THE ONLY THING THAT MAT­TERS

TONY HAR­RING­TON TALKS ABOUT HIS RE­LENT­LESS DOC­U­MEN­TA­TION OF THE BAR­REL & THOSE WHO MAKE IT THEIR LIFE'S PUR­POSE.

Tracks - - Buzz - iON the Bar­rel Vol. 2 will have a limited preview tour on the East Coast of Aus­tralia in early Novem­ber fol­lowed by an in­ter­na­tional pre­miere at Tur­tle Bay Resort in Hawaii dur­ing the Triple Crown of Surf­ing at the end of Novem­ber. The DVD will fea­ture o

Ican't pin­point ex­actly when the ob­ses­sion started, but as a grom­met on the Aus­tralian coast learn­ing to surf I worked out pretty quickly that the bar­rel was what it was all about. We'd lis­ten in while lo­cal le­gends swapped sto­ries about tube rides in the car park and I'd pore over mag­a­zines and dream about rid­ing hol­low waves just like my he­roes in the pho­tos I stuck all over my bed­room wall.

Al­most 40 years on it's a fas­ci­na­tion that's seen me choose a life­style that is driven by weather pat­terns, shaped by swells and prob­a­bly un­fath­omable to any­one who leads a 'nor­mal' life. But for those of us called to the ocean and lured by the con­stant pos­si­bil­ity of grind­ing bar­rels – it couldn't make more sense.

Some­where along the way I passed up the se­cu­rity of a reg­u­lar pay cheque and cre­ated a no­madic life, in my case on a dual quest for waves and snow, that sees me shut­tle between hemi­spheres and fol­low a path of­ten shared with a small tribe who carry the same ob­ses­sion. We run into one an­other at air­ports, cafes, car parks and most in­ti­mately in the ocean – familiar faces that I last saw on the beach in Mex­ico, at the lug­gage carousel at Den­pasar or parked at a cliff-top on Maui. Wher­ever there is a swell draw­ing us all in.

I started out pho­tograph­ing surf when I was just 16 us­ing a Mi­nolta Weather­matic to get my first shots at For­resters Beach, Jewie Bay and Crack­neck on the Cen­tral Coast. By 17 I had saved up and bought a Su­per 8mm cam­era and dab­bled a lit­tle in film­ing but then moved ex­clu­sively into stills for my whole ca­reer, un­til just a cou­ple of years ago when I was lured back to the mov­ing im­age again.

It feels like a very nat­u­ral pro­gres­sion to have ar­rived where I am to­day doc­u­ment­ing surf us­ing a RED Epic dig­i­tal cam­era as well as film­ing and shoot­ing stills on my Canons. With a stills cam­era we get to shoot se­quences of around 10 frames per sec­ond, now I also get to play with frame rates that are any­thing from 25 fps to 320 fps cre­at­ing su­per slow mo­tion mo­ments. I love the com­bi­na­tion of how with a still I can show just a frac­tion of a sec­ond, an ex­act mo­ment as some­one gets the bar­rel of the ses­sion, the bar­rel of the day, the bar­rel of sea­son or the bar­rel of their life. Then with a film­ing hat I can in­ter­view th­ese peo­ple and tell an even richer story to give those images more mean­ing. We are also us­ing new POV cam­era tech­nol­ogy with iON cam­eras that gives us an­gles and ac­cess deep in­side the wave that just didn't ex­ist back when I got started. Th­ese mo­ments are of­ten so spe­cial for the surfer in­volved it's frankly a real hon­our to be able to doc­u­ment them and be part of that ex­pe­ri­ence.

My cur­rent project is a tril­ogy of doc­u­men­tary style films that delve into what I con­sider the 'Holy Grail' for surfers – the hol­low heart of waves that is where the magic of surf­ing re­sides. It's what it's always been about for me and as I travel the world and talk to more and more surfers it seems to be the uni­fy­ing theme for us all. Whether you are a week­end war­rior who en­joys a hack at your lo­cal break or are a hard­ened big wave charger who chases mon­ster swells as a pro­fes­sion it usu­ally always comes back to seek­ing out time in the bar­rel for all of us. As Ken 'Skin­dog' Collins puts it, "That's the church, that's where we all want to be".

