10 Reasons Lost Atlas is Kai Neville’s Masterpiece

Three years on, this is still Kai Neville's masterwork… 

That golden period. All collaborative artists have ’em. It’s only years later, upon reflection, that we can trawl through their work and call it. Kai Neville, the 32-year-old filmmaker, sunglass and media house part-owner (Epokhe and What Youth), has owned the performance surf film space since his 2010 debut Modern Collective.

But for Kai, it was his second film, Lost Atlas, made the following year, that built his reputation into a profitable exercise (Red Bull used Kai for Jordy Smith’s bio movie Bending Colours).

Three years later, it’s still his masterwork. It came at a time when he had John John Florence, Jordy Smith, Dusty Payne and Dane Reynolds in his pocket (Dane is back in Kai’s new film, Cluster, to be released in the northern hemisphere 2015 summer) and more than eager to nail clips.

“I felt like my next movie people would think, well, because of Modern Collective, the next one’s next one’s going to have crazy technology, helicopter angles and a thumping soundtrack. I wanted to tone it completely down, to keep the look and the feel subtle and washed-out, nothing saturated and contrasted,” Kai told me at the time. “I wanted the music to be raw, not so fast and I liked the way I ended up shooting it. It was candid. I shot everything. I wanted to simplify the whole thing. It’s really choppy. I didn’t use any fades or motion graphics.”

As to the surfers he used, which also included Craig Anderson, Ryan Callinan and his best friend Dion Agius, Kai said, “They all surf really well, but they don’t get up, surf all day, then come in and talk surf. It’s not all surf, surf, surf. They’re interested in so many other things. The guys that I work with have to come across on screen, too. They’re really interesting people.”

You want 10 reasons why Lost Atlas rules?

1. Dusty Payne’s late frontside switches to reverse in Mexico and Sumbawa are still the apex of the Hawaiian’s performance. 

Dusty had told Kai that if he was starting a move and it was feeling lame he could tweak it mid-turn into something special. I was with Dusty when Kai showed him the movie and recorded this exchange.

Kai: He went up for an air, it was a big straight air, and he thought it was gay so he, you, turned it into a an air reverse. And, it looked sick!

Dusty points at Kai, laughs and says, “He loved the move!”

Kai: It just, like, a last-minute tweak out on the flats. It’s pretty cool.

Dusty: It just happeeeeened. I just remember it was just standard.

Kai laughs, “Yeah, standard…”

Dusty: It was looking pretty stupid and I think it still does look stupid.

2. Dusty on girl’s surfing.

On Lost Atlas Kai played pap-journalist and recorded conversations with his tiny H4 mic. And this quote from Dusty re: girls surfing is priceless in its honesty.

Kai: Dusty, what do you think about girls surfing?

Dusty: Don’t get me started.

Kai: Do they rip?

Dusty: No, they’re terrible! (In a sing-song voice) They think they should just sit on the boat and wait for it to get one foot again so they can go out and do their little tail slides.

“Ok, let me explain,” Dusty told me. “This is why I said it. I was just on a boat trip with some female surfers from the 6.0 team and I’m not saying any names…”

Dusty pauses and laughs.“And, y’know, they were ripping when it was small. And, the last day of the trip, the last session of the trip, we pull up to Greenbushes (a barreling left) and it was three feet. And, we were like…  YES! Finally, some waves! The trip was…ffffllllat! And, we go out and the only girl who paddled out was Laura Enever. And, she went. She got a couple of nuts ones and the rest of the girls sat on the boat and just watched. And, I was, like, are you kidding me? It’s finally breaking and they’re not even paddling out?”

3. Jordy Smith is refused permission to surf where there are fishermen because of “security.” Jordy responds: “What about their security when I start baptizing a few heads?”

4. Jordy Smith introduces new expression into surfers’ lexicon. Cringe. 

Again, with his little hidden mic, Kai Neville captures a candid exchange, this time between Dane Reynolds and Jordy Smith in France. Their quotes are run full-screen over the pair surfing perfect six-foot French beachbreaks.

