Welcome to Blake Vincent Kueny's world. It is magnificent!
How gorgeous is the new trailer for surf film View from a Blue Moon? It, of course of course, stars John John Florence and a troupe of next level surfing talent but wow! The art and direction star at first blush. That cinematography, that music, that…..feeling. It is very otherworldly and all thanks to auteur Blake Vincent Kueny.
I first met Blake at the offices of Surfing magazine. He was bringing in his freshly-finished surf film DONE and I yawned. Another surf film by a boy with three names. But then he walked through the door and he was so…so…different. There was something in the way he carried himself, some air of greatness swirling. He was quiet, kind. And then he set up a small projector. And then his surf film blew my mind. I loved every image. I loved the way he tied them together. I loved how it was arty but never lost focus, never screamed “LOOK AT MY ARTY!” Afterward we chatted and I saw even more greatness in his eyes. And I knew, then and there, as long as John John kept his cart hitched to Blake Vincent Kueny’s bull, he’d be going grand places.
And I was right. Watch the trailer and watch again. Feel your heart pound. And while your watching, and while your heart is pounding, let’s call Blake!
I’m sorry, who is this?
It is your best friend/brother-in-law Chas Smith! (we are not brothers-in-law but I pretend!)
When you put it that way I feel rude.
So did it actually get released at the high point of the blue moon, or whatever it’s called?
Yeah, John John released it at 3:42 am.
Is it a pain in the buns to work with all that fancy new equipment or do you enjoy?
It is at first but the more we used it the easier it got. And then it all ran really smoothly.
Does the tech angle inspire or do you prefer just setting up the shots and making it look gorgeous?
I like it once you learn the tech. I don’t like learning something new, related to the cameras etc. every single day but once I learn I like. And once you learn it’s a pretty simple rig.
So principle shooting is all done?
Yeah all. Releases this winter.
What are your inspirations?
Ooooh. You know, I have to say for this film it was just the locations. So much of the film is location-based and I really tried to capture the feeling you get when you are some place new. It is cool for it to feel different…Sometimes films with a large budget feel like films with a large budget. It changes it somehow and it comes out a certain way….but I don’t think that happens here.
It certainly don’t. All I see is sexy.
Wave pool’s first ride: “Yeah, it’s a game changer, but…”
It ain't perfect, but it's gonna be, says Jarrad Howse of first commercial Wavegarden. Includes bonus fight!
I’ve ridden a few tanks. One in Malaysia, with a ski, and it was crummy, another in the Canary Islands without the bike and it was fabulous beyond measure. It was so good I could hardly breathe, a real-life three-foot wave with heft. And we surfed it at midnight, under a full moon. And then later we blew our heads off with whatever we could find and wandered the streets of Tenerife, laughing at the terrific numbers of people in wheelchairs (come on, you would too! It’s crazy!) and the very ugly men in soccer uniforms from England.
(Watch below for an interpretation of that event, although I’ve been skilfully edited out.)
Anyway, the former CT surfer Jarrad Howe, 36 years old, and now the part-time coach of Mick Fanning, went to Wavegarden’s first commercial pool in Snowdonia, Wales, to scope it for a Red Bull event there in September. He flew to Machester, grabbed a car, and drove an hour-and-a-half through them rolling green hills and stayed in the wee town of Conwy, home to King Arthur’s fabled castle!
The Wavegarden is at the gateway to the Snowdonia national park and next-door to a hydro-electricity site. Handy!
Although he only rode one wave, and on borrowed equipment cause his own stuff got lost in transito, he spent a day watching Brits Alan Stokes and Jayce Robinson ride it.
I wanted to know, how does Jarrad, who’s been around the block plenty of times, actually rate it? He’s got a small conflict of interest, I suppose, as Sports Director of the Red Bull event, but he does tend to play straight.
BeachGrit: How long ago was this clip slung together?
Howse: I went straight to the pool after J-Bay. I was planning to stay an extra day-and-a -half, but when the G-Dubs started trying to end peoples lives, I got out of there.
BeachGrit: So what was your impression of the tank?
Howse: I thought it was awesome. I surfed the original in the Basque country and you couldn’t help but be completely excited and in awe of a mechanical wave, at least when you first see one. That in mind, the one in the Basque country gets boring. I’m too big for it. If I was a grommet, 14 and under, I’d want to surf that wave all day. It was pretty exciting to go to one that was double size. They were actually reluctant to release the footage because the wave was only at sixty-percent.
BeachGrit: It’s cute as hell, I’m sold etc, but it sure needs an oncoming section or… something… to break up the 10 same turns to the shore.
Howse: They’re doing it, they’re building a closeout air section. They were only running the middle third of the wave. Right now, it’s built for top-to-bottom surfing, hacks, and then the blow-tail air reverse Dane, Jordy and Julian do. The end section will add an extra twist.
