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Be Yourself and Have Fun

An Interview with Jaleesa Vincent on her new film, ‘Macaroni in the Pot’

features // Oct 6, 2022
Words by Corina Stephens
Reading Time: 8 minutes

Jaleesa Vincent is an international treasure. An artist at heart with the soul of a butterfly, the mind of a punk feminist, and a razor-sharp cutback to match, the twenty-something Aussie has us wishing we had a role model like her when we were grommettes. Fortunately for her (and us), forward-thinking brands like Billabong are getting aboard the Jelly train in support of left-of-center ideas that inspire.

We spoke with Jaleesa just after her latest cinematic release – an eight-and-three-quarter-minute ode to unabated creativity and lefthanded joy – about the making of it as well as her greater purpose in surfing and in life.

Would you mind sharing a little bit about the film? What was the inspiration behind it?

I surfed Macaroni’s three years ago and fricking loved the wave. So, once all the COVID restrictions had dropped and we could travel again, and I had the opportunity to make a film with Billabong, I was adamant that I wanted to go to Macaroni’s, just to enjoy perfect lefts and indulge in fun waves.

My partner, Luka, came to film, which was hard for him because he’s a fellow goofy footer. So, we had two weeks of filming there and I just surfed eight hours a day for two weeks and had the best time ever. And he sat in the tower and filmed for two weeks straight… 

He was on the edge of having a breakdown. [laughs] He got to surf sometimes… when I was eating lunch and stuff.

Jaleesa, definitely not eating lunch.

What a great partner!

Yeah, he really trekked through it.

Apart from the obvious reasons (you know, perfection), why Macaroni’s?

It’s such a consistent wave, so you can keep trying things. It’s the closest to a wave pool that’s still a natural wave. I was hoping to go there and surf and try harder, and maybe go for airs or get a bit more tricky with my surfing.

I was a bit disappointed because I didn’t really land anything crazy like I had hoped to. I was stressing at the start of the trip, thinking, “Fuck. I wanted to do some big airs and really step up my game.” 

But then I realized that I had spent all my money getting there and that I wasn’t even having fun because I was putting so much pressure on myself.

An international, womanist treasure.

Did the trip live up to your expectations?

Yeah, it was so fun surfing there. I was able to get out all the surfing that I had missed over the past couple of years, and that got me excited to get home and get creative. I was so excited to finish the film and put it all together. I feel like anything I create just gets me excited to make the next project. I’m already thinking about the next film and I’m like, “Ahh!”

Referring to your song in the second half of the film, did you actually catch 200 waves and do 200 laybacks? Or did it just feel that way after spending two weeks at Maca’s?

I reckon that I got over a thousand waves.

Wow, really?!

Yeah. [laughs] But I did come up with that song on the trip. There are big lulls there and I would sometimes wait 40 minutes before getting a wave, so I would spend that time trying to write a song. 

At one point, I was playing a joke on myself because at the start of the trip, I said to myself, “What’s wrong with you? All you do is laybacks – you’ve got to go bigger!” But then I thought, “I just love left-handers and doing laybacks. What’s wrong with that?!” 

So I just started humming the tune in my head (singing), and it helped me. It was a way of talking myself into being myself again. And then it got stuck in my head while I was surfing – just having fun and being silly with it –  so I thought I should record it.

Just one of the thousands.

Is that your typical approach to surfing/life – just to be yourself and try to have fun?

Yeah, absolutely. It’s so important. Otherwise, as soon as I’m not myself… I just don’t feel myself! It’s because I may be riddled with anxiety or am always second-guessing myself, but as soon as I feel that, I take a deep breath and follow my intuition or my innate woman. It’s super important that we follow our gut and just do what feels right. 

You’re known for being highly creative in multiple media, including filmmaking. What’s your favorite part of that process? 

I would say surfing’s number one and after that, it’s hard to say… I also made some animations. There’s so much downtime and stayovers when you’re traveling, so I was always on my iPad, working on them. And the poem at the start is actually something I’d written last year in lockdown.

They all symbiotically bounce off each other, I guess, the poetry, animation, song, and storyline. The music and the animation were pretty important to me – I wanted to make an edit with some character – but I also love having a storyline. I’d like to work on a film that’s more like a story, like fantasy!

My partner Luka’s also got so many ideas about how things can flow and work well together on a storyboard. 