Jordy to Dane: You know that guy who interviewed me yesterday? He interviewed me two or three years ago in my hotel room and his breath just stunk… so bad… and I was just so off him and I said I’m never doing anything with that guy ever again. And I saw him and I was eggy from the get go.

Dane: I feel that if your breath is that bad to where someone is like three feet away and tripping out… It must feel disgusting right?

Jordy: That’s my worst, like, cringe. Just cringe.

5. A genre-hopping soundtrack

From Grimes to Hotel Mexico to Dead Gaze, King Tuff, Super CHillers, the Samps and Connan Mockasin (whom I personally loathe but he sure creates a mood). The result is a surf film that cuts to a variety of moods and speeds.

6. A Chilean beachbreak with Wade Goodall, Julian Wilson and Dusty Pane

This is Wade’s last great cameo in the big leagues and he does it in the most immaculate fashion, in difficult waves, with tough competition, including the most extraordinary blonde gals in little bikinis on the beach. Such style!

7. It was all shot on a Canon 7D

A masterpiece created for a few thousand bucks worth of hardware.

8. It created careers Dion Agius and Craig Anderson

Craig Anderson’s manager at the time John Shimooka told me, “That cameo of Craig’s was the start of it…  four years ago he was definitely on minimum wage. Now, he’s a top earner. Once you’re affiliated with Kai… it carries a truckload of weight.”

Said Dino Andino, father and coach of the then 17-year-old Kolohe Andino. “If you’re not top 10 in the world, you have to get in a Kai Neville movie. Ryan Callinan, he gets two waves, and it’s huge for him. You take him out of the movie and he might be super talented and super creative, but where would he be? The difference is huge. Money? If you star in that movie you can command 200 plus. If you weren’t in the movie, even if you’re doing the same stuff, you’re looking at 80 or 90.”

9. Kolohe Andino’s frontside grabs in a Canary Islands wavepool

Most surreal, an ethereal interlude in a most prosaic film.

10. John John’s Sumbawa cameo

Until Lost Atlas, the world only had a shadowy idea of how good John John was. Kai showed us.

“I had him on my radar, but he just took it to a whole new level.” said Kai. “That’s what I like seeing in surf films. That raw new talent when they’re surfing with the best guys.”


00:030: Credits.

00:31: 4:52: Mex with Dion Agius, Craig Anderson and Owen Wright, cute music, cuts to hard-core at 3:32 for a one-minute hit. First wave is an unmade tow punt by Dion.

4:52 to 6:33: Jordy Smith and Dane Reynolds in France. Jordy “cringes” at the breath of a surf journalist.

6:34 to 8:59: Dusty Payne in Mex.

9:00 to 11:49: Mitch Coleborn, Chippa Wilson and John John Florence , Indo.

11:50 to 13:24: Conner Coffin, Ev Geiselman, Dylan Perillo and Owen Wright, south coast, NSW.

13:25 to 15:05: Jordy and Dane reprised.

15:11 to 16:31: Dusty, Julian Wilson and Wade Goodall in Chile.

16:32 to 18:30: Craig, Dion and Owen in Mex.

18:31 to 22:35: Craig, Ryan Callinan, Dylan and Yadin Nicol in Indo.

22:36 to 24:26: Dusty and Julian in Chile, points. Backside finners.

24:27 to 26:58: Jordy in Europe. Is refused permission to surf at a beachbreak because of a couple of fisherman, because of “security.” Jordy responds: “What about their security when I start baptizing a few heads?”

26:59 to 28:27: NSW South Coast, reprised.

28:28 to 30:23: Julian, Ev and Kolohe Andino, trippy wavepool session, Tenerife.

30:24 to 33:12: Kolohe, Andrew Doheny, Dusty, mainland Mex.

