We’re stoked to be hosting the UK Premiere of Over The Edge, a new big wave odyssey starring Matt Bromley and directed by award-winning filmmaker Andrew Kaineder at the Wavelength Surf Film Festival.
Several years in making, the film follows the South African charger as he chases swells to some of the heaviest big wave spots around the world in search of the ride of his life.
Here, we catch up with him and filmmaker AK for some behind-the-scenes insights on the challenges, elations and exhilarations that accompany such an ambitious project, from scoring a historic day at Nias to getting skunked in Tahiti and surfing back to back days at Jaws and Mavericks…
WL: Hey guys, so how long have you been working on the film?
MB: It’s been just over two years, on and off. After the first year of filming, we had a really cool build-up of trips and we just needed that one hero session to finish the film. And then Covid hit and we couldn’t travel for 10 months and that shifted everything back. I was losing hope and then a Jaws swell just popped up and I just went for it.
WL: The logistics of a strike mission pre-covid are hectic enough, tell me about the process of doing that trip in the middle of the pandemic…
MB: It was definitely one of the gnarliest things I’ve ever done in my life. AK was stuck in Australia, unable to leave, so I just filmed the whole journey in selfie mode on my iPhone. At first, I couldn’t figure out a way to get there because every website and travel agent had different information. Then I found this lady who had just got Koa Smith’s filmer from South Africa to Hawaii and she was like we can get you there, but the earliest I could arrive was the night before the swell. We’d just found out that my wife Jade was pregnant and the day the swell was hitting was the day of her first scan.
With all the Covid tests and layovers, it took two and half days to get there and I felt so anxious the whole way, leaving the comforts of home, leaving the family, not being there for the scan. I actually phoned my wife and just started crying in my motel room and I was like I don’t know if I can do this, I was just feeling broken, but I eventually got to Maui. I was staying in a tent in this guy’s yard and I woke up at about 2.30 in the morning, wide awake and super jetlagged. I could hear the swell starting to hit at Jaws, 10 kilometres away down the hill. Every half an hour I’d be woken up by these explosions and I’d just be getting more and more scared and nervous. Eventually, it got to 5 o’clock in the morning and I called Jade and she sent me a video of the scan, just this little pea-sized thing pulsing and I just started crying again right there in the tent. I thought the last thing I want to do is go and surf Jaws right now. But then I kind of got in my routine, had my little bit of quiet time, pray time, warm-up. I went down to Jaws and it was really huge. I’d been speaking to a couple of the Hawaiian boys about whether the swell was going to be good or not, and they’d been talking to me but they didn’t expect I’d actually come. I was the only person who’d travelled from abroad to get there…
WL: How did you feel once you got out there?
MB: Whenever I go surf Jaws I get so scared, but you know that movie In God’s Hands with Shane Dorian? That’s how it felt. Like I had to relinquish all control and just step out on faith. And even though I’d had hardly any sleep, I just felt really focussed as soon as I got out there – like I wanted a big wave. It turned out to be one of the best sessions I’ve ever had.
It’s interesting to see how much you’re roughing it before those big swells. How did you end up staying in a tent at Jaws and then a fishing boat at Mavericks?
AK: Oh, they’re all Matt’s South African mates! A friend of a friend always has a garden or a boat…
MB: (Laughing) When Andrew’s rolling with the big dogs he’s staying in hotels and stuff but with me, he’s staying in tents and on fishing boats. We just wanted to try and get as close to Mavericks as possible and this guy Ben Andrews, who’s one of the locals, just said dude you might as well just stay on my fishing boat, it’s right in the harbour. But – and AK will tell you – it was literally one of the worst places to sleep ever. We had to curl up in a semi-circle and it was all salty and damp and freezing.
AK: We stayed the night after we surfed because we’d flown overnight from Jaws to get there, which was a disaster! The flight’s like four and a half hours I think, but because of the time difference you leave at 9PM and arrive at like 6AM or something, so you can only sleep for four hours on the plane but you lose the whole night, it’s hectic. I don’t know why people do that more than once. Matt did it twice for the film, but I left it at once and will probably never do that again.
MB: It’s the last thing you want to do after surfing Jaws because the adrenaline kick is so heavy. You just want to relax for weeks after that, but when you’re chasing the same swell to Mavericks, you have to go straight to the airport. By the time you arrive, it’s already light in San Francisco and freezing cold and you go straight to Mavericks. It’s really challenging.
WL: How do you go about coming down from that adrenaline spike after surfing somewhere like Jaws?
MB: Jaws is so unique because every part of it is so intense, not only the wave but even just getting out there. You’re standing on the rocks and there’s a 6-8 foot shorey smashing up the rocks, rolling the boulders all the way up and down. You’ve got to get through that, you’ve got to surf Jaws and then you’ve got to come back in over those same rocks. Most of the time you kind of ride the back of a wave in, plant your feet on the rocks and start running. You’ve got this ten-foot board you can barely carry and you’re so tired already. You have to check your body afterwards to see if you’re cut because you feel numb with adrenaline. Then after an hour, you get a comedown and just feel so drained.
Often when I get home after a big trip I won’t surf for like a week, I’ll just wind down and focus on other things for a while, get back into family life.
WL: There were some trips where you got really skunked. Can you tell me about those…
AK: We really wanted to get Dungeons, and there was this perfect chart for a week straight so I decided to fly over. By the time I arrived the chart had gone shit. We surfed once at the Dunes and that was it!
MB: We spent a huge part of the budget chasing a swell to Tahiti. Everyone decided to go for that swell and it was incredibly crowded so I was already struggling to get waves. Then on the peak of the swell, this little low-pressure system came out of nowhere and the wind went onshore. That was really tough. Because of our budget, we were so precise with which trips we picked to go on. That swell was looking so good for so many days and we didn’t get a single clip for the film, so that was a really tough pill to swallow.
AK: Yeh, we were on the boat and it was just raining and cold when we should have been in boardies sipping Coronas. It was already tough because there were so many Hawaiians and there was all this commotion going on with the local surfers wanting every wave. There’s footage of Matt getting dropped in on!
MB: At Chopes, yeh!
AK: It’s pretty wild, those are the struggles on the other side of getting the good stuff. I was the bad luck charm on all the trips, thankfully Matt went on these other journeys and got some gold. That’s the way it goes.
MB: I think our project is specifically really tricky because we were trying to get like the gnarliest, heaviest, biggest, steepest waves and so the ocean really has to play ball. Then hopefully on top of that, I’m in the right mindset and then if I do get the wave of my life, then hopefully the filmer has the right angle to justify it. It’s a very high standard to try and aim for every trip.
WL: Do you have any interest in checking out new big wave spots?
MB: Not too much actually, I feel like when the waves do get that big, the crowds thin and when a crazy big wave comes, if you’re in the zone and in the right mindset it’s pretty much there for the taking.
I kind of learned my lesson in 2016 during the El Nino season at Jaws, that crazy Aaron Gold day, we heard about this other wave that was going to be a groundbreaking secret spot, huge 30-foot barrels, we decided to chase that wave instead and it was a disaster, we didn’t score at all, and Jaws happened to have the best day in paddle surfing history. I kind of learnt if you have a wave like Jaws or Teahupoo, those are the best waves in the world and you should stick to them.
WL: What’s are your personal highlights from the film?
AK: The thing that comes to mind is the first Jaws session when the contest was on, Matt’s last wave when he’s paddling in and it looks like it’s going to be a crazy one and then it starts to crumble and he braces himself and the lip hits him and he just goes flying in the air.
MB: Bro how can that be your highlight, (laughing) I almost died!
AK: That’s a good highlight. The other one is that wave at Nias, it’s probably one of the craziest waves ever paddled at Nias I’d think. Matt’s just in the perfect spot and everyone else is just out the back, not even looking at it and he’s head down, going. The drop is insane.
MB: For me, the highlight was definitely the last wave of the film on my final trip to Jaws, in the light of all of the nerves and rawness and everything building up to that point, feeling some of the most stressed I’ve ever felt and then everything clicking on the day. I remember that one wave so clearly. As I paddled in I thought I was too on top of it, but it just kind of let me in and it was just this big blue beautiful slope. I delayed my bottom turn and pulled up right into the hook of it. I was just holding on, riding the beast and as I got shot out the end of it, I just rode on flat water and flopped off my board. All that stress and vulnerability was gone and I just felt satisfied in that moment. I think that was the perfect end to the film because it summed up the whole story we wanted to tell; that everyone feels fear, but that’s not the time to cower down, but rather keep going and send it over the edge.
Get tickets to the UK Premiere of Over The Edge at the Wavelength Surf Film Festival here, and keep your eyes peeled for the online release of the film coming this autumn.