The Best Independent Surf Film You’ll Watch This Week: ‘Thunderbird’
Featuring Colin Moran, Chippa Wilson, Alex Knost, Andrew Doheny, Balaram Stack, Christian and Greyson Fletcher, Michael Cukr and more by Michael Cukr.
Making a good surf movie is fucking hard.
Between the cost of travel, lucking into good waves, and post-production, things can add up quickly… and this is all before mentioning that one must actually surf exceptionally well for it to make any sort of impact. Doing all of this without a sponsor is next to impossible.
Enter Colin Moran and Michael Cukr.
Like many pro surfers, Colin (or ‘Goose’ as he is lovingly referred to by his friends) parted ways with his main sponsor in the wee stages of 2020. Throughout the creation of this film, Colin also lost his two best friends, Ken Suzuki and Tyler Lonsway, to whom this film is dedicated.
So like I was saying, making a good surf movie can be really fucking hard. Thankfully for us, Colin didn’t quit.
With the help of all-around ace and occasional Stab filmer Michael Cukr, the two were able to put together a 16-minute surf film. Goose and Cukr executed this project from start to finish, handpicking the surfers, music and clips that spoke to their vision. This film is no joke either, featuring a star-studded cast including at least one of your favorite surfers.
We’re talking: Chippa Wilson, Alex Knost, Andrew Doheny, Balaram Stack, Danny Fuller, Christian and Greyson Fletcher, Makua Rothman, and Ford Archbold.
Not only were these guys able to pull off making Thunderbird on their own, but they threw a banging premiere for it just a few weeks ago, where they auctioned off Colin’s beloved T-Bird and raised $15,000 for the Ken and Tyler’s families. We think that’s about as badass as it gets, so we caught up with Colin to give him his well-deserved platform to accompany the release.
Click above to watch Thunderbird and scroll below to read what’s new with the man they call Goose.
Stab: Hey Colin! Congratulations on Thunderbird. This is the first project you’ve released in quite some time. It seems like everything’s changed over the course of the past 18 months, what’s your day-to-day been like as of late?
Colin Moran: Everyone’s 2020 was a bit nightmarish. Last year was definitely a learning experience for me. My best friend Ken passed away which was a huge shock. I had never really lost anyone close to me before and that shook me. I took some time off, didn’t really surf that much, and was kind of jaded on surfing. I realized I needed to start doing something with my time so I started doing construction for a little bit, which was a good learning lesson for me as well. Now I’m back in school studying Graphic Design and Fashion at Orange Coast College. After not going to school for 10 years, going back to college has been a full trip, but I’m loving it.
You worked on this film for close to four years, correct?
Covid put a big hole in it, unfortunately, but yes, it’s been close to four years. I was actually gearing up to put it out before COVID, but the day after I made that decision everyone locked down… I’m glad we waited ’cause I feel like things are just now opening up more. We got to throw this premiere while everyone’s excited and able to (safely) engage again. The Thunderbird premiere was a really special event for me, I was really happy to share it with everyone and celebrate the lives of Ken and Tyler, those dudes were my biggest hype men.
We’re so sorry to hear of their untimely passing. It’s amazing to see that you’ve been able to commemorate them via this special project. How would you speak to their impact on you both as a surfer and a person?
Damn. It never gets easier. They’re always on my mind, and I’m just happy to remember them in whatever way I can. Losing them brought me closer to my friends and inspired me to always try to do my best. They were always there no matter what. If I was surfing they’d always be texting me asking how the waves were, little things like that. Moving forward is the hardest part, but I know it’s what they would have wanted.
You’ve taken a step out of surfing and into the “real world” as of late. What kind of perspective has that given you on life as a pro surfer?
Being a pro surfer is the best job in the world. You get to go to all these awesome places and drop everything when you see a swell. I always had a grasp on the fact that this wouldn’t be forever and always tried to enjoy it as much as I can. Now I’m really excited about the opportunity to try something new — if I can still surf that’s cool too, I just want surfing to be a part of my life without putting all my eggs in one basket.
This movie has a wild and diverse cast of characters, including a bunch of your friends and former teammates. What was it like surfing with all those guys and do you have a favorite section?
I wasn’t really on the trips with Makua and Fuller but those guys get so barreled I had to put those in there. I don’t really surf waves like that all that often but it’s awesome to watch guys like that go for it. Watching Knosty dance around on a surfboard is so cool. All these guys have their own flavor. Chippa is a phenomenon, Ford has an amazing style, Droid is my favorite surfer of all time. I love surfing with the Fletchers too, they always bring the craziest energy out in the water, and of course Ken as well.
Tell me a little about that West Oz session that you open the film with, definitely looks like you took a beating on a couple of those…
I was in Bali for a summer a couple of years ago and needed to do a Visa run. I went to West Oz with my friend Rolo from Puerto Rico and we ended up driving to the desert out there and getting some waves. I didn’t even expect to go to West Oz but I always try and push myself to go places I otherwise wouldn’t. It was beautiful. Those were probably some of the bigger waves I got in the film, I’m by no means a charger like some of the other guys in the movie, but it’s always fun to get tubed with your friends.
I saw Knost try a couple airs in this movie, how often do you seem him launching like that?
I remember one session we had at Blackies, and I was riding this little 2+1. We wound up swapping boards and he just started busting indies that looked great, meanwhile I’m out the back on his longboard just thinking to myself ‘damn dude, you’re so gnarly’.
You and Droid have this patented carve/blow tail/reverse thing that you guys do. I don’t even know what to call it honestly, but it feels like you two are the only ones doing this turn consistently. Why do you think that is?
For me, that came from going on so many trips with Droid and surfing good waves together. I don’t know anyone else that surfs like Andrew, it’s so unpredictably radical. I definitely got that from him. Newport is also such a dumpy wave that you have one chance to do something cool so you just gotta go for it.
So let’s talk about this T-Bird. That didn’t look like your first time doing donuts…
(Laughs) That was a mission. I knew we needed a theme for the movie and this car was really cool, I got it from my buddy who has a car auction and thew $100 bucks in not expecting anything, but wound up winning the car. The thing’s gnarly, it sets off car alarms when you’re driving down the street. We trailered it out the desert by Joshua Tree and I just went for it.
You auctioned the car off at the film premiere, was it hard parting with it? And how much money were you able to raise?
Between Chippa’s van, my truck, a Cadillac and my sister’s car, our driveway was definitely getting a bit hectic, so I knew I needed to get rid of something. I decided I was going to raffle it off and make something cool out of it, but when Tyler passed away I knew I had to do it. I was over putting the movie out for a while, but one of my last texts with Tyler was ‘have you found a spot yet for the premiere?’. I really wanted to celebrate his and Ken’s life with this. I miss them a lot, every time I watch the end I want to cry.
By getting some sponsors for the event and auctioning off the car, we were able to raise close to $15k split between Ken and Tyler’s family. I couldn’t imagine losing a child, and so anyway I can positively impact them was worth it to me.
That’s fucking phenomenal and incredibly heartwarming. You should be proud. So what’s next for Colin Moran?
Fall classes start soon. That’s kind of it — surfing, school and working at the new Saturdays NYC shop in Newport. I’m excited for whatever’s next.
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