33:13 to 34:35: Kolohe Andino, cut to Sweet 17 by Dirty Beaches.

34:36 to 37:36: Yadin and Julian in Costa Rica.

37:38 to 39:51: Dion and Craig, with a cameo by Chippa, north coast NSW.

39:52 to 42:46: Dusty, JJ and Chips, Sumbawa, Indo.

42:47: Credits roll to In Power We Trust the Love Advocated by Dead Can Dance.

45:22: Finish.

…this is Hilton Beach, one of only beaches in the Tel Aviv metro area that ain't banning surfers. Soon every single surfer, and every single SUP, in the city is going to be jammed into two lil beaches. The joint's chaos already. But, then, no one handles adversity like the brave Jews! Who else made a crummy, forgotten desert bloom green!

Shmear of the Day! Surfing Banned in Tel Aviv!

It ain't a gas when one of the funnest cities in the world gets heavy on surfers. But blame the SUPs!

Right about now is a fine time to taste the exquisite fruits of the most progressive, and secular (natch), city in the whole of the Middle East. Tel Aviv, oh it’ll steal your heart. The hospitality! The food! The sparkling can-do spirit!

In Tel Aviv, and unlike Jerusalem a couple of hours drive away, there are no heavy vibes, religion is kept at arm’s length, mostly, and along a promenade that runs along the ocean-front, you’ll find 12 clicks of sometimes very good beachbreaks, jetties and reef.

Yeah, so it’s flat for the most, but it’s about this time of year when the winter swells are lighting up this most eastern point in the Mediterranean. Click here for a trip I made with Josh Kerr, Craig Ando, Creed Mc and Dion Agius last winter.

(The movie, which I made with Toby Cregan, is interesting ’cause when I split Stab the movie was re-edited to remove all the references to Jewish history, a result, I believe, of the magazine being spooked by anti-Semitic sentiment. Even after this dumbed-down version, the anti-Jew comments were everywhere. A commentator called Bodhi wrote: “Isn’t this the video that belongs to that puff pro Israel piece published a few months back. the one they had to pull, because quite obviously stab had their lips placed so firmly around an Israeli cooks cock!”)

Lately, howevs, SUPS, which are a plague here like most soft-wave haunts, have caused so many accidents the local government has banned surfing from eight of the city’s 13 beaches.

The beaches where surfing is now banned include Topsea, where Doc Paskowitz and friends got the brave Jew into the sport in the first place and a jetty called Tel Baruch which is as rippable a wave as you’ll find anywhere. At the end of the clip that y’might’ve clicked on above, you’ll see Creed floater-saluting the setting sun – that’s Tel Baruch.

“Surfing is growing everywhere and the same here, surf schools every where, and so many SUPs,” says the surfer Artur Rashkovan, who owns a surf shop at Hilton Beach and who is one of the main players in the getting-Gazans-into-surfing group, Surfing for Peace. “When the SUPs got in the game, the mess started and I don’t need to tell you, many got injured, surfers and swimmers, so the lifeguards pushed to have an order which will ban surfers in eight spots and it started during the winter, when only surfers are in the water (dumb).”

Just recently, Artur’s pal Tamar was fined 750 New Israeli Shekels (what a handle for a little currency!) or around $US200 for surfing.

“Now, just imagine,” says Artur. “They want to push the thousands of surfers in the city into those already crowded spots, Hilton beach and the West Beach. Seems rational, right?”

If surfing in Israel matters you, how about you swing here to Artur’s Facebook page and join in the fight. 

Get a hot holiday date tonight!

...and still find time to surf!

There is only so much time in the day and what with Christmas dinners, opening presents, saying hello to people you do not know/care about, lighting candles, putting candles out, eating candy, watching Chevy Chase movies, thinking about shopping, egg nog, throwing away wrapping paper, being generally depressed, football, peppermint, family pictures, dancing like an asshole, regurgitating other surf website’s content (if you happen to be The Inertia), Bing Crosby, being too hot, being too cold, snow, standing in lines, agreeing with people just for the sake of not talking anymore, going broke (if you happen to be the World Surf League), crying, opening mail, there is even less.

