How Mason Ho Made Mick Fanning And Rip Curl Execs Shed Tears For Sheldon Paishon
“All we need is five shirts and five trunks. I swear I’ll get him to cry!”
When Mason Ho commits to something, he commits.
He’ll surf solid Pipeline on boards big and small, glide (relatively) unscathed over exposed rocks, and use his own dime to help his best friend get his first surfing sponsorship.
Below is a transcription of a conversation between Mason and Stab’s Brendan Buckley about the making of Through The Doggy Door, a gripping story about Sheldon Paishon’s path from homeless to professional surfer. You can listen to the interview in its entirety on this week’s episode of The Drop, or see below for the brevity/clarity version.
Stab: In the film credits, it says the movie was made by Joe Alani and Mason Ho. What role did you play in creating the film, besides narrating and surfing?
Mason Ho: Well, the origin of this movie is really back when we were kids. When Sheldon and I were growing up, we were both like, “There’s no way you and me aren’t going to be battling each other for world titles. We can both be as crazy as we want to be, but in 5 to 10 years, let’s go do titles.”
Eventually, Sheldon went his way and I went my way. I was out traveling and competing while he was still in Hawaii, so he turned into a surf buddy who I’d cruise with in between the QS. He’s always kept me sharp because he’d talk a lot of shit to me. Usually, I’m kinda sensitive and don’t like when people talk shit to me. But he’d talk shit and still hype me up. He did something that few people do.
I told him, “Stay on your game, and we’re going to go on a surf trip soon.” I was getting used to the Indo thing and had got it wired. So I told him if he saved $500, I’d take him to Desert Point. And he ended up saving $1,000, So I took him on this trip.
When we were at Deserts, Sheldon got a water clip throwing up a “W” [for the West Side] in the barrel right at sunset. And if you know his story, it looks like the end of a Hollywood movie. Joe [Alani] and I just looked at each other and started laughing about how it would be the perfect ending to a documentary about Sheldon’s life, with some crazy orchestra music in the background. Joe was like, “Yeah, but making a movie takes money and time.” So I said “Fuck it, I’ll get you money. Let’s do it.”
The big joke was that we weren’t even gonna tell Sheldon we were doing this. Let’s just film him without letting him know. Because he was so funny. Every day we’d surf together, he’d land and air and point to his nose yelling, “Where’s the sticker?” You’d almost think he’s joking, but he wasn’t. We’d laugh every time. I told Rory [Pringle], “Keep your eye on him, film everything, and film him talking shit.”
With the movie, I started paying for a lot of stuff, and it was getting bigger than what I could budget myself. I pitched it to the lower-level Rip Curl guys, and they were like, “We love that idea but we can’t play with money like that.” I said, “He needs a sponsor — it would just be five shirts and five trunks. I swear I’ll get him to cry!”
Because the thing about Sheldon is, he loves surf supplies like no one else. That’s another reason why I bring him around. He’d make me love my leash. I remember before when I’d travel, I needed to bring two leashes, two fins, two boards, all brand new. I don’t know if I was jaded, but I wanted fresh gear to surf. I didn’t want a stretched leash. But with him, he’d grab my leash with cracks in it then go rip Deserts. Then he’d joke about me needing new gear to rip, and I was like, “You little fucker.”
How many hours have you personally put into Doggy Door?
That depends if you want to count us doing it as kids. We have footage of us right around the time we first met. We knew when Joe Alani was filming us back then that was going to be in our documentary. He probably told us that. We were so confident.
We officially started the film around 2017, when Snapt3 was coming out. I did a trip to Bells and kind of infiltrated the Rip Curl headquarters and told them my idea. They gave me permission to give him a contract for a couple of shirts. I knew I could get him to cry because I knew how much he loved it. I told Joe to get the cameras ready. He said, “I’m going to rent reflectors and get this so Hollywood”.
When Sheldon signed, it was just for a couple of shirts. But that didn’t matter, all he wanted was the sticker on the nose. After we got all that stuff, we made a super cool 12-minute pilot. We showed it to the whole Rip Curl team that was in Hawaii. Mick, Owen, Neil [Ridgeway, Rip Curl’s chief brand & marketing officer] were all there. I was looking at Mick and all the bosses, and when it came to that scene, they were crying as hard as Sheldon.
Then Neil said they were going to sponsor him, for more than a couple of shirts.
Regarding your YouTube, how involved are you in the filmmaking process, and is that something you’d like to keep exploring?
I feel I kind of have an eye for a story in a surf session. It’s all the stuff before and after that my brain explodes on. For example, I was with Clay Marzo the other day just filming him in the grocery store. He’s so funny. He loves food so much, he must have picked up 50 eggplants before he found the two he wanted. Then we went to surf this little reform wave and just had a blast. To me, adding that little story in with the surfing makes it so much better.
On a larger scale, I definitely want to keep making cool films. I like this one of Sheldon’s because I feel like it sheds light on something that’s pretty common in Hawaii. The homelessness is super bad. I remember stepping over homeless people to go surf V-Land when Coco and I were younger. And there are still homeless people in the old V-Land trails. It’s really bad. But with Sheldon… I wasn’t taking shits in the keyhole before school. That was heavy when he told me that.
My dad actually went through a lot of similar shit. And he tripped out when he watched the movie. I think the project made my dad really proud of me. He’s really proud every day I surf, but when I made that I got a little different vibe from him because he went through it too. That’s partly why I wanted to do it, because Sheldon reminds me of my dad. It felt like a duty. It helps him, it helps me, it just helps the world. If you can enjoy it for 90 minutes, it makes me happy.
Watch Through The Doggy Door here.
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