Now Unlocked: Kael Walsh's SEOTY Entry 'Idiot Box' - Stab Mag
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Kael Walsh was raised on surf videos. Now, at 22 years old, he's doing his best to keep that genre of surf content alive. All Frames: Idiot Box

Now Unlocked: Kael Walsh’s SEOTY Entry ‘Idiot Box’

Featuring one of the top-five water shots in the history of surf cinematography

Words by Brendan Buckley
Reading Time: 5 minutes

Stab’s 2022 Edit Of The Year project launched last December. To refresh, here’s how it works:

Surfers submit their edits. The edits air exclusively on Stab Premium. Stab Premium members vote for their top three favorite edits each quarter. The top three edits per quarter go to the final, along with three wildcards at the end of the year, leaving us with 15 finalists. Out of those 15, the winning edit is chosen by the 50 most influential voices in surfing during our Stab Surfer Of The Year poll. The winning surfer is awarded one bitcoin.

The quarters are as follows: 

Quarter #1: December 01, 2021 → February 28, 2022. 
Quarter #2: March 01, 2022 → May 30, 2022. 
Quarter #3: June 01, 2022 → August 31, 2022.
Quarter #4: September 01 → November 30, 2022.

You may have noticed that the first quarter came and went with zero entries. Allow me to explain. 

We introduced a rule stating that all surfers must have their music legally cleared. This isn’t exactly the standard in surfing, which meant it was new territory for a lot of entrants, which meant it took them a while to figure it out. Towards the end of Q1, three surfers had jumped through the hoops to get it done — Kael Walsh, Mateus Herdy, and Ollie Henry. 

And all of their edits are spectacular. 

Instead of rushing them out the door, we decided to automatically qualify the aforementioned three as our Q1 finalists and space out the releases of their edits. Kael’s is first, now. Mateus’ will go March 24. Ollie’s will go March 31. More will come in Q2 and, as a Stab Premium member, you’ll be emailed a link to vote once the quarter is over. We’ll cover it on our site, social, podcasts, etc, and make it hard for you to miss.

Got it? Good. 

Now, let’s watch some surfing and hear from Kael about the unique importance of making a really fucking good edit. 

Just another day in WA.

Stab: It seems like COVID kept you in Western Australia for a while. Did you get a good run of waves? 
Kael: It was a good year, but nothing amazing. I hadn’t been home for a whole year like that in a long time, so it was super fun. We only had one proper swell for up north and it was one of the first times I was able to get a couple of good waves up there. It definitely helped boost the confidence, now I’m super keen to go back. 

What clicked up there this time?
I try to watch a lot of clips, and I think that helps you look at heavier waves differently. I watched some stuff of Laurie Towner and Jack Robbo — guys who are also on their backhand there. I’d look at the way they take off, when they’d grab the rail, when they’d let go of it and pump. It’s definitely worth watching other people, especially at waves you haven’t spent much time at. 

Do you study a lot of people for airs, too? 
Not so much. If I’m having trouble with a certain air and I know someone is really good at it, I’ll probably watch a bit — where they grab, what they do with their head and their body, all that. But I think you get a lot more out of watching other people at heavier waves. You can learn so much about how to read it and what lines to take. 

Makes sense. What airs feel the best to you these days? 
Just big stuff. Growing up, I liked doing full rotations and all that technical stuff. But now I just want to try to go as big as possible. That said, I’ve been injured a few times and definitely learned that you have to pick your battles. 

Some call it a YouTube title. Others call it prophecy.

Yeah, I think anyone who has been watching you surf for a while could see that you needed to learn that. We recently ran an interview with Nate Florence, and he talked about how important he thinks training is for preventing injuries. How do you feel about that? 
Injury prevention stuff is 100 percent worth doing. In the past, I’ve gotten hurt and I’ll go to the gym for a while while rehabbing — but I’ve never really stayed on that program once I’ve healed up. I want to start doing that, though. If you’re doing eight-foot airs, you’ve gotta be doing something on the side or else you’re gonna get hurt at some point. I think a lot of freesurfers do more of that than people realize.

You’re 22 now. How do you want to progress as a surfer? What do you want your career to look like in 10 years? 
Well, I love making edits. Going on surf trips with mates is the best thing in the world. And then there’s the whole creative side of working on a big project. It’s so rewarding to get a bunch of clips and look back on all the time you’ve put in and all the surfing you’ve done. Then you have to figure out the music, the graphics, all the little things that make it feel like something that’ll psych people up to surf. I want keep doing more of that with Quiksilver.

I’m thinking about doing a more regular series, too. Everyone looks at Marine Layer/Chapter 11 as the example. When you see Dane surf two-foot waves, it can get you so psyched to go surf even when it’s shit. So maybe I’ll try to do something more consistent, and push myself to surf better in bad waves. But I want longer-form edits to always be a part of what I do. 

Yeah, it’s worth revisiting.

I feel like so much of what’s created today is single-use. You might watch it once, then there’s a new episode next week…not a lot is made to be referenced, remembered, or revisited. 
100 percent. I want to make stuff that has longevity. More and more, I hear stuff like ‘You need to be on YouTube, you need to build a following there.’ I think it’s cool for the people who’ve built that up, but I also wonder how many core surfers are actually following them. 

Long term, I want to find a balance between making the longer stuff and doing more quick hits like we talked about. As long as there’s still freesurfing, I still want to freesurf. It’s fun watching contests, but I get way more of a kick out of seeing how someone’s approach plays out over a year rather than over a 30-minute heat. 

Yeah, it’s an interesting time in surfing. I don’t know why people think it has to be one-size-fits-all. Not everyone has to be making vlogs. Not everyone has to do comps. Not everyone has to make surf edits. I think there’s space for all of those things. How do you feel about films like the ones Torren Martyn does — going on a freesurf trip, but turning it into a story. Would you ever get into that? 
I definitely enjoy it, and it seems like a lot of other people do too. But I still get the most out of surf films. Good music. Good surfing. Good feeling. Something that makes you want to download the music and play it in your car when you’re driving and get psyched to go surf. I still watch surf Kai’s [Neville] surf movies all the time. To me, it feels like that side of surfing is dying, but I want to try my best to keep it alive.