How is a man or woman supposed to fit both surfing and online dating into the schedule?


Like this.


Merry Christmas from BeachGrit.

Aerial view of Teahupoo
The French-made cinema release Imagine is going to give you chills. Y'ever see a fresher vision of Tahiti's most famous reef?

Must see: An Extreme Sports Movie That’s Actually Good

French made cinema-release Addicted to Life is going to give you chills…

For one, I’m not normally one for cinema-release melanges of “action sports.” Surfing is real fun to do when you’re not chasing the wheel at work, a chance to connect with pals, a way to keep off those rings of fat away without hitting a treadmill, and maybe a life-or-death thrill or two here and there.

When I want to watch surf it’ll be the ultra-hard surf candy of Kai Neville’s cuts or the autobios created by Dane, John John or Jordy Smith.

Booming anthems cut to HD footage of snowboarders, skiers, biker riders and big-wave surfers, thrown onto a 60-minute reel is the nadir of what I think of  when I think of surfing. I don’t do pompous and I don’t trade in faux danger.

But this… this… I like.

Maybe it’s just how unselfconscious it is; maybe it’s ’cause the flying men in their wing suits are the most wonderfully crazy things I’ve ever seen.

The director Thierry Donard has been making his La Nuit de la Glisse (The Night of the Slide) documentaries since 1984 and the films have this very French, very romantic quality. How can we not love?

(Click here for more details…) 

Kelly Slater portraits
Do you really want to surf with the cutest and best surfer alive? It ain't all y'think it is… 

Candid: Fleeing Kelly Slater!

Why surfing with the cutest (and best) surfer of all time ain't no great thing… 

Wouldn’t it be great to surf with Kelly Slater? He’s the world’s best surfer and an inspiration to generations of professional and casual surfers alike. Of course you want to surf with the King.

Are you sure?  Some true stories might make you think otherwise.  Read on!

A few years back I landed in Barbados on one of my many trips there. When I arrived late in the evening in Bathsheba, home to the consistent and often powerful Soup Bowl, I was greeted at the local rum shop by a few local friends. The first thing out of their mouths?

“Kelly’s on the island.”

Now, this isn’t an unusual event. The King cut his teeth over the years on powerful north swells at Soup Bowl, pound for pound as heavy as Hawaiian North Shore juice. Check out his section in Campaign 2 or the myriad illegal downloads of that section on YouTube for proof.

Slater is well-liked on Barbados and frequently returns to the island in between contests and sponsored events. No big deal, but wouldn’t it be cool to have a session with him at Soup Bowl? Of course!

Or, of course not…

Three days into the trip, I was out at average November Soup Bowl, a combo of windswell and smaller, rising north swell. It was a typical weekday, mid-day crowd of five, with myself, a Huntington Beach lifeguard named Adam, and three locals, including Kevin Nicholls, a homegrown Bathsheba standout. We were trading waves in the shifting peaks, with plenty to go around.

About an hour into the session, we noticed a little commotion in the parking lot, but thought nothing of it. Soon, a familiar bald head paddled out and sat with us in the lineup.

Kelly is very personable. Not too talkative, but polite. Not overly aggressive, but often in the right spot. I would surf a wave as hard as I possibly could, then paddle out to watch him show me how I truly was not surfing the wave to its fullest. I was surfing with Kelly Slater!  I was stoked!  For about 20 minutes…

Soon enough word got out and average Soup Bowl with just six guys out turned into a mad house. I guess everybody wants to surf with the King. And damn near everybody on the island seemed to have the same idea at the same time. Suddenly the main peak was swarming with locals, tourists, kooks and chicks on longboards sitting in the channel, you name it. It was out of hand. Unstoked…

Adam and I paddled up the reef to High Rock, another peak altogether and watched the mayhem until Slater paddled in about 45 minutes later. Lesson learned: don’t surf with the King if you don’t want to share.

