This interview was originally published in Volume XI, August 2022.
Despite his numerous visits to Europe over the years, Noz has only once blessed the pages of WT.
It could be something to do with this reoccurring theme where every time we cross paths surfing takes a back seat for a few days and we get roped into many a late night.
Premieres and celebrations over content creation. Priorities! However, with the recent release of his first photo book and a new movie project (see above), we thought it was a good enough excuse to find out what he’s been up to and catch up with the man still at the very forefront of freesurfing.
We gather you’ve moved to the south coast region of NSW. Where is home for you now?
We just moved down South to Milton a few months ago. With the COVID restrictions the last couple years you couldn’t go anywhere far without it being a massive hassle so I was just going down to the South coast and putting in a lot of time chasing waves. Last year I probably did ten trips as I wasn’t able to go anywhere outside NSW to surf. I lived in the northern part but was absolutely loving the spots down there and found the waves suited me. I mentioned moving there to my girlfriend a few times and managed to convince her. it’s good for our horses and we were up for a change. It’s a lot more settled with not much happening which stops me drinking a ton of beers. I know a good crew of people down here too which is nice. When we finally got down here it felt like we’d made the right decision. For my life at this point it’s perfect.
We were really sorry to hear about your house in the floodings.
Yeah two days before my house sale went through up North it got completely flooded. Fully smoked. I actually thought for a moment we weren’t going to be able to move down to Milton, it was that bad. We needed to sell the house there to get our new one down here so it wasn’t looking good. Luckily all my mates helped; we redid all the dry wall in the house and a whole bunch of other stuff. They all worked for free for two weeks straight it was insane. So many people came and helped out and without them I wouldn’t be down here now that’s for sure. I had to pretty much double move too. Once when the house got flooded then again once we got the new place. As bad as it all sounds I think we had it pretty mellow in comparison to some people though; The flooding got so bad around that zone.
What’s your new set up like?
I’m just out of town and about 15 minutes away from the beach. My new place is on a hill so it feels like it’s less likely to flood. They do have crazy fires down here so that’s pretty scary but if you want to live on rural property, I feel like you’re always prone to copping something. We’ve got a fair bit of land and there’s loads of space for the horses which is nice. We have three horses, a pony, four cats and a dog so we need some space. If I want to go and surf early I have to wake up doubly early so that I can feed the horses and still get to the beach early. I’m always up in the dark these days.
It seems like you’ve been laying low the last year on the media front. Has that been something you’ve been consciously doing?
I’ve been working flat out on a new movie and I wanted to avoid bringing attention to a bunch of the waves I’ve been surfing. It’s so hard when you’re filming not to flag up spots; I feel that when it’s been a couple years of filming and a video comes out you can’t even remember what day that was. That’s maybe one way to stop people working out where to go on what swell. I could have been blowing stuff out to smithereens on social media like everyone else does but I don’t want to do that. Otherwise people work out when it was, check the swell, screenshot the chart and that’s how heaps of spots have gotten blown out. I absolutely hate it when someone posts about scoring that day. Keep it to yourself.
It looks like you’ve been filming a lot for this new project… Can you tell us a little about it?
I’ve been filming for pretty much three years and decided with Mikey* to just do something once in our life that’s actually exactly what we want. Videos like RUBU got some good traction for sure, but It got to a point where Mikey & I were asking ourselves if we were just going to keep making 8-10 minute videos forever… we felt sometimes they went somewhat under the radar. It just sucks putting in loads of time and effort for something then just putting it out for the sake of putting it out. This time I decided I want to make something where there’s no compromise at all. I just do the surfing how I want and we just edit it exactly how we want.
*Mikey Mallalieu AKA Malmic is a filmmaker and has worked on the majority of Noa’s previous video projects.
It seems like a lot of people are doing solo video projects these days. Back in the day it was a lot more team trips and team vibes. Even videos like Cluster which was done in parts, the trips were always with the crew. Do you miss those days?
Definitely. It was epic to work on projects alongside others and getting hyped for them when they landed good shit for the movies. Travelling with people not just because you’re on the same brand but because they’ re your friends. That was a good time for surfing. It’s definitely a shame that there’s not the same infrastructure for the Kai & Joe G films anymore. It was so sick there for a second having big films come out with big film premieres. Now it’s just like, let’s get it up on youtube and hope for X amount of views. Hopefully that can come back. The individual profile movie thing I’m working on is kinda’ different though. I feel people normally just do one in their life and I it has to be the absolute best clips in the best conditions. That’s what it’s felt like anyway… It might be overload but you’ve got to do it once. I’m looking forward to being able to just put out stuff with crap waves again after this haha.
Any films or videos in the last few years which have really inspired you?
This young snowboard crew called Dustbox have released some epic videos over the last few years. They came up with a fully original concept with wild editing and the soundtrack is off it’s head. I think people like it so much because it’s personal and the dudes are just being themselves. Basically a Misfit crew of legends having the best time. Chicks ripping. People getting slammed so fucking hard. I showed Toby (Cregan) the other day and he was losing it too. If you haven’t seen it go give it a watch. The best ones in my opinion are Dream Castle & I Wanted Most . Full length 40 minute videos.
Whilst we’re on the topic of videos and knowing you’re an avid bodyboarder, can you tell us any favourites from over the years which you still watch?
Yeah there’s a couple. The Mitch vid is one of my favourites and that’s how I wanted to make my next video. Just cooking waves and great surfing. I definitely take inspiration from bodyboarding when I surf. I feel most avenues of inspiration are exhausted when it comes to surfing but the lines bodyboarders take and way they surf the wave; those guys just do it differently. Oh I also love the old No Friends and Hard Life videos. There’s so many good indy Aussie ones too, like Dennis and Tension.