My films ex­plore this and it's been fas­ci­nat­ing talk­ing to surfers about their ex­pe­ri­ences in­side waves and ask­ing them to try and de­fine the of­ten slip­pery, in­tan­gi­ble qual­ity of that magic time and place they find deep in the tube. Just like try­ing to re­call dreams and find words to make them make sense to some­one else, it's hard to do but deeply per­sonal and part of what keeps surfers ea­ger to re­visit that mo­ment again and again.

The Bar­rel films are of course about doc­u­ment­ing great rides, mesmerising tub­ing waves and tak­ing surfers and non-surfers alike on a vis­ual surf­ing ad­ven­ture, but with­out get­ting too heavy I wanted to steer away from that wall­pa­per, or what I call 'surf porn', of wham, bam, wow and share a deeper story.

Surfers mostly just get on with what is of­ten a quite pri­vate busi­ness of surf­ing rather than putting their heads on cam­era and talk­ing up what they do; so it was a priv­i­lege to hear some of the in­sights into the 'why' of surf­ing. Just as surfers all have their dis­tinct styles and per­son­al­i­ties, they also have unique driv­ers for why they surf, why they love it and why they are com­pelled to seek the bar­rel again and again.

I've been re­ally for­tu­nate to in­clude some great surf­ing le­gends and per­sonal he­roes of mine in the films so far. We had a great time with Dave Ma­caulay in NW Aus­tralia with his kids; John and Paul Witzig were in­stru­men­tal in a num­ber of ways back in the early '70s and we touch on some of their nos­tal­gia in the film I'm work­ing on now. The sport of surf­ing is more than just about surfers and the his­to­ri­ans who have doc­u­mented it, so we caught up with shaper Jon Pyzel on cre­at­ing boards for Pipe­line and the hot new gen­er­a­tion of John John et al, Sean Or­donez about build­ing boards specif­i­cally for rid­ing Jaws and Mav­er­icks and Mitchell Rae's deeply spir­i­tu­ally crafted art pieces that al­low us all to ride in­side our holy grail – the tube.

We just couldn't make a film about surf­ing with­out it be­ing a surf trip so we are also fol­low­ing a bunch of kids, and some 'big' kids, from the Cen­tral Coast of NSW over 10,000km of Aus­tralian coast­line from the Goldie right round to NW Aus­tralia, and a short hop across the In­dian Ocean from Gnar­aloo to Indo.

I seem to spend more and more time film­ing surf­ing and less time do­ing it my­self right now but I guess I've found a way to make my ob­ses­sion for surf, for the ad­ven­ture and the quest a part of my life and my work. I've re­cently or­dered a hand­crafted 6'5" quad fin Outer Is­land gun from Mitchell Rae that has me jonesing for less cam­era time and more bar­rel time. I sin­cerely hope the film has the same ef­fect on au­di­ences who watch it; that it touches a nerve and fires them up to just drop ev­ery­thing and get into the wa­ter.

I'm con­tin­u­ally push­ing my­self to cap­ture th­ese elu­sive mo­ments, firstly for my own plea­sure and also to share them with the surfers them­selves but as a pro­fes­sional I get to now share it more widely through the movie, our web­site and ar­ti­cles like this one where our sto­ries reach au­di­ences around the world. Some peo­ple who see the shots will maybe never surf a wave in their life – but we can give them a brief win­dow into what it's like. I think that's a pretty cool job. It may not pay very well but I know I'm alive each day and as one of my men­tors Pete "Joli" Wil­son says, "we are mem­ory mil­lion­aires". I get to work with Mother Na­ture and she of­ten kicks my arse and leaves me hum­bled but she's an in­spir­ing lady to be around and she re­minds me con­stantly just how short, beau­ti­ful and pre­cious life is.

It's hard to pin down ex­actly why some of us choose this life, why some­thing as fleet­ing as be­ing in­side a wave over­rides so many other de­ci­sions but I like to think it has some­thing to do with be­ing present in that ex­act mo­ment, sur­ren­der­ing our­selves to a big­ger force and maybe just try­ing to be part of some­thing beau­ti­ful for no other rea­son than that.

RHYLLA MOR­GAN

Harro at his post. ||

RHYLLA MOR­GAN

Scenes from the mak­ing of Tony Har­ring­ton's Ion the Bar­rel, Vol' 2.

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