Electric Wave

Three world-class surfers dance to the choreography of a music video director on an artificial wave at night. The result? Surfing action like you’ve never seen before.

03/13/2020 Text: Cameron Higgins
Photo: Todd Glaser Reading Time: 4 min

Three surfers in action.

After years of preparation, the film project Electric Wave was finally coming to life. Choreographed and shot at midnight over a hundred miles from the ocean, this futuristic film feels like something sent back in time from a space-age future. Rather than dwelling upon the raw power of the athletes and waves, Electric Wave paddles into the sport’s deeper waters. It sees surfing for what it is: art in motion, forged in a collaboration between humans and liquid.

 

Cutting-edge technology to create the perfect wave

Made possible by the next-generation technology at Surf Ranch, Electric Wave pushes the boundaries of the sport’s aesthetic possibilities. Hundreds of yards beyond the rolling cameras, barely visible in the shadows, three prone silhouettes paddled furiously into the furling slope of water. The figures stood on their boards, carved gracefully down the line, and finally emerged out of the darkness and into the light. Stephanie Gilmore, Coco Ho, and Leah Dawson — three of the surfing world’s leading figures — rode in harmonious tandem upon an utterly perfect wave.

Surfing has long been regarded as a solitary endeavour. Electric Wave turns that perception on its head. The film reimagines the sport as a collective pursuit. As world-renowned free surfer and activist, Leah Dawson, said on the night of the shoot, “this experience has been everything that I’ve dreamt of in surfing: to see women enjoying waves together and utilizing their surf knowledge, but also letting that go and allowing simplicity to sing. It’s been a joyous experience to share this with two of my favorite surfers in the world.”

Stephanie Gilmore, Coco Ho and Leah Dawson with their surfboards.
Known for her style on the wave, Steph is a seven-time World Surf League champion. Coco, a fellow surfing icon, is the definition of a wunderkind: At the age of 17, Coco became the youngest woman ever to qualify for the World Surf League. Leah is one of the sport’s top free surfers and the co-founder of Changing Tides Foundation, an organization that promotes female surf culture and champions access to clean water. None of these surfers had cut their teeth on a project this experimental. They wanted to challenge themselves. The women wanted to create something extraordinary–though their lives have been anything but ordinary.
Surfing has the same essence as dancing, it’s that ecstatic part of you coming alive.

Leah Dawson

Artistic motive of dancing with the water.

Magical choreography to a soundtrack of absolute purity

Simplicity's, song provided the music for a dance like no other. In the lights’ electric glow, the trio moved down the wave in an aquatic tango. They slashed, they carved, they weaved and cornered as a single unit. Dubbed “the unison” by Coco Ho, this state of pure synchronicity was no easy attainment.

As Steph explained, the idea was that the three would “do a follow the leader type thing. Whoever is the closest to the fence or widest on the wave will lead the way. Whoever is next to her will follow her, whoever is in the back will follow the other two. If the second person does crossovers, the third person can open up and do some free-flowing cruising.” She then added, “getting us on the wave and doing the same motion at once will be easy, but there will probably be some crashing.” But a few stray wipeouts could do nothing to dampen the night’s magic.

“This project has been a bit of a magical mystery tour. No one has ever lit up this wave before. It’s an ambitious idea that the agency CONVICTS brought to me, so to see that first wave roll in under the light, with three amazing women surfers on it, it was incredible,” said Electric Wave’s director, Daniel Askill.

The director: Daniel Askill

Known for his rawly poetic music videos, Askill is one of Australia’s most highly lauded arthouse filmmakers. He directed the music video for Lady Gaga’s Stupid Love, which was filmed entirely on a smartphone, and Sia’s haunting, award-winning music video with Shia LeBeouf and Maddie, amongst a host of other avant-garde film projects. Prior to Electric Wave, however, Askill had never worked in the world of surf cinema. The predictability of Surf Ranch’s wave allowed him to choreograph the surfers’ movement in a way that would be utterly impossible in the ocean.

The body does look so naturally cool surfing. Nobody’s ever focused on just the body on a wave because they’re trying to rip.

Coco Ho

View of the pool at Kelly Slater's Surf Ranch.

State of the art: Kelly Slater's Surf Ranch

Situated over a hundred miles from the Pacific in Lemoore, California, Surf Ranch is the stuff of utopian dreams. The wave is a shreddable oasis in the middle of the desert and home to the world’s most advanced artificial break. The brainchild of world-renowned surfer, Kelly Slater, the basin clocks in at 2,200 feet long and 275 feet wide, contains 15 million gallons of UV and chlorine-treated water, and uses a 100-ton hydrofoil dubbed “The Vehicle” to sculpt waves of varying size. Driven by an electric-powered motor, The Vehicle runs at a top speed of approximately 20 miles per hour on 150 truck tires. Electric Wave’s futuristic quality and focus on sustainability made it the perfect celebration of Audi’s new fully electric e-tron. From 2020 on Audi will be the official automotive partner of Surf Ranch.

Making-of: Electric Wave

E-Mobility 03/13/2020

Making-of: Electric Wave

Three surfing legends and a photographer travel by Audi e-tron to the set: Kelly Slater’s Surf Ranch in California, over a hundred miles from the Pacific.

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