Tom Carroll and Ross Clark-Jones discuss their innovative documentary Storm Surfers 3D, arriving in Los Angeles and other regional theaters July 19th
If you follow professional surfing, you're likely well aware of Tom Carroll and Ross Clark-Jones. Tom Carroll was a two-time world champion in 1984 and 1985, and Ross Clark-Jones is considered one of the greatest Australian big wave surfers, becoming the first non-Hawaiian to win the Quicksilver competition in 2001. Armed with a bevy of groundbreaking miniature 3D cameras, they have joined forces with surf forecaster Ben Matson and innovative directors Christopher Nelius and Justin McMillan for some of the most amazing surfing footage ever seen in Storm Surfers 3D. I recently had the chance to speak with Tom Carroll and Ross Clark-Jones over the phone about this new film, currently available on VOD and opening in Los Angeles and select regional markets on July 19. Here's what they had to say.
I watched this the other night and I really enjoyed it. I know you both had made surfing movies before, but was there something that drew you to shooting this in 3D, especially with these innovative cameras?
Ross Clark-Jones: Yeah, it was very different, just the process of filming and so on. But I think it was all worth it. You get to be as close to riding the surfboard with us, and that's something really exciting. We've seen self-held cameras before for many years, but nothing quite like this. It really felt like you're on the surfboard with us.
With the 3D element, were they still as light as the cameras you used before, with the self-held and the cameras on the boards?
Tom Carroll: Yeah, it's tricky holding it though, especially with a dumpy big wave like Turtle Dove. That was really tricky, but shooting with a 3D Go-Pro is about as light a camera as we'll get for 3D. Holding your arm behind you with a big wave, it creates a disruption in your center of gravity. That was tricky and that was one of the big challenges for me. It was a whole other level, using 3D.
It seems that your system really went to another level when you brought Ben Matson on board. Can you talk about what he brings to the team, and how he's helped you guys find the most incredible waves?
Ross Clark-Jones: He's actually indispensable, because we can blame Ben (Laughs). Ben is definitely the man with two brains, because he's got one brain in the data, and all the information that forecasters have, and then he's got the present mind, so he's got a brain in the past and a brain in the present. He's really good at doing that. It's almost overload for us, but he's great at deciphering all this information, and he's got an incredible memory. He is indispensable, really.
I read about both of your backgrounds in surfing before moving into big wave surfing. Do you still surf small waves, or are you just focused on big waves now?
Ross Clark-Jones: We ride everything. Regular waves, tiny waves, and really bad waves. It puts it all in perspective. You don't keep riding huge waves all the time.
Tom Carroll: Yeah, it's ultimately creates contrast. I love going back and surfing small surf. I still love it. That's the contrast, surfing small waves, surfing big ugly waves.
Ross Clark-Jones: It's like driving a really slow car, and then driving a really fast one, and going back and forth. You realize the power of it.
Speaking of which, Ross, there was that segment where they showed you racing around a track. Is that something you do frequently, getting on an empty track and seeing how far you can push it?
Ross Clark-Jones: I wouldn't say frequently, but I like to go as much as I can, which is not that often. I go to Germany for my holiday, and I have a really fast car there. I've been going on the Autobahn and looking for uncrowded roads, just driving around like a maniac.
What would you say the biggest benefit of that is? Does it hone your reflexes?
Ross Clark-Jones: It's a nerve thing. Show me how fast you can go into a turn and not lose it, or die. A big wave is sort of like a race track, you try to find the apex, the line you're surfing.
There was that one mission where the wind was a lot worse than anticipated. Were there missions that you had to scrap because the elements didn't come into place? Does it have to be a perfect combination of things to make it all right?
Ross Clark-Jones: Well, we try and enjoy it no matter what. If the winds are howling, we will still attempt to ride it and enjoy it. Some aren't as perfect as we hoped, but that's the thing about the film, it's never always a perfect sunny day. That's part of the journey, getting into it and discovering what are the right ingredients that will make it perfect.
With that final mission in the film, it seemed those waves and those conditions only come around once in a couple of years. Is that spot a place you'll be keeping an eye on in the future?
Tom Carroll: Definitely. That's a place we definitely want to go back and revisit at some point.
Ross Clark-Jones: Yeah, and there was a lot of pressure on us with the camera crew, and getting it done on time to deliver the film on a very skeleton crew. The more you try to plan it, the more you try to nail it down, the more you miss it (Laughs).
3D filmmaking is generally a pretty bulky experience, and you can't do a lot of things because these rigs are so big. Do you see the camera system that was developed here becoming revolutionary in the 3D business?
Tom Carroll: I think it's groundbreaking, what they did. They had to build the camera to get those certain shots. There was no actual camera available that could move fluidly in a documentary style, so they had to build these miniatures. Shooting on the board, Go-Pro just came out with their 3D version, and that was available for the show at the time. That camera has just some unbelievable images. We're lucky that we had a crew that was willing to build a camera on set, and were keen to go on the journey. We had to reshoot, reshoot, reshoot. The first three weeks of the production was brutal.
Is there anything you'd like to say to anyone who might be curious about the documentary about why they should check this out in 3D in the theaters?
Ross Clark-Jones: We'd love to get people who don't even surf to see this, which would be the most rewarding. Even those who do surf as well. There's something different about it.
That's all I have. Thanks so much, guys. It was a pleasure talking to you.
Tom Carroll: Thank you very much.
Ross Clark-Jones: Thank you.
You can Tom Carroll and Ross Clark-Jones take on some of the most amazing waves you'll ever see in Storm Surfers 3D, currently available on VOD formats and debuting July 19 in Los Angeles and other regional theaters nationwide.