How to Make a Web Edit You Watch on Repeat with Kai Barger
The “Kai Bagah No Wundah” story.
In our oversaturated feeds it takes something really special to stick out. And Kai Barger’s recent edit was the recipe we’ve been looking for; heavy slab anxiety and aerial progression, tastefully cut to big tunnels and rail work you can feel in your cheeks. Mr Barger’s traditionally loomed in Albee Layer and Matt Meola’s shadow while simultaneously being a standout in all the pieces put together by Take Shelter Productions. In the Stab office’s we watched Kai Bagah No Wundah on repeat. It’s the well rounded dose of high performance surfing that we hadn’t seen hit the web in sometime. So I caught up with the The Korean Storm for unwavering insight on what goes into a clip that leaves you wanting more.
Stab: How long has this clip been in the making?
Kai: We kind of worked on it without any real plan over the last year. I’ve been home for a year and half without leaving. I took a bit of a turn in my career and told my sponsors that I didn’t want to do contests anymore. My sponsors were like, yeah, cool, okay. They kept me on their team, which was the biggest blessing. I was a little scared they’d drop me but they were super cool about it. Everything me and the boys had been doing, we’d been doing together. We’d finished that film Albee made (Attractive Distractions) and then finished a few more edits together. And I was like I’m going to work on something on my own now… thank you (laughs). It was great doing stuff with Matt and Albee, they created a perfect platform for me. I’m in debt to those guys forever.
You natural footers think Jaws is intimidating? Now imagine the beast on your backhand.
Who’s the right man to have behind the lens? I film with Jon Spenser, he’s my guy. He’s just the ride or die, always down and ready for the mission man. We would just get in the car, drive around and try to find it. We did that all year, it was really fun. I was surfing a lot with Tanner Hendrickson, Matt and Albee.
What’s Jon shooting with? It’s a Sony FS7, which is good for slow motion, but can only grab about eight seconds of it at a time. I think it’s like the next best thing to a RED, but it’s not ‘the’ RED.
What are the different waves presented to you on Maui? As little kids we grew up surfing down at Ho’okipa, it was almost a thing our parents put together. We didn’t even know what was going on, then all the sudden we were this little grommed out surf squad. It’s weird, on the North Shore of Maui you don’t have many options for waves. Ho’okipa’s the only thing to surf other than Tavares, which is this double up left around the rocks. When we’d go on missions around the island we’d either go find a sandbar on the east side or head to the south side. For surf on Maui, the south side’s glassy and perfect, the east side’s sand bars and the north side’s shitty and windy. The whole clip’s filmed at four different waves.
Kai does it all, but like any true man wielding a knife, he prefers big tunnels.
So, how’s surfing Jaws on your backhand? That’s… well… pretty scary. It’s really fun, I love getting waves out there but I think I’m more scared than having fun (laughs). It’s so tricky on your backhand man, just dropping in is the hardest part. I’ve been dancing with this idea of sideslipping a little deeper and trying to get barrelled. It’s the hardest thing to get yourself to do, you have to be deeper than you think, take off at an angle, let the wave catch up to you and slip down the face of it. That’s how you’re going to get barrelled out there. Tom Lowe, during one of those swells, got the dream ride. It was the sickest barrel, I think ever out there on someone’s backhand. When I saw it, it blew my mind. I was like, that right there, that’s it!
Who’s that guy in the beginning of the clips? He’s amazing! (Laughs) That’s one of the uncles down at the beach. That clip was actually taken a long time ago by my buddy, Miles. He’s just a classic kid. We were digging through these old clips, that session in particular was so funny, you can hear that guy in the background going “Wahhh!”, “Quipahh!” and just freaking out on all my waves. We want to go back and find him, pay him some money and keep him in our squad.
What was the hardest part of putting out this clip? I had to sail through a little storm in my life. I think I had like a midlife crisis at 25 (laughs). Everything was getting to me and I was losing my confidence. I was so tripped out in the process of making it and putting it out. The good reaction, I think I needed. But I still got to figure my shit out, it’s something else entirely, it’s life (laughs).
It’s just a ferris wheel without the machinery, no big deal…
How do you get those revs so corked out? After I saw Matt do flips, I wanted to do them. I’d been doing them out the back for fun. In Maui you get these closeout sections into the wind, you can hit them really fast, double grab and let it take you. You have to throw your body towards the flats, which was hard to figure out. I tried them for a few years. When I was 23 I was like, shit, I want to do a flip, and tried them every day until I finally stuck one. Once you land one, you’re like shit, this isn’t even a hard move. You just hit the section, look over your shoulder and try to fling towards the flats. Matt and Albee are doing way gnarlier stuff than me, because of that it pushes me to try new things.
What session stands out the most for you? That slabbing right, we’d been watching that wave for years standing on the cliff at Jaws. When Jaws breaks that wave breaks, it’s about 200 yards past the left. We’d see this exploding left, right before it goes around the corner. Huge slabs, spitting barrels every time and we were like, what the fuck is that? On one of those huge swells, I wasn’t surfing Jaws because I didn’t want to die. All of a sudden everyone was like, hey, you wanna do it? Let’s do it! I was like yeah! but really thinking no… it was the craziest day ever. That wave where I straighten out was my first one. We didn’t know how to tow it so we just whipped in. I was up on it, thinking holy shit, I’m straightening out. I looked up and there was a 15 foot boiling out, barreling right that I was starring right into it. The wave blew up on my ankle and I literally flew in the air and did 10 flips. It was like a 15 foot boost on a cloud, then I landed softly and didn’t even get worked. I only caught four waves, after I got a good one I was done. When Jon sent me the clip I couldn’t believe it, it looked like a Shipsterns left! We were jumping up and down, screaming like little girls (laughs). It was such a success.
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