UK big-wave surfer talks on new surf, sailing, and adventure film that has been racking up awards all over the world.
Savage Waters is a 90-minute film that has been scooping awards for best documentary, cinematography, soundtrack, and director at a host of European Film Festivals since it premiered this month. The film is directed by Mikey Corker and narrated by Charles Dance, best known for playing Tywin Lannister in Game of Thrones. It shows how a 19th-century treasure hunter’s journal inspired a journey to seek out and surf a mythical, never-ridden wave in some of the most remote and dangerous waters of the Atlantic Ocean.
Taking centre stage is the Devon farming, surfing and sailing family, the Knights. Parents Matt Knight and Suzanne Hobbs, and their four children, sign up for the adventure and are joined by family friend, Andrew “Cotty” Cotton. We spoke to Taz Knight, the UK big-wave surfer now based in Ireland, ahead of the film’s London premiere.
WL: Hey Taz, congratulations on Savage Waters. First question, is this a surf movie?
TK: No, well not in the traditional sense. Mikey Corker, the director, was worried that there wasn’t enough focus on surfing or surf footage in it. I mean, there are still some epic waves and locations in the film, but I like the fact that over the five-year process of making it, the story evolved much more from the idea we started with.
WL: What was the original idea?
TK: My Dad, Matt, had come across a 19th Century treasure hunter’s journal from a trip to the Salvage Islands in the middle of the Atlantic. There was one description of a wave that had his surfer’s antenna buzzing. It described a huge, green roller, very high and steep, that suddenly rose as if by magic from the deep. We decided to try and find that wave on my parent’s yacht, The Hecate, and get my sisters and Cotty involved. The plan was for Mikey to film our very own treasure hunt.
WL: And what changed?
TK: Well, we did do that mission, but over five years it became more of a love story about Mum and Dad, and the trials they have gone through, individually and as a couple. It also touches on the adventures we had growing up, plus all the obstacles Cotty has gone through.
WL: Growing up were you aware that your parents were a little more adventurous than most?
TK: It was pretty obvious early on that my parents were different. They were one of the few progressive farmers in the big traditional farming community in Devon where we lived. They didn’t allow hunts on their land and were always going to rallies and protests. Plus, we’d take time off school to go sailing and surfing and on mad adventures, and there were no other kids I knew doing it.
WL: Were there times when it was a little too radical?
TK: No, because Mum and Dad were so level-headed, it took the intensity out of what now looking back were quite intense situations. Even with surfing though, Dad would surf these big pointbreaks and reefs, and I would just tag along because I didn’t know any different. Again for us, it was normalised. However, the film tackles how Dad and Mum took their responsibilities very seriously because the risks were much higher and Dad had dealt with tragedies at sea in his past.
WL: They end up being quite the focus of the film.
TK: Yes, and that wasn’t originally the intention, but I’ve loved seeing the reaction to their relationship. Especially Mum, everyone seems to love my mum, Suzanne. It’s been great to see everyone appreciate her as much as we do.
WL: How was it seeing it for the first time?
TK: We all watched it in a private screening in a cinema in Bristol. Mum and Dad had seen some of the edits, but myself and my three sisters hadn’t seen the whole version. It was amazing to watch it together. There were plenty of laughs and plenty of tears.
WL: And what is your goal for the film now?
TK: I just want as many people to watch it as possible. I think it’s an amazing film. I’ve worked with the director, Mikey Corker, for years and this is his first feature film. I think he is an amazing artist and filmmaker, and so for his sake, I’d love for it to go as big as possible. This is a movie that is about adventure and family, love and loss, and how the ocean can provide endless sources of inspiration. Mikey has captured all those so well.
WL: And do you find the mythical wave?
TK: Mate, what type of spoiler would that be? You’ll have to go watch it!