BeachGrit: Is it a game changer?
Howse: I think it is. The wave, literally, runs at the same speed from start to finish. There’s a repetitiveness to that, but you could master one certain trick. And it would be awesome for board testing as well. Yeah, I think this is just the beginning.
BeachGrit: Tell me about Filipe Toledo’s cuz showing up…
Howse: There was a guy sleeping in his van who told the people from Snowdonia that he was Filipe Toledo’s cousin. He’d drawn Rip Curl stickers on this board, but got his way in. I saw him catch a couple of waves and it looked like he was surfing switch-stance. One of the instructors questioned whether he was really sponsored, if he was really Filipe’s cousin, and the guy started swinging at the instructor who was only half-way out of his wetty. Localism already!
BeachGrit: Is it going to work?
Howse: It’s funny, when the boys used to go to that Scotland event, you could randomly ask anyone, the Hawaiians, the Americans, the Aussies, what their favourite event was, and even though it wasn’t the best waves, and it was by far the coldest, the historic feel of the area just had an… impact. It’ll attract your travelling surfer in France, Portugal. Snowdonia will become a stopover, to see it, and the novelty of riding it for a couple of days. There’s a lot of ticks for Snowdonia, especially if the wave is 40 per cent better than I saw it.
Today! The dull and maybe meaningless mid-tier! Eleven through 17!
11. Jeremy Flores J-Bay Result: Injured WSL rating: 12 (-2) Key Question: Can this dormant animal be roused?
“No major brain damage!” Jeremy told me proudly in June when he face-planted at a reef in Sumbawa, Indonesia. “A fucken air,” he’d said. “All frothing to learn all these new tricks and ended up landing head-first onto dry reef.”
Can you imagine?
Bleeding rapidly, blinded with his own blood, groaning, overcome with pain and terror? Being rescued by Wiggolly Dantas and Jake Paterson and helicoptered to hospital? And in this, a sort of comeback season, after so many scandals, and for all his inability to understand a crowd, when he again looked able to navigate a heat?
La vie est cruel parfois (yes, French! Mais bien-sur!). The way it strikes under your defences, the way it rips the skin from your undersides. The way t gives you a couple of kisses then clean forgets about you.
The general structure of Jeremy Flores’ surfing remains. I believe he has the stomach for Teahupoo, and for Teahupoo when the other children on tour are gasping and squealing, and enough glimmer in his little-wave game for the beachbreak events. Occasional gunshots amid the flutter of little wings.
12. Nat Young J-Bay Result: 9 WSL rating: 7 (steady) Key Question: Is he a dumpy little woman or a supermodel?
Often, I’ll look at Nat Young and think, how can someone that obvious in his technique, with those clumsy telegraphed turns, with a smell so bad it wafts through the webcast, make it among giants like John John and Kelly and Filipe and Medina? So formal, so boring.
But then he’ll unload his cargo like ten thousand devils and what are we to think then?
Is he a dumpy little woman with no redeeming features, as I initially thought, or a supermodel or… perhaps likely… a melange of both?
When Nat throws on his lipstick and rouge he makes me die to be spooned with his sugar. Otherwise, I just find it queer as anything and numbing.
13. Italo Ferreira J-Bay Result: 13 WSL rating: 9 (-1) Key Question: Is he really Brazilian?
I tend not to set my alarm to watch Italo’s heats in different time zones. But those who know say the kindest things about Italo’s surfing, at least in a partial degree, and this is backed up by his rating in the top 10.
He lacks the dazzling skin of Wiggolly and Filipe and their apparent weightlessness and, therefore, I conclude he is a Brazilian on the Portuguese side of the ledger not the fabulous African side.
Not that it reduces my physical admiration one iota, the cow-like tenderness of his eyes, the captivating shyness.
14. Matt Wilkinson J-Bay Result: 13 WSL rating: 16 (-2) Key Question: Why the yellow teeth?
If I was a girl I don’t think I’d kiss Matt Wilkinson. His teeth, that briny snout, a pork-like red of the skin. The hair is striking granted, but there’s not much else to give an uprush to the brain.
The feeling I have for Matt Wilkinson is as an admirer of his ballet. I’m fascinated by it, so fascinated, I’ve grown very fond of watching him surf.
He certainly did go down swinging his little fists at J-Bay, 16-ish points to Gabriel’s 19-and-a-bit. Afterwards, he sobbed miserably, shoulders hunched up, but his friendless was not diminished and nor was the imagination and intuitive nature of his surfing.
Matt was beaten by the 2014 world champ, after all, and in his best heat all year.
15. Josh Kerr J-Bay Result: 13 WSL rating: 9 (-1) Key Question: Can he tidy up the style a little, just to make his hammers a little more cut and dried?
