New York born and bred Mikey DeTemple is a filmmaker, surfer, and husband. He directed his first surf film, Picaresque, