Storm Surfers 3D delivers big wave-riding experience for moviegoers! 

Storm Surfers

This week’s MovieMaker Editor’s Weekend Pick is the Australian big wave surfing documentary, Storm Surfers 3D, directed by Justin McMillan and Christopher Nelius. While a lot of you might be rolling your eyes about another 3D movie, this epic uses the technology as far more than a marketing contrivance or a way to raise ticket prices. Storm Surfers is the kind of documentary for which 3D technology was made. The character-driven story follows two lifelong friends — Aussie tow-surfing legend Ross Clarke-Jones and two-time world champion Tom Carroll — as they hunt down and ride the gnarliest and most dangerous waves in Australia with the help of surf forecaster Ben Matson.

The documentary culminates as the middle-aged surfers risk it all to ride a wave that has never been ridden — 75 km from land. The wave serves as Ross and Tom’s Holy Grail, and the 3D cameras employed by the Australian moviemakers capture the storm swell’s frightening power and beauty in unforgettable detail.

But Storm Surfers 3D isn’t only for surf enthusiasts and adventure-seekers. The movie transports audiences to a surreal world that few ever experience, sharing both the dream of dropping into a towering wave and the nightmare of being swallowed up by some of the ocean’s most powerful surf. It is this breath-taking cinematography that gives the film its wider appeal.

Storm Surfers is a compelling documentary that you must see to believe. The 3D cameras highlight the beauty of Australia and underscore the incredible athleticism of big wave surfers. The experience feels so real that when the lights come back on you will be looking for a shower to rinse off the salt water.

Below directors Justin McMillan and Christopher Nelius share 10 tips to directing a 3D big wave documentary!


1. Shooting in this arena is like no other. There are no ‘resets’ no ‘take two’s’ and no one to help you control any of the elements your dealing with. Stringent preparation is your only ally and some times even that isn’t enough. Be prepared to be pushed to new limits that you previously thought were unachievable. Two steps forward, one step back will become the accepted daily standard and you shouldn’t take it personally.

2. Hand pick your cast and crew and prepare them for the worst. The cast needs to be of highest caliber—surfers who run toward a storm and live for riding the giant waves they produce. The film crew needs to be prepared to sit in the rain, sleet and snow with all cylinders firing. The wave of the day or a near death experience could present itself at any moment and you don’t want to be the one responsible for missing it because you didn’t have your head in the game.

3. Most experienced 3D technicians usually aren’t experienced in the ocean. You need to train your crew for the worst environments possible and ensure you’re traveling with back-up everything. If something breaks 80 kilometers off shore you need to be able to fix it. You are your own tech support and you need to be prepared for the worst. Sea sickness is your worst enemy and can ruin an entire shoot day. Be sure to have as many different types of sea sickness tablets on hand and use every old captain’s remedy you can to keep your crew on deck.

4. Make sure you have a decent life insurance policy. It’s important you don’t lie on your policy about what you do for a living—that could come back to bite your family on the ass.

5. Make sure you have nothing in your house that is embarrassing or detrimental to your character. If you die at sea you don’t want your mother or wife going through your stuff and finding a porn collection in the back of an old draw. You want them to remember you as a brave, charismatic filmmaker who died doing what he loved…

6. Take any weather or swell forecast with a grain of salt, always be prepared for the opposite and adopt a zen-like attitude… – the waves could always be better, and could always be worse. If the forecaster says it won’t be raining, take wet-weather gear.

7. When shooting in 3D, make the call time three hours earlier than you would in 2D.

8. You will need a data wrangler. Twice the cameras, twice the data.

9. Ironically, when shooting in the ocean, water is your enemy. Do everything you can to keep water off the lens because in 3D it ruins the shot 99 percent of the time. This requires robot-like determination.

10. Make sure you get into the edit suite and watch your rushes as much as possible during shooting. When you see how awesome it looks it will give you the motivational push you’ll need to keep at it out in the ocean.

Released by Yekra, Storm Surfers 3D opens on July 19th on the West Coast. Don’t forget to bring your beach towel!