When Dane Reynolds uploads another clip to his online portal Marine Layer Productions, the need for any of us to ever buy another surf vid goes up in smoke. Almost. Kai Neville uses his connections to the best surfers in the world, as well as a instinctual steeze, to create films that define what high-performance surfing is right now. From the outside, and since his release of Lost Atlas last September he’s appeared very quiet. The reality has been a very different story. Alongside a team that pressed eject from Surfing magazine (editor Travis Ferre, writer Stuart Cornuelle as well as their art director ol Scotty Boy), Kai is releasing a hard-cover book called What Youth every three months, the first of which lands in June. He also has a new film, Dear Suburbia, dropping at the end of August. When Stab called Kai, he was just off the beach after another heavy day of shooting…
Stab: Where have you been shooting for Dear Suburbia?
Kai Neville: Japan twice with Dane, John John, Brother, Conner. We went to Barbados with John John, Chippa, Coleborn and Dusty. We went to surf Soup Bowls and from the footage I’ve seen it looks like it has a massive ramp – which it does – but the trade winds are from the back. It wasn’t ideal so we actually had to scout around some different waves into that same wind. I thought we were actually getting skunked because it was like groundhog day every day, the wind was like 40 knots but it was kinda cool, ’cause it sent us to different spots that don’t usually get filmed. I’ve been shooting in West Oz a lot. We shot in South Oz, some desert vibes. I’m gonna hop, skip around New Zealand – break up the boardshorts vibe – get the boys in wetties and booties and mix it up. Ah, hit the east coast (of Australia) with Brother and got some clips outta the rain.
And, you’ve got Indo, yeah? I hear you have a wild beachie in your sights… We’ve got a boat trip right up north in Sumatra and we’ll try to surf some different waves. Get away from Macaronis and all those zones. It will still be very puntable.
I know you always have trouble keeping your numbers down. Who have you culled? I’m trying to keep it a tight crew and work with those guys and showcase their surfing. And get them on as many trips as I can.
Diplomacy aside, who got weeded out? We haven’t finished filming yet but it’s kinda hard to say, I guess you’ll just have to see who’s not in there when the movie comes out.
New faces? Little Jacky Robbo? We’re cruising with him now. I’m not sure he’s gonna be in the film. It’s just sick to be filming and hang out ’cause he shreds and he’s tiny and he’s really good. He’s been doing pretty big airs and we’ve only had a couple sessions but I’m pretty impressed.
You got Stab‘s ol designer Jon Zawada onto the artwork? That was certainly a highlight of Lost Atlas. Jonathan Zawada doesn’t do commercial work any more.
Talk us through the name and the artwork here? All artwork is on camera, kinda installation vibe, lots of symbolism. I like the video coming together organically. Setting the tone of spontaneity rather than routine, so completely different to setting up trips ahead of time. We were basically in Indo and weren’t really getting that much and jumped on a plane from Indo to Japan to chase this typhoon swell. These guys have these routine suburban home lives but on the road it’s spontaneous and pretty awesome.
Is the music similar? That’s what I’m exploring now and it comes into its own with the film. Some instrumental, been shooting trips on red which has a different tone to it, it slows it down a little bit. So I’m playing round with a bunch of different styles. I don’t want it very poppy and kinda your latest hits, pretty cool instrumental stuff so hopefully it’s got a different zing to it. You want something that grows over time and that isn’t cool the first time and then you hate it. Might be a little weird the first time.
Any one one-off tricks that rival John John and Dusty’s gear from the last film? Japan was pretty ridiculous. It was everything you could ever want on a surf trip. There were barrels and big ramps.
What have been the highlight moves? Dane does a couple of turns that stand out from Japan. There were a couple of blow tail gaffs that were pretty wild. Some of the stuff is John John has been doing over here has been ridiculous but he’s also been filming for his own project.
Is this final trip gonna get the best stuff like other films? Pretty solid lineup for this trip to Indo. you can’t go past it. We went to Indo for the last movie and John John and Dusty got some of the best stuff of the movie. Something will get stomped on that trip that will close it out.
Your book was called Bummer and now it’s What Youth. Why? I knew what the industry was like and we were kinda throwing round names at the start. That one kinda caught like wildfire in the US in the industry and we just let people run with it just because we were focussing on our own thing and wanted to. I for one, I don’t wanna talk stuff up before it actually happens. I prefer to do our thing and when it happens and when it launches there it is. Hopefully it’s a little surprise for people and everyone is psyched on it.
When we gonna see it? The website is gonna start funnelling a lot of behind the scenes of what goes on on the trips that’s not in the movie. There is such a clean line between what happens on a trip that works for the web and what happens on a trip that is so perfect for the web and what happens on a trip that we’ll save for the movie. We’re gonna do a print piece as well. A quarterly book. The first issue of What Youth drops in June.
It’s a very bold move to commit to a print title… I know! That’s why there’s a web element and print’s probably not the smartest option but I love print. I’m a fan of magazines. It’ll be like Stab, you guys put more into it. It’s like the DVD, people love having that package. The web is rad but it’s not the same.
Check out What Youth here.