What’s the dynamic between you and your partner Luka in the filmmaking process? 

We bounce ideas off each other. Of course, it was my film but I would tell him my ideas and then he’d have ideas and we’d bounce back and forth, and then together, be like, “Let’s make it happen!”

It’s usually when we’re driving – going camping or something – and I’ll have my book and we’ll share ideas and start drawing up storyboards. It’s so much fun.

What’s your opinion on the Cardi B. song ‘WAP’?

[Laughs] I was wondering if anyone would think of that!

I actually love that song, even though most people might not expect me to. I just get the ‘woman power’ aspect of it. It’s a pretty hectic song – all the lyrics are pretty gnarly, but I understand that it’s taking on the way male rappers speak about how they treat women sexually. So, it’s a role reversal and when I listen to it, I’m like, “Yeah! Woman power!”

I also was trying to think of a name, and I had the song in my head because I was surfing Macaroni’s. And I thought, “Yeah, that’s catchy!”

How many people do you think got the reference? 

I’m not sure. I just thought I’d leave it up to the audience. It definitely could go either way because I was surfing Macaronis and you can think of that as the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Or, obviously, ‘macaroni in the pot’ because I was cooking macaroni and cheese in the camping pot. But it’s also a reference to the song and girl power in a way… I guess it has multiple meanings and they’re all just fun and playful, so it doesn’t matter how people take it.

Woman power, indeed.

Talk about the boards you were riding in the edit. 

The boards I was riding are all Pussy Surfboards, which is a brand I’m hopefully going to start in the next couple of months, but I’m always traveling so it’s hard to get it finished. I got to try those boards out and they went really good so I feel comfortable releasing them for other people to surf.

Are you the shaper behind Pussy Surfboards?

The boards in the edit were shaped by Alice Fairysun – who’s my anonymous shaper that I’ve been learning a bit off – and myself; I shaped the thicker board, the really flat one. That’s all my skills are allowing me at the moment but I’m going to try to learn as much as I can. I’ve already got so many hobbies that I don’t think I’ll become a full-time shaper, but once you appreciate what goes into a board, it just changes your surfing.

Tell us about your lofty air midway through the edit. 

It was a slob straight air, with a tweak. I didn’t land it. [laughs]

I posted the frame grab of it on Instagram a long time ago and it blew up and I figured that everyone was going to think I landed it, so I animated myself landing it just as a joke.

It’s so cheeky! We loved it.

So cheeky. I figured it was going to piss a lot of people off but I think it’s funny.

If you could only surf one wave for the rest of your life, would it be Macaronis?

Only if there was no one out – it’s so crowded out there. Otherwise, I’m sure there’s another wave somewhere, I would just need to keep traveling to find it.

You have a really refreshing presence in women’s surfing culture. Do you feel any sense of responsibility as a role model to younger generations of surfers?

Yeah, I guess I do. I’m always trying to work out what my meaning is, asking myself things like, “Why am I making films?”, and that’s why. I want to inspire people to be themselves and love themselves and have fun. 

I want to represent being yourself and having fun and not taking it too seriously – especially in the surf industry. I’m not perfect and somebody might not like that, and that’s fine.

I’m lucky enough to be a pro surfer, and I just love to see other up-and-coming girls choose a similar path to mine in the free surfing realm. I’m glad that’s an option now because it never was when I was growing up. I was inspired by all the male free surfers, but I didn’t think I could do that. I was trying to do all the comps and stuff, but I didn’t like them. So now, I think it’s so awesome that something like this can be an option.

Lefts, rights… it really doesn’t matter when you’re having this much fun.

You mentioned that you’re already looking forward to doing more trips and films. Can you share about that?

I just have a few ideas that I haven’t spoken about yet… I would love to go to Egypt, for one. I have a storyline in my mind, but I still have to write it out and want to approach it in the right way.

I’ve also been doing a heap of painting because it’s a passion of mine, and I want to have an art show this year if I can fit it in. Also, my band, Cupid and the Stupids will be releasing an album this year, so we have a couple more shows. 

And Pussy Surfboards will be coming out soon, which I’m so excited for, just to give back to women. Obviously, the boards are for everyone – male or female – but we’re really shouting out the ladies.

Any last words?

I’d just like to thank Luka for helping me put the whole film together out of love, and Billabong Women’s as well, for giving me the opportunity to do what I love.

Follow Jaleesa here.

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