Everyone who takes a trip over to Portugal's liquid mountain at Nazare is looking for one thing; the biggest wave they can ride, some with the hopes of smashing a world record and others just for the thrill of an avalanche chasing you down.
Now, a new film by director Luke Huxham, born in New Zealand now based in Japan, has just dropped going behind the scenes of some of your favourite big wave protagonists who wrangle Nazare when it's at size.
Live cam: Nazare
Called Going Deeper, this is a stunning love letter to Nazare and the souls who are connected to it. You can hit play above and take in the 15 minute vid and read on below for an interview with Luke about the project. Where we get to the bottom of...
...a film studio from Japan interested in Nazare – how did that come about? And how did you end up in Japan?
I ended up in Japan because I'm bit of a car freak, so I moved here to spend as much time as possible driving cars. After a while I ran out of money and decided I wanted to start a new career in filming. I bought a camera, filmed everything I could for 4 years while working part-time, and then took the leap and turned it into my full-time job. Now I mainly focus on directing and trying to find ways to make films I'm passionate about, easier said than done.
Nothing does Nazare justice like standing there and seeing mountains of ocean heading towards you. It doesn't even look like a wave, it's just a mountain of ocean falling down on earth
Our studio here is relatively small. We prefer to keep our footprint small while focusing all our energy on the creative and producing cinematic quality films.
The Nazare project was born through our business partner Hoshino Atsushi. He loves the ocean and really had a great time during his visits to Nazare. One day he asked me if we would be interested in making a film that centered around Nazare and our friend Abraham Hochstrasser, a professional jet-ski free rider. I loved the concept but wanted to shift the focus more on the ocean, the power of Nazare and all the people that choose to ride there.
Tell us about the film, when was it shot?
The film was shot three-years-ago, actually, but due to personal issues the project had to stop very abruptly after filming, before kicking off again this year. We shot the film across four RED 8K Cameras and Phantom Flex 4K, giving us about 15 or so days of footage from five plus different cameras, as you can imagine, that's an eye-bleeding amount of footage to edit. I was having some serious personal issues during this project, which really put a hold on the film's progression.
I really am not a surfer, I don't want to pretend to know how to make a surf film, so very early on, my goal was to chase the story behind the waves. I gathered a team of guys I knew from Japan, Australia, and Austria, and we headed over there, hearing that one of the most massive swells ever was forecast to hit as we arrived.
We had one guy on the ground helping us with logistics, but besides that, we didn't know a single surfer. We knew none of the people in our film until we met them face-to-face. The first two weeks of filming resulted in no big swell so after filming with everyone, we flew back to our home countries. After landing, though, Chris Bryan, our water DP from Australia, called us and said, "massive swell coming we need to fly back". That next week, we gathered the group up again and flew back to Nazare.
It's quite amusing, but Justine Dupont was the first person I spotted in Nazare. We walked down to the docks where they all set off on their jet skies, and I saw a lady with a pink surfboard. I had no idea who she was, but we walked up to her and kindly asked if she was surfing here.
At the time, she was really training for the big swell. She replied, yes, I'm surfing here! We asked her if we could put her in our film. Obviously, she was a little shocked and maybe worried because it was such a random request, but Justine and her partner Fred David agreed. It was such a great moment to remember and to now see the success that Justine has had at Nazare. I think it's safe to say she is one of the best out there.
Why make a movie about Nazare?
Before flying over, I researched films about Nazare, and all I could find were action segments or news cut style interviews with big wave footage overlaid. I didn't understand why one of the most massive waves on the earth didn't have any strong cinematic films for people to watch. I also wanted to discover the rider's story, how their relationship with the ocean began, and the mental strength needed to put yourself on a wave of this size.
Simultaneously, though, I feel that surf films might have a set style or way to present the riders. I was worried that it might not be enjoyed by people who have become used to that film style. I wanted to really just focus on Nazare as a whole; the riders within it were of course, sharing their stories, which was important. But we could never lose the overarching narrative of Nazare.
Who’s in it and have they seen the finished movie yet – if so, what did they think?
Abraham Ho is our crazy jet ski rider in the film, such an amazing and humble guy. Then the surfers we managed to feature were Alex Botelho, Justine Dupont, Hugo Vau, Fred David.
I really have to thank everyone that was featured in the film, it was so amazing to meet them all and learn about their stories. Making a film with a crew of 10, flying them around the world and all of this on people personal funds really add up, but after seeing the finished film it was all worth it. I really wish we could of kept flying back to continue getting more footage of everyone but it was impossible, there is always a hard limit.
Did everyone like the film, there was some feedback about how things were editing that we tried to correct but overall, it seemed to be well received. I wish we could of got more footage of all the rider, but with budget limitations and schedules not aligning when we flew back, it was bit of an impossible task. Passion projects always mean sacrifices somewhere, and I hope people can understand that when viewing projects like this.
What are some of your favourite moments in the film?
It's very hard to pick one or two specific scenes. I really have to say overall, my favourite part is the story of the characters we have and how it meshes together to create one strong narrative. For me the film feels like something anyone can watch, understand and enjoy. So overall, that's my favourite aspect.
Everyone out there is trying to surf the biggest wave ever – was that a common theme you found when interviewing people?
It's Nazare, so to some extent, everyone is there to surf the biggest waves, but I feel like they were all doing it for their own reasons that you get a sense for in our film.
It felt like the catching the biggest wave was always the icing on the cake. Getting on a huge wave, having an amazing ride, and making it out safely felt like that was the important part. If the wave they were on happened to be the biggest, even better.
What’s your impression of Nazare?
Nothing does Nazare justice like standing there and seeing mountains of ocean heading towards you. It doesn't even look like a wave, it's just a mountain of ocean falling down on earth.
Filming waves this big and making them look true to size was so hard, I don't even think we managed to do that honestly. You just have to see it in person. We tried to rent a helicopter to do low flying over the waves, but due to the Olympic film crews being out there, they had reserved all the air space for drones, so we were not allowed to fly.
What do you hope people take away from this movie?
For me as a creator, I can find a million things I would have done differently now after watching the film, it's hard to make something I will be happy with.
For viewers, I really hope that people outside the sport can enjoy this film and for the ones involved in surfing that they can appreciate our team's efforts to try and tell a story of an extraordinary place on earth.