Oli Adams has been evolving as a surfer and a filmmaker. His latest visual feast, which has the honour of being a Vimeo Staff Pick, Trip the Light documents a British and Irish winter. We asked him what it takes to deliver a class film.
I wanted to make a high performance clip that showed the UK and Ireland’s waves and lifestyle in different way. There have been a lot crazy slabby/big wave clips and some moody destination pieces but this was all about surfing fun waves although I did want some bigger conditions in there but last winter there were really no high quality big swells, instead there were a few small windows that only local surfers would have scored while having their eyes on the lineups.
STEPPING UP PRODUCTION
I’m always thinking of ways to move forward with my career. Being from the UK means that you are very low down on people’s radars internationally unless you can make or put out content that is up there internationally in terms of surfing but also largely the level of production. I realised this and looked for a way to get my productions up to that level.
One was to essentially sell project ideas to production companies who then get the project funded through sponsorship. This was long winded option that can work but takes time to get off the ground. The other was to invest in high level equipment myself and make my own films which will in turn help me run my social media better too. Around the time an opportunity came about to buy a second hand RED Epic camera(5K 300 frames a second).
They are super expensive so after a lot of thinking I decided to set it up as hire business and the hire income would eventually pay off the camera while in the mean time I could use it to film my surf projects when it wasn’t on a job. It’s the only camera like this available to hire in Cornwall so it has done loads of mainstream productions for film and TV and has been round the world without me. I’ve also had to invest in computers and hard drives capable of dealing with extremely big files as each quick surf clip is around 3GB. In terms of editing it’s been a massive learning curve and I couldn’t have got through it without the help of pro guys like Timmy Boydell, Mikey Corker and Ollie Fawcett and also Google tutorials. I feel like I’ve been to film school. Also my wife is always a big help as a sounding board plus she always nails the title names.
COMING BACK FROM SURGERY
Since being ill I feel like I’ve been on a constant upward spiral in my surfing from learning to walk and get around again, to getting up on a surfboard for the first time and then as you start loosening up and adding strength you start being able to finally put your mental approach to surfing together with a physical platform of support that wasn’t there pre-op when I was extremely malnourished for most of my career.
I started production on Trip the Light less than a year after my surgery and I can see my surfing improving though the course of filming. It’s great to film often because you can really analyse what you are currently doing but you also have a great reference as to where you were at in that moment. I can really see this in each video I’ve released since I’ve been surfing again. I went to Canada three months post-op, Mentawais five months post-op and then now this one which started filming 11 months afterwards.
HOW THE PROJECT WORKED
Basically I started thinking I could work with one filmer on this but after a few months realised that charts in the UK and Ireland are so unpredictable and last minute that even asking every filmer in the UK the night before the trip might end in the waves not being documented. I ended up using six filmers who all nailed their parts apart from one who forgot his tripod after we got a wild ferry in January out to a remote Irish island haha!
Luckily a bird twitcher randomly lent him one. The stress of calling the trips on was intense as filmers day rate is £150 minimum, if you’re lucky, so with travel I was dropping heavy coin on one swell or even a session. I would be checking charts, wind, tides right until an hour before lift off and by that point I usually hadn’t managed to get a filmer.
On one trip this one filmer who lived up country was 50/50 and to make it in time for a ferry I had to set off with the equipment in the car for an hour just in case he could make it and then as I got near his turning he pulled out so I went anyway and scored better waves than were in the film and had no footage to show. So tricky!
Probably 5000 miles at a guess were covered during filming. During the winter probably more because I didn’t film all my trips. When you’re on the way to epic surf I don’t care how long it takes. The trick is to travel with mates and then you can catch up on the way. That’s my version of going to the pub.
The idea to put other surfers in just came in a really natural way and wasn’t pre-organised. The guys in there are all shortboard surfers that I really admire in different ways and they just happened to be out there for the session. My mate Felix came with me on the trip to Beefies though as I had been promising to take him for years. He wasn’t expecting to be in a film but ended up probably getting the best clip of the trip.
Is a jumble of ideas, drive and froth but most of all a continued life long love of surfing. I have a million ideas ranging from more high performance stuff to adventure stuff, business stuff. A few new exciting projects are up and running already (luckily I’m not producing them just surfing) and there are many more burning away in my head but the thing I learned most from this project is family is more important than anything!
You have to find a balance and they have to come first. Being a pro surfer it’s easy to think ‘I’ve got to do this right now because my career is short’ and if you are driven it’s easy to over commit so moving forward I’m going to take it one step at time and work within realistic deadlines.
It’s been horrible saying to my kids all summer, ‘Sorry, Daddy is busy with his film.’ Balance is the key to life and surfing good waves will follow.