Watch: This Is Not (Just) About Surfing - Stab Mag
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Watch: This Is Not (Just) About Surfing

Gaping pits and mating roos, side by side in Andrew Kaineder’s Coopers Real to Reel entry.

cinema // Feb 7, 2022
Words by Alistair Klinkenberg
Reading Time: 3 minutes

Andrew Kaineder’s been pointing his camera at meaningful surfing for longer than I realised.

Remember New York, 2011? When brown headhigh peelers netted Owen Wright 300 large (US), sold a million Surf x NYC tees and convinced even more Australians to take their drawl to the big apple to see how it played? Well those images of peak surf decadence were captured through the lens of one Andrew Kaineder, who was cutting his filmic teeth with the then ASP. Suffice to say he’s come a distance since digging his tripod into the Long Beach sand over a decade ago.

When I got Andrew on the phone he was in the process of moving house from his South Coast roots to Port Kembla in Wollongong, though not by choice (god bless Airbnb!). Kaineder grew up riding prone through the guts of his (former) hometown’s myriad ledges and pointing a camera at his mates doing similar. 

Andrew on the set of Beyond the Noise in Ireland.

“I wasn’t a cool 18-year-old kid who was into obscure films or anything,” he says. “It was a different time back then. I feel like unless you were influenced by your parents you couldn’t just open the laptop and have everything at your fingertips like you can now. We just used to fuck around and watch weird bodyboarding and surf flicks, go camping and blow deodorant cans up on the fire and film it.”

Bodyboarders are often creative people. In life and work, and Andrew’s no exception. He wandered into surf world during its peak, riding what he describes as the final wave of bodyboarding being a commercially viable pursuit for surfers, filmers and industry types alike. 

“When I came home from New York I started working for Pete Moore, who used to be the editor of Movement Mag,” Andrew explains. “At the time he was getting into directing and started a production company called Snakes and Ladders. I started working with them quite a bit in the small doco, commercial scene in Sydney really and that’s probably where I cut my teeth I guess.”

People who work in surf often get pigeonholed and struggle to diversify their work, but Andrew’s not one of those. His surfing work is prolific, but he’s also made inroads into the documentary scene. From his personal work documenting local Budawang elder Noel Butler’s powerful message in light of the 2019 bush fires, to his most recent work on the new Netflix documentary Marsupials, Andrew’s a filmmaker with a diverse skillset. 

“Filming surfing is being in an environment that’s unpredictable, so you’re just reacting. I think that made it an easy transition into natural history,” Andrew says when asked how skills learned in the ocean translate to stalking kangaroos in the bush. 

When it comes to his work in the water, Andrew’s two remarkable films with his friend Russell Bierke are the first things that spring to mind. Along with his film moody epic Beyond the Noise, which Andrew pulled together off his own back, with a broken leg.

Russell’s still only 24, so Kaineder couldn’t put him in his Coopers Real to Reel entry, but it’s impossible to avoid talking about the body of work. There’s a hell of a lot of forgettable surf porn out there, but some of the waves that Kaineder’s captured, Russell nestled in their bosom, represent the pinnacle of tube riding being pushed in real time.

“It’s kinda easy with Russ because he’s just a super mellow dude,” Kaineder says. “I feel like I’ve wanted to keep trying to push my own filmmaking with our work, and it suits both of us to make one big film a year or one every couple. You only need those couple of waves that are, you know, pushing it a bit. I was so bummed I couldn’t put him in my Real to Reel entry, easily the best two shots I’ve got filming surfing are of Russ.”

Whilst it doesn’t compare with some of Russel’s more XXL efforts, a feel good highlight of Andrew’s reel has to be the “Local Legend” section at 1:51, which sees Pete Taplin pilot big red through a tube that very, very few grandfathers would have the skills or desire to see the insides of. It’s bitter sweet in a way, considering that Andrew, a few generations down the track, has had to leave the area, but he choses to focus on the positive when I asked him about it.

“That was the classic situation where the local legend jumps off the rocks, paddles out, sits at the top of the peak, waits and then the wave of the day just comes to him,” Andrew explains. “He took it, got barrelled out of his mind and then came in. That was it. He was like, ‘That’s all I need.’ “ 

A gaping pit and words to live by. Doesn’t get more profound than that.

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