Kai Neville

Photography by Kai Neville

April 27 2015

Can you tell us how you got into surf films and what motivated you to start making them?

I was a young frothing surfer who used to watch surf films all day and dreamed of surfing for a living. Turned out my friends were way way better surfers than me and it wasn’t until high school where I elected film as a subject that I found another love other than surfing. We would fool around with shitty cameras after school and cut up little films on the high school editing equipment (casablanca) ancient stuff. After those first few films I started to enjoy filming surfing more than surfing. If I missed a good session I was bummed I didn’t film it. I wanted to make the best surf film when I was younger. It’s pretty funny looking back on that now. I have no idea what the best surf film would entail.

What’s your favorite part about what you do for a living?

Traveling is amazing and just being around surfing. I would just surf everyday if I could, I never want to loose that feeling. The older I get the more psyched I am on surfing. Kinda taking a step back from partying and getting up early and going surfing, a full grom again. It’s a crazy circle I think.

Amazing waves break in obscure parts of the world; what are some bizarre situations you’ve gotten in?

Every trip is usually pretty bizarre…Japan was a pretty bizarre place to film in the best way, just the language barrier and culture. People were so friendly, one bar we went to Yadin Nicol asked for a round of vodka pineapples (weird choice now that I look back) and they had no pineapple juice so they told us to sit tight.. one of the bartenders actually left, went to the store and brought us pineapple juice to make cocktails. This was right after the tsunami and the locals were just so thrilled to see foreigners come back. Can you imagine bartenders anywhere else in the world do that? And we surfed a typhoon swell, best waves I have ever seen…such a wild trip.

What’s the most interesting moment you’ve ever captured?

One moment doesn’t stand out, apart from all the surfing, humanity in general has been one of the most interesting moments for me. How other people live. It’s alluring, I just look and wonder through my lens what do these people do in life. I can’t look away. I feel sane because I have the ocean, cities are the most wonderful and scary places in the world. I love being lost in a city but feel like I would go crazy if I couldn’t dive in the ocean. The contrasts of humanity and beliefs is something I could document forever.

What projects are you working on other than surf films?

I have been so busy in the surf industry it’s been hard to find the time to pursue things outside of surfing, I have shot some fashion related projects for a new eyewear company Epokhe which I’m a founder in. That has been really fun, I’m excited to venture into different areas.

What are your greatest successes and failures to date?

Successes I guess would be winning Surfer Poll “Film of the Year” twice. To get one of the biggest awards in surf films twice was pretty incredible. I failed in many things, can’t dwell on failure…you will bury yourself. Look at all the positive things happening in your world and learn from failure.

How did you get involved with EpokheDo you want to have an apparel company?

The idea started when we were filming for Modern Collective, we were pretty young at the time, we started a blog, making shirts, electro-infused and just ran with it. The project blossomed bigger than we anticipated and me and some of the guys involved were so psyched to start an apparel company. The surfers get healthy paychecks in surfing today and wouldn’t throw it away to start another apparel company, so we researched mediums and found a lack of eyewear that we would actually wear. Three years, a couple of factories, trademarks, legal shit and a whole lot of research and development later…we actually did it. It’s so humbling to see it grow and we only just launched. It started as an idea, a fun side project with friends, now we have distribution in Australia & the US and an online store that ships worldwide. It’s wild.

Is every day a party?

Everyday is work, but I love work so yeah it’s a party.

What’s the craziest thing you’ve eaten on the road?

Gator in Alabama.

What’s an average day like for you?

When I’m home I wake up around 7am, barista up some coffee at home. Look online to see what the surf is doing…talk myself out of it most days as I like to surf in the afternoon. Then it’s  a mix of emailing, blogging, social networking shit…then I talk to the guys at What Youth Magazine, another company I co-own and email some more. I shred in the afternoon, go out for dinner and come home to a bottle of wine.. sometimes that’s the only time I actually get some creative editing work done. On the road is a whole different story. I love it.

Where do you see your studio in five years, and do you have specific goals?

I’m actually realigning my goals now, the last few years have been a mad rush and I haven’t had time to look forward. I’m really pleased with what I have done in surfing and didn’t expect to be where I am today. Some new goals need to be written on the office chalkboard.

How do you take your coffee?

Latte please.

Is Fosters really Australian for Beer?

Nope…it’s shit.