Unhappy Corollary #1:

Two days later, the Bajans (that’s what Barbadians call themselves, sounds kinda like BAY-jen, not Bah-hen, because they’re from Barbados not Baja California) had their annual national surf tournament at Soup Bowl, so it was closed to free surf. It was windy that day, so after a few fun days, it was time to take a break, drink a few Banks beers and rum punches and watch the event. Reggae music over the loudspeaker, good local food, and a great tropical vibe are typical to any Bajan surf event.

After a few hours, we were walking back to our place along Parlour beach, which is just up the road from Soup Bowl. Parlour is a big, shifty, tricky field of waves that takes some time to get to know. Usually it’s empty or uncrowded, but up top we could see what seemed to be at least 20 people out. Twenty surfers at windy, shitty Parlour?  What’s up with that?  Then we figured it out.

Up the road, there were three long-lens photographers shooting the surfers. I walked up to one and said, “Let me guess.  Kelly’s out, right?”

“Isn’t it obvious?” he replied sarcastically.

Parlour was crap. Total crap. The King probably just wanted a solo session to get wet. I know I’ve done the same and though it’s not a quality wave when it’s windy, warm tropical waves all to yourself aren’t so bad in the end. Unless of course you’re out and Kelly paddles out, then it’s a mob scene. So I’ve learned. So I’ve learned…

Unhappy Corollary #2:

Fast forward two years. I’m out at Surfrider Beach in Malibu on a fun south swell. Malibu is always crowded when it’s on, but I have this special lineup between Second and Third points that I like to sit on. When the waves shift a certain way, I get a bunch of long waves in a session. It’s never crowded in that “tweener” spot and is a great way to enjoy a “secret spot” between the mobs at the main peak.

There were just five of us out trading waves. Sounds familiar? A familiar face paddled out and it turned out to be Adam the Huntington Beach lifeguard. After a high-five, exchanging “waddups” and so on, I brought up that time we were surfing Soup Bowl when Kelly paddled out and everything went crazy. We had a laugh and compared that crowd to double whatever we were seeing at the main peaks here at the ‘bu.

Not five minutes later, as if on cue from the director of a grade-B surf horror film, a familiar bald head paddled out. Dammit, it’s Kelly and he’s coming straight to our little “secret spot.”

As I said, the King is a nice guy. He gives us a nod, asks if it’s fun, and otherwise just fits into our little pack. Not for long…

Faster than white on rice, flies on shit, you name it, it seems as if the packs at Second and Third point flowed to our spot as if a drain opened and they were caught in a rushing rapid headed straight for the King. Adam and I looked at each other as if we are caught in the same déjà vu moment at the same time (because, well, we were) and immediately bailed to the beach.

From the sand we witnessed world class surfing not at Second or Third point, but at what had become “Slater Point” because everybody wanted to surf with the King. It was a crazy display of crowd mentality that I will never forget.

What’s it like to be the greatest surfer in the world? You’ll have to ask Kelly Slater. He’s an excellent ambassador for the sport, a role model in many ways, and sure he has well-earned privileges: boat trips, secret spots, keys to cities, you name it. But, apart from those waves on the Dream Tour or a secluded surf magazine trip, it has to be hard to find privacy at any regular spot.

Superstardom has its advantages, but clearly it has its disadvantages.

And that privacy thing?

I’m not just talking about him. I’m talking about me. I mean, look, he’s able to get any wave he wants. People either give him waves, or he just goes deeper, dodging kooks, wannabes, and groupies as he flies down the line. But I’m a regular guy and I get stuck having to move down the beach, go in, or just wait until he’s done so that people can go back to using common sense and return to what they were doing before the King paddled out.

Of course you want to surf with the King. Wait, are you sure?  Be careful what you wish for…