“If the flies don’t get you, the sharks will,” warns surf supremo Kelly Slater in Tim Bonython’s latest movie.
Slater was referring to his visit to a remote secret surf spot in South Australia last year, where the intrepid waterman and friends actually did encounter a giant Great White, some amazing waves…and plenty of flies!
It’s all part of the thrills and spills that surf movie fans have come to expect from Bonython’s action-packed features, shot at some of the most exotic locations and in the best – and scariest – waves on the planet.
The award-winning Australian filmmaker is back on the road this month with the 11th Annual Australian Surf Movie Festival and the show will rumble into Perth 13th February.
This year’s line-up is centred on two of Bonython’s latest films, Wild Australia – Journey and Encoded.
If the flicks are anything like his Immersion the Movie, then salt-caked theatre goers with be feeling the spray from the get-go. Immersion won two awards at the New York Surf Film Festival in November for Best Feature Film and Best Cinematography.
“Each year I am searching for the greatest moments the ocean can offer,” says Bonython.
“When it comes to surfers verses nature and the pure exhilaration of what the ocean can deliver, the Southern Hemisphere has the greatest playground of options on the planet.
“The northern hemisphere certainly has some great big wave spots, but if you are after hollow gnarly monsters, then the southern hemisphere, and especially Australia, is the best.”
The new movies include footage from several spots on South Australia’s wild and shark-infested waters, as well as epic big wave action at Shipstern Bluff in Tasmania.
Bonython also managed to capture some extraordinary vision of surfers risking their hides at Tahiti’s frightening Teahupo’o break.
“Two of our experiences were with Kelly Slater who had a couple of windows of opportunity to join us. The first one was down to Shipsterns in Tasmania, easily the best day there in years. Kelly mixed it up in the surf with Laurie Towner, Wade Goodall and the locals in perfect 15-foot sunny bomb waves.
“I invited Kelly to the desert coast with Californian Alex Gray & young up and comer Russ Bierke from southern NSW. They survived the sharks and flies and found some amazing waves in and around the dust.”
Slater, arguably the greatest surfer who has ever waxed-up a board, created a minor sensation in SA when people found out he was surfing in the state’s west.
“The media found out and everyone wanted to know about Kelly,” said Bonython. “It actually got pretty embarrassing trying to fend off the fans and frantic media, but he was very good about it and had a great time with us hunting new waves and hanging out.
“Two months later I headed back to that region, which I have been politely naming on social media as ‘Spot X’, with surfers Mark Mathews, Richie Vass & Ryan Hipwood.
“The guys are confronted by flies, big sharks & perfect slabs in a location known only to locals, who like to keep the spot to themselves. So people will be seeing some epic waves that have not been documented before,” he says.
The other feature film of this years’ festival is called Encoded.
“It is part-three of the Blackwater series about Teahupo’o. The Teahupo’o wave breaks on the south western side of Tahiti and is no doubt the worlds most dangerous wave. But when it’s on, the best surfers want a piece of it.
“The last big swell at Teahupo’o in 2011 was called Code Red (as the digital swell map depicted a lot of red, meaning huge seas). This year they started to name the first monster swell heading to Teahupo’o Code Purple as there was a lot of purple in the map (which also means huge seas, maybe not as big as Code Red).
“With each swell event having been labeled a code colour, we decided to call the film Encoded. Teahupo’o creates monster waves that become encoded in our minds as something that is beyond normal. It’s about huge hollow waves breaking over shallow coral that can kill you in moment.
“It’s a documentary about how Teahupo’o has evolved since the place became famous when big wave waterman Laird Hamilton rode it in a huge swell several years back. This year two amazing swells arrived back to back, were where the media became the victims as well as the surfers, so there’s some great scenes in the film,” he says.
Now 53, Bonython lives on Sydney’s northern beaches with his wife and kids. He’s as adventurous as ever in his pursuit of spectacular surfing footage. Originally from Adelaide, he hasn’t slowed down since he first started shooting the surf in 1981.
“I was thinking of being based in Byron Bay, but felt I had to be close to a major airport,” he said. “If there is a big well about to hit a coast somewhere in the world, I need to be on a plane quick smart, so Sydney is still the ideal place for this.
“These days big name surfers from around the world will see the swell map, and jump on a plane to be there to ride it hours later. They converge from Australia, California, Europe, Brazil, Hawaii – and I try to be there to capture the best action.
“I love what I do, so that’s why I stick with it. Like anything, I think you get better at it the more you do it. “I believe the recent movies have some of the best content we’ve produced, and people are being kept abreast of what’s going on with big wave surfing.
“There’s all kinds of surf movies and vision, but I still think big, dangerous waves are the best and most exciting to film. It’s the core essence of surfing and always will be,” he says.
What does he think about the GoPro craze that’s sweeping the world where amateurs are filming everything from a walk to the corner store to extreme sports on the mini cameras.
“I think it’s great that people are trying to convey how they particular pursuit or sport feels and what it’s like to take part,” he says.
“However that kind of footage is only a part of the whole package. If you are making films you still need to tell a good story and this includes shots from all angles with a variety of equipment.
“But I think its good that people are experimenting and telling their stories using GoPro equipment.”
Hardcore surfers and landlubbers alike will not be disappointed with the 11th Australian Surf Movie Festival, be the vision on GoPro or that latest high tech gear wielded by the ever-creative and adventurous Tim Bonython.
The Amaysim Australian Surf Movie Festival, presented by GoPro, will have showing at The Newport, Fremantle, Thursday13 February at 8pm and Fremantle Hoyts Saturday 15th February at 6pm.
Bookings can be made on-line at www.asmf.net.au
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Watch the Trailer…