In anticipation of the release of the new Point Break film, we had a chance to catch up with big-wave pioneer and all around waterman, Laird Hamilton, who played a supervising role in the film’s photography. Laird’s no stranger to Hollywood surf productions, so we were interested to hear his thoughts on how the new Point Break stacks up to his previous experiences taking surfing to the big screen. He might not have a choreographed dance scene like he did in North Shore, but between Laurie Towner’s trip to the hospital and shooting maxing Jaws, sounds like there’s plenty to get excited about.
On how Jaws and Teahupoo were the waves selected to film:
The one thing about filming waves that’s not true with mountains or snow sports is that the mountain is always there. It’s in the same place. Waves are elusive. You can go to the biggest surf spot in the world, and it can be as flat as a rock. With Teahupoo and Jaws, they have a certain reliability so they can produce giant waves on a regular basis. The scarcity of that, you couldn’t make a movie around that. Maybe a documentary with a one-year waiting period.
The cast and crew had pretty good flexibility, though. You look at the highest chances of when they’re going to have big surf, and there has been a 20-foot swell in Hawaii in January every year for the last thirty years, so you know it should work. You go to Teahupoo in August, and you know there’s a good chance you’re going to get big waves.
It would have been nice for my own selfish ambition to go find an 80- or 100-foot wave and ride it. That would have been the ultimate scenario, but the reality of making a film in a reasonable time frame made something like that impossible.
On injuries and water safety during the filming at giant Teahupoo:
We had paramedics and boat doctors and a water team with choppers. It’s the safest you could have done it, but one Aussie guy [Laurie Towner] still ripped his face on the reef.
On the surfers involved:
It’s a short list of qualified individuals who can also conduct themselves in a professional way that can work on a set. And that list gets smaller and smaller. You’ve got Mark Healey and the Tahitian guys and Bruce, Dylan Longbottom, Greg Long may have been part of the team of Jaws. They had a whole different group at Jaws. They hired the Walsh brothers, and they had Makua in there. They had everybody. And those guys had fun doing it.
On bringing the big wave surfing community together:
That made people definitely want to participate. It makes people excited when the production team’s intentions are to make you and the thing you do and love look as great as it possibly can. Initially, you’re wondering, “Is it going to be Gidget with a water bucket behind the head?” And I’m like, “I already had to wear a speedo in North Shore, buddy. I’m good.” That’s not the case here.
On the cinematography:
They had a lot of angles. They shot 90 angles: back, front, drones; they had everything covered. It’s a feature film. They’re not fooling around. Everybody’s wearing GoPros. There are guys in the water. Guys on skis. Guys on long lens. Guys on jet skis with big mounts. The flight suit part has 106 shots they needed to get. At a certain point, the volume of images, that’s how you make things look how they appear in reality when you’re not using green screens so it should look pretty amazing.
Point Break opens in theaters on December 25th.