I’ve seen Josh Kerr nail the biggest airs I’ve ever seen, he has the gift of flight after all, and, then, look lost while out on the face. Just this morning on the WSL website, I thought the homepage featured a photo of Josh at the US Open. But a closer inspection revealed Billabong stickers – it was Courtney Conlogue!
This is common thing. It is the hardest thing in the world to be a little of everything, and not just one or the other, although this is where John John Florence and Dane Reynolds excel.
This year Josh’s air game looks subjugated to turns and it maddens me. I want the noise of the cannon, the clash of steel! I want my brain inflamed!
Josh Kerr is fearless and skilled but he cannot allow himself to be weakened by the colonialism of what he perceives as “criteria”. I can’t exaggerate the effect this has on his career.
Yeah, be conscious of the danger, it is a tricky and occasionally tiresome game, but don’t lose what you represent.
Just, why? Eight heat wins and the season is halfway done. Examine the 2012 world champion’s heat average and it’s a respectable 13.72, which means he’s average a couple of sevens every time he paddles out, better than surfers rated far above.
But such are the varying fortunes of surfing. The standard of play is high. It is cosy and it’s congenial, a friendly mix of age groups and nationalities. His survival on tour will depend on his pooling his efforts and resources. Teahupoo, result, Trestles, maybe not, France, possibly, Supertubes, possibly, Pipe, yes.
It’s interesting to compare Joel’s career and life to Mick’s. One has three world title, possibly four come December, the other has kids and a life that exists beyond professional surfing.
If he wants to milk the WSL teat for a few more years, Joel needs less crooning and has to become more barbaric, terrifying.
Joel needs to exude electricity instead of, what is now, just a faint buzz.
17. Jordy Smith J-Bay Result: Last WSL rating: 22 (-4) Key Question: How can someone be so singularly repellant and yet at the same time singularly magnetic?
What a number of angles there are to the question of Jordy Smith! However, what interests me is passage of time, how quickly it sweeps by us all. One minute we’re staring at headlights in the distance and in the blink of an eye we’re watching the taillights fade to black.
Jordy is in his 27th year and any idea that he’s going to win a world title, or create a legacy beyond the current epoch, you would think is fast fading. For a surfer who has the liberal gift of body awareness (think: he’s the only surfer on tour who can jam two significant turns within half-a-metre of lip) his lower third rating on tour would seem a grand failure, despite the injury that kept him out of Fiji.
But life isn’t so cut and dried as all this. The only way to express the truth is to, calmly, assess an athlete’s assets and make some kind of summation.
Well, here, he lives an exciting and modern life (with a bikini model who seems to adore his reduced chin and heavy eyebrows) in California and lives off a skilfully negotiated contracted worth many millions.
I have poked gentle fun at the World Surf League since its 2015 birth. I had poked gentle fun at the ASP before that and Rip Curl’s Neil Ridgway got real mad at me but it was so gentle! And so fun! And Neil, do you still have that red beret? Let’s do a sort of naughty reenactment someday!
But back to the now, or more precisely, back to the 4 months ago. WSL CEO Paul Speaker issued a press statement that said, “It is the most exciting time in the history of the sport right now.” I laughed and laughed and laughed and wrote (here) that he took (maybe) ecstasy.
In the weeks since Mick was tousled by a great white, though, I have reflected on CEO Speaker’s words and, I’ll be damned if he wasn’t right! The thrill of that shark biz is, of course, gone but left in its wake is a general appreciation of what the WSL has built. Fun webcasts. An announcing team that has become as familiar as a soft blanket. National rivalries threatening to burn for years. Sponsors with heft. A spot on an American network. And very fine surfing.
So to you, CEO Speaker, I say, “I’m sorry.” And also, “If you did have any ecstasy it’d be really fun to take and sit in the channel at Teahupo’o together with a waterproof little sound system playing anything by College.” And also, “Long live the WSL!”
And welcome to the first exclusive look at Snowdonia going full speed.
Jarrad Howse is a very handsome man. His eyes when he smiles….I don’t care who you are….welcome to Melt City! He is the sort that grows better with age. Like, he wears wrinkles with such careless disregard. Like, George Clooney or Brad Pitt. Being neither tall nor short is a distinct advantage in that his handsomeness stands front and center. Tousled hair. White teeth. Subtle Australian accent worn like warm, not hot, cashmere.
Here, Jarrad and friends can be seen surfing in a sneak preview of the soon to be open commercial wave park Surf Snowdonia. You’ve seen other clips on those websites for middle-aged men with social disorders (hello The Inertia!) and dark, probably illegal, sexual kinks (is that you Surfline?) but you’ve never seen Jarrad Howse.
And how much do you want to go surf Snowdonia now, hater? 2 meter (6 ft) for 150 meters (I failed math) of pure joy? The ocean has just been made redundant. Viva the handsome man!