A Week (And A Bit) Alongside Mick Fanning And Mason Ho
A chat with Vaughan Blakey, The Search’s director, about a week in the desert spent with Mick Fanning and Mason Ho.
There’s not a more pivotal film series in surfing than The Search. Technologies may have shifted, once unknown spots are now blown out, but all surfers still, and always will, have an incessant thirst for those lesser and often unknown set ups.
And that thirst is waning anytime soon – especially with Mick Fanning and Mason Ho as the partnered test pilots.
The latest Search clip, ‘Outer Inner Space’, didn’t have the novel and exotic character of the Snake, nor the same icy absurdity of the arctic circle ep, but it is another interpretation of what a trip with a couple of the world’s best surfers looks like.
With fucking pumping, uncrowded waves of course.
This time round Rip Curl confided in the directive eye of Vaughan Blakey, who’s had his hands in some epoch defining films (Doped Youth’s just the beginning), as well as being the Editor In Chief at the thoroughly Australian surf mag, Surfing World, for a decade.
“I don’t know what the planning was typically like [on the Search], but this one was like, “there’s a bit of swell, off you go.” Vaughan told Stab about the planning process.
The latest Search doesn’t prescribe to the prototypical memo, but we’re backing it.
Something fresh, dosed with a dash of irreverence, and of course, Mick and Mase; so, we dialled up Deadly to talk about all things that went down behind the scenes on the latest instalment.
Not that cold, but cold enough.
Stab: Vaughan! How’ve you been? I had to watch this latest clip twice, it’s a little different to the past few “The Search” clips, but after I adapted it was sick. What was the plan going in?
Vaughan: [laughs]..cheers! I wanted to do something fresh with it. I’ve been watching the Search movies since the very first one they made [with Sonny Miller and Tom Curren in the 90’s]. Those earlier ones were super raw, there was nothing to them other than just raw surfing and location, back then there was no one wanting to just exploit a spot either.
Word of mouth would dance around for years about where it was, and you couldn’t get a straight answer unless you knew someone who worked at Rip Curl.
[laughs]…now every comment section is filled with people who know the spot, or are having a solid crack at guessing.
Yeah! I get it though, everyone wants to think they know where a spot is.
Mysto enough for most to remain second guessing as to the exact whereabouts.
Anyway, let’s talk about the clips direction.
I guess everyone goes into the Search videos and tries to shift it. I wanted to go in and make my interpretation of what I thought The Search could be like.
At the end of the day this film was never going to beat a clip like ‘The Snake’, because that’s the epitome of what The Search is – a new wave in an unknown location, with no one else out.
Those types of trips are so wild already, but we weren’t trying to compare to that.
It was always going to be easy with Mick and Mason though, you could literally run it live from the second they get together and watch the whole thing without stopping.
So you’re saying those clips of Mick and Mase talking absurd philosophies aren’t fabricated? [laughs]
Nah man! I just wanted more Mick and Mason together and to film that.
The only thing we set up was the cameras at the end of every day, occasionally guiding them with a topic or two for some direction. One example was just telling them, ‘what do you think about when you look at the sky” and then we just let them roll with it. Sometimes they’d stay on topic for three seconds and then talk about the world tour for an hour [laughs].
Even if you try to get them to stay on topic, they won’t.
“I can’t believe how sick it is for Mick too, it keeps his surfing razor sharp, but also allows him to do what he wants travel wise.”
I guess Mason doesn’t exactly seem like the rehearsed type.
Nah, not at all! Mason talks like he surfs.
Every time he opens his mouth it’s a new opportunity to do something magical. He doesn’t know how to do rehearsed response. He says whatever he wants.
Like that song for example?
Straight off the top of his head! He just ran with that thing, lucky we were recording.
Did he come up with the Outer Inner Space title too?
I actually can’t remember exactly how that happened. We were trying to come up with a name and sort of like, not in any wanky way, but wanted to convey that you can’t go to the far reaches of anything without sort of internalising where you are in your life at the same time.
I guess it kind of means the far reaches of your external experience, location wise, as well as the external of your internal realm. That’s what these trips are like.
It’s simple, but it stuck.
Two blokes*, two beers, and a fucking abundance of empty waves.
Ahh, so in a weird way it links back to the existential-esque talks between the boys in the film. How many of you were there on the trip anyway?
Just me, Mick, Mase, two filmers and a photographer. A real small crew and just camping in the middle of bloody nowhere really.
Surely there were some others around though?
A few other dudes when we first showed up, but then they left. Just our crew for a week and a half straight; not a soul in sight, and not a tree or bush over knee high. Just removed.
So, did anything gnarly happen that was left on the cutting room floor?
Mmm, nothing that heavy. Just us camping round a fire, drinking tins, and surfing all day really. You forget you’re sitting with a world champion and a pipe specialist there though, Mick did however drop an interesting line talking about world titles.
He said the best moment of winning a title, ‘is in the shower, just after you get back from the beach for the first time. It’s not when you win, or when you’re paddling, it’s that first moment you get alone and you just scream! And then that’s pretty much it, back to normal life again’.
Other than that we spent the whole time in our wetties; we’d be in them before dark and wouldn’t get out of them till sunset. Just full on frothing groms.
The strong offshore’s helped in more way than one.
Had you been there before?
Nah, and I probably wouldn’t go back. It was just too far away.
Did you score though?
That day of the big waves was the first day we woke up to and it was massive – I was deadset shitting myself all day long [laughs].
The wind was so hard offshore, so getting into them was really hard. Plus, it’s a real A-frame sort of place – similar to Straddie in a sense. There’s no definitive bank, so its shifts around a lot and is hard to know where to sit. But it was proper fucking pumping.
Sick! Yeah it’s hard not to be jealous. Tell me about the planning process leading in, do they just see a big purple blob on the map and go?
I wasn’t sure what it was like beforehand either. This was was just like, ‘there’s swell coming here, off you go.’
Mick generally drives where he wants to go, then Rip Curl sort of direct exactly where that is – perhaps more tropical, more unexplored, or wherever. Mick’s done the same laps around the globe for so long, so he just wants to go to new places and explore.
Here’s the evidence that Blakey scored himself. It’s hard not to with three dudes in the water.
The Search is probably the best fucking platform there is for that!
I can’t believe how sick it is for him too, it keeps his surfing razor sharp, but also allows him to do what he wants travel wise.
He’s so sick to hang out with as well, just a few others in the desert you realise how much of a legend he is.
You know that old saying, ‘don’t meet your heroes’, he’s the bloody opposite. He’s better, and Mason’s ten times that as well.
So, when’s the next one, and where are ya heading…
Mick in flight to their next, and currently undecided location.
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