There’s a month of waves and then there’s A Month of Waves. And the “A Month of Waves” that just belted Western Australia could not have come at a better time for cinematographer Darren McCagh and photographer Russell Ord.
The duo set off an ambitious and slightly uncharted mission back in 2013 when they sought crowdfunding for a documentary on Ord and his quest to nail his interpretation of the perfect surf shot.
But conflicting work schedules, mismatched availability, and family commitments have added unexpected weight to the documentary’s progress and, it’s fair to say, at least for McCagh, the self-imposed pressure is starting to build.
“To be honest, although we are continually working on the project, the whole process is going a bit slower than expected,” McCagh says of the documentary, titled “One Shot.”
“We had every intention of finishing at the end of last year, but unfortunately it just hasn’t happened that way. We have come a long way, we have a lot of content, but there is still a fair chunk to do. We’re aiming to have it done by March, but we’ll see how we go.”
The pair reached their target of $16,000 with donations from 121 supporters by offering a sliding scale of rewards for donors, ranging from a thank you in the film’s credits to an all-expenses-paid trip to The Right – the brutal offshore wave that partly serves as the documentary’s centerpiece.
“The funds we got from that (crowd funding) will be used for the post-production part of the documentary, so everything else – the travel, equipment, accommodation and fuel – is out of our pocket,” says McCagh.
“That’s meant we need to keep the money flowing through from our external film and photography work. That alone has taken a lot of our time, but we just can’t rush the project for the sake of getting it out there. We only get one crack at this, and we want to make it the best we can.”
To date, the project has seen the pair travel north, south, east and west, as well as overseas, chasing swells, interviews and footage of Ord and the distinctly “underground” characters he often shoots in a quest to get that “One Shot.”
“There have been some incredible moments, but the stand-outs haven’t necessarily been the surf or heavy waves,” says McCagh.
“It (the documentary) is not a surf documentary. It’s a character-driven insight into someone (Ord) who wants to wake up every day and do exactly what he feels he should be doing, and I think the end result will inspire others to do what they love and push themselves to chase whatever they’re passionate about.”
The project came to life after McCagh was privy to a fairly typical rant from the pragmatic Ord at the state of the surf industry, but more directly, his own body of work.
“He outlined the things he wanted to do with his photography and I figured it would make a decent story so we decided to have a go at telling it.”
And “the things he wanted to do” are already bearing fruit for Ord with a spike in exposure and a sharper focus on his own niche, waves of consequence well off the beaten track.
“It’s certainly been a learning curve,” says Ord of the experience.
“We’ve had our share of stars aligning and we’ve had just as many set backs that, to some extent, can’t be controlled. When your main subject depends on the whims of the ocean, the right wind, swell and even tide…it becomes a waiting game just to get a decent day’s shoot.”
It’s also given Ord a chance to revisit the emotional experience that was the rescue and resuscitation of Jacob Trette at Mavericks in 2011.
“We had the opportunity to stay with Jacob and his family for a week,” says McCagh.
“I interviewed his parents and it was a pretty poignant moment. For Ord, who used to be a firefighter and has dealt with death and terrifying situations, it was something I suppose he didn’t really see as out of the ordinary. But for Jacob and his family…it meant everything.”
But, when the first bombing swell arrived on August 1 to signal “A Month of Waves,” the duo once again found themselves on the frontline at The Right, witnesses to Mark Matthews and Taj Burrow’s well-publicized double act at the once-secret location.
“That was pretty awesome to see, and we definitely got some great footage and solid interviews,” says McCagh.
“It’s been a solid month of waves though and we just had another trip. This time we went a little more off the beaten track and scored big time. Incredible light, mesmerizing waves, lots of drama and some pretty big risks.”
But have the risks, travel, waves and stresses helped Ord garner a little piece of mind and tick that one big goal – the One Shot?
“In my mind, I have achieved the goal I set out to snare from day one,” says Ord.
“But, in all honesty, the goal posts have also changed and, in a way, I just can’t be satisfied with that. I really want to produce something that blows my mind. Is that achievable? I’m not sure, but I really want to push it as far as I can.”