Ben Weiland is a true cold water searcher. He has a fascination with the planet’s frigid frontiers and his travels have taken him from Russia’s Kamchatka Peninsula to the Alaskan Aleutians. In his latest film, The Cradle of Storms, Ben ventures in search of unridden gems in the very northern reaches of Pacific.
The Cradle of Storms will have its UK Premiere at The Approaching Lines Festival in Cornwall on 26th April at the Lighthouse Cinema in Newquay. Tickets are available HERE…
Chris Burkard’s shots from the trip will be in the next issue of Carve.
Am I right in saying you were born in Germany and got into surfing when you moved to San Diego? Do you ever wonder what you’d be doing if you hadn’t made that move? Do you think you would have been drawn into the German surf scene?
Yeah, I moved to California when I was 13. I’m not sure if I would have ended up as a surfer in Germany, but I think I would’ve been interested in outdoor sports and being creative. Although it’s hard to say if those two things would have connected like they have for me with surfing…
Tell me about your attraction to cold water surfing? How did it start?
Well, I first got interested when I started to look for waves in Alaska on Google Earth, just out of curiousity. Surfing in Alaska seemed pretty strange to me at the time. At the same time the question struck me, what if there are perfect waves in really cold places that are undiscovered? I spent some time living on NZ’s South Island and really enjoyed hiking around and looking for cold, empty waves.
What is the idea behind Arctic Surf?
It’s the idea of exploring the unknown, searching remote, unusual, cold coastlines in search of perfect, empty waves. More from the perspective of science and adventure rather than competition and athleticism.
How did you transition from design into filmmaking and working with some pretty interesting people like Chris Burkard?
Chris emailed me out of the blue a few years ago after coming across the Arctic Surf site and we started talking about planning trips together. We both had the same interests and he wanted to visit some of the places I had been researching and writing about on my blog. At the time I had been designing and illustrating. The first trip I planned was to New Zealand’s South Island, and I ended up writing and illustrating the feature for SURFER. That’s also when I started filming. I think a lot of the creative disciplines cross over and inform each other.
How did the film Russia come about and how was it pulling together the logistics on that movie?
That was really exciting! But also complicated – organizing visas, transportation, gear and such. Planning happened over the span of a year. I don’t think I ever imagined I would visit Kamchatka, especially to search for waves. The place seemed so mysterious. Chris and I both had a specific vision for the trip, and it turned out better than we expected. The highlight for me was landing on a remote beach by helicopter to check a wave I’d been looking at on Google Earth for three years. I feel incredibly fortunate to have this as my job.
Cradle of Storms was such a great project. How did that come about and what was your most memorable moment filming it?
The Aleutian Islands were the first place I researched when I started Arctic Surf. I knew there had to be good waves there, but flights are incredibly expensive and the weather is extreme. It all came together last November though. I got a call from a guy I’d been talking to who runs a hunting lodge on one of the islands, and connected us with an empty flight from Anchorage. Most memorable moment has got to be surfing a perfect left reef with a giant snow-capped volcano in the distance.
Do you have another cold water destination in your sights?
Yea, I have a few places I’d like to go soon in northern Europe, Alaska, even Antarctica. It comes down to planning, putting all the pieces together, and hoping that the timing is right. You can try to plan the perfect trip, but in the end the weather and waves are always unpredictable.