels the fire when I actually get to catch up on my lost water time.
Did anyone actually get to surf the spot that breaks across Russia-Norway border?
We thought about surfing across the border on that beach that separates Norway and Russia but had we done that, we would have had to suffer pretty dire consequences. I do think it could be done as long as it was prearranged with the appropriate authorities, and with Russia, there is a lot of paperwork involved for doing this sort of thing, although I won’t say it’s impossible.
How was the film funded?
Eddie Bauer helped us out tremendously for this expedition. The just-released a new line of mountaineering gear called First Ascent and they outfitted us for the expedition.
We also got some great help while in Norway from tourism officials, local hotels and some of the surf sponsors of the different athletes. Locally, we also got some gear from MEC and Carsand Mosher also helped us out. Without this support, this expedition would have been impossible.
What does it mean to you to have a film in the Atlantic Film Festival (AFF)?
I’m very grateful that the short film is in the AFF; I think it’s a great opportunity to show the work to an audience and to see it on the big screen. There are also a lot of producers in town for the AFF so it will definitely help establish new relationships for future projects.
How long is the film?
The film playing at the AFF is a short doc that runs 8min 50sec. It’s in the Atlantic Shorts VIII which showcases short films by Atlantic Canadians. There will be a longer version at some point in the future.
Where did you grow up, and where do you live now?
I grew up in Montreal until a tennis scholarship sent me off the University in Hawaii. That’s where I fell in love with surfing and I was pretty quick to replace the tennis racquet with a surfboard. The rest is history. I moved to Nova Scotia 10 years ago to live not far from Lawrencetown Beach. I’m now 31 years old and still call Nova Scotia home when I’m not travelling.
What project is next on the horizon for you?
The next project is a feature length doc called “Arctica” about surfing in Arctic and Subarctic places like Iceland, Norway, Northern Japan, etcetera. Those are all interesting areas with a great potential for surf discovery and some really interesting stories about their respective, and still young, surf cultures.
It will also have an environmental undertone as the Arctic regions are the ones that are first affected by global warming – something I’ve seen firsthand like glaciers melting at increasingly alarming rates. It’s going to be a really exciting project over the next two years that will essentially build on the theme of “Arctic Surf”.
My immediate plans for now are to stay put for the next few months and catch up on lost water time. I hope you enjoy the film if you come out on Thursday.
Per maggiori info: www.yazzyphoto.com