Seems like you’ve been charging some of the heaviest waves we’ve seen you in for this new movie. Do you think bodyboarders have inspired you to go and charge crazier stuff?
Craig (Anderson) probably played the biggest role on that front but I think he got inspired by how big the bodyboarders go. Seeing him go that hard out of nowhere in his late twenties was super inspirational. I feel like most people are groms which are born into heavier stuff from a young age and they’ve charged their whole life. Seeing Craig go crazy was definitely something of an eye opening experience. I’m not trying to get really big stuff, just looking to get real heavy ones. I like seeing how steep a take off you can get away with or just see if you can even get into them.
“It’s been fun. it’s pushed me and I’ve definitely got smoked on some shit way above my skill set but I guess I’m getting better and it’s been fun to open up that avenue of surfing. I also feel like it’s a good time for surfing over here. Where surfers and bodyboarders are surfing together.”
Are there other parts of you surfing which you’ve been working on or want to improve?
I’ve been working a lot on just doing turns recently. I’ve been getting real stoked on watching Occy and trying to push it as hard as you can. All whilst trying to ride smooth. I didn’t get off on that before but I’ve been loving it. Also trying to do turns on waves that people haven’t done turns on before, or trying to work out if it’s even possible. When people say you can’t do a turn or an air on certain waves, I say you can do whatever the fuck you want… Doesn’t mean you’re going to land it but you can try.
What do you think of the current state of the free surfing scene globally now compared to how it was?
I think it’s insanely hard to make a living from it nowadays compared to before. Just free surfers getting the recognition they deserve these days… Take Shaun Manners as an example, he’s as good as it gets in my opinion and still had minimal recognition. I mean he’s had a bit but nowhere near what he deserves. He’s gotten the craziest wave at Gnaraloo and done one of the biggest airs if not the biggest ever. I’m hyped that Globe put him on as one of their main dudes now. I think when you’re already established, people like Creed (McTaggart) who’ve been doing it for ages, your position is already semi locked in and it’s easier. Someone who’s young on the scene will probably struggle to come through and do their own thing without doing the comps. It’s a tight rope with self promotion these days. You don’t want to sell your soul but you got to do, what you do to keep living. I’m super lucky with Volcom, that they back what I want to do and don’t make me do anything torched.
Where do you see the progression of surfing in the next 10 years?
I think the biggest progression I’m seeing isn’t with the guys but more with the girls. All the guys do the same shit that everyone already does for the most part. There’s some silent horses like Balaram who are pushing surfing really fucking hard behind the scenes. Also Russ Bierke is forever going huge. There’s definitely some progression to be had on what kind of waves you can paddle into. I think that’s something people are pushing really hard… the Tahitians are insane at that stuff. I feel like a bunch of the young girls are going crazy right now and changing things. Caity Simmers, Sierra Kerr and Erin Brooks are amazing. Caity came down to the south coast recently and just seeing her surf live had me tripping. It feels like there isn’t a lid on how good they’re going to get. You can already see they have power and they are taking it to the next level. I feel like on that air front no girls have pushed it that hard. There’s not much room to move in our area of surfing. We’ve already seen people do it the best. Occy, Andy, Dane & John John…
It’s almost like in Steph (Gilmore) could be the Curren of women’s surfing and the Dane’s and the John John’s haven’t come yet, but they’re on their way. If they are surfing that good now it’s only going to get better.
You recently released a photo book called UPDA with Phil Gallagher. Can you tell us how that came about?
I’ve always known of Phil as one of the best bodyboard photographers of all time but only met him properly a couple of years ago. We shot at this slab together and got some sick shots. He kind of got the best shots I’ve ever had so we then did another trip down on the south coast and started shooting around home. We had a lot of really good photos left over from what the mags were running, so talked about doing something physical with them. Phil ran some numbers of what it was going to cost to print a book and my sponsors Volcom, Globe and LSD got behind the idea and were super supportive which was cool!
Does working with someone who’s renown for shooting such heavy waves push you?
Phil definitely calls me into some waves where I’m like, ah fuck no! But you’ve got to go. He’s got that bodyboard mentality too, for example if I get sick waves in the morning, I could easily go and get on the beers as I’ve already got the goods. He on the other hand is down to grind all day and keep milking it.
How different is it working on a book compared to working on a film?
It got me pretty amped as there was a lot of cool stuff which I got close to landing. Normally I would get so bummed out if I’m filming and don’t make stuff, but when you’re just shooting photo’s you’re often just going for that one frame. If there’s good ramps you could come back from one session with 30 good photos. If you’re filming you’re never coming back with 30 clips. I think it also changed my outlook on not landing stuff. It helped me get over the pain of not making stuff.
Is there a specific photo from the book that stands out for you.
There’s one which almost looks like it’s in a studio. A slob on a grey day but it almost looks silver on paper. As soon as I saw that thing printed out I was like, yep that’s my favourite, where as on a screen it just didn’t pop so much. As soon as it hit print it looked crazy.
What’s the story behind the bodyboard leash on the cover shot of the book?
We were surfing this wave which is pretty far out and my leg rope snapped first wave. That zone is a straight up shark pit so there was no way I was surfing without a leggy. Phil had a bodyboard with an arm rope so I strapped that on. Every time I did an air and the board got away from me it would come zinging back at me so quick. A bunch of people havee adsk me if I used it on purpose.I definitely did not. It’s so dangerous… The only good thing I guess, was it made me try not to lose my board and bail on stuff as much.
What are your plans for the next couple months?
I’m off to the Ments on a boat with the RAGE crew in a couple weeks, then I’ll be coming home to wrap this movie up and getting ready to take it on the road!
We’ll be seeing you soon Noz.
Get your hands on a copy of Noa & Phil’s photobook ‘UPDA’ at www.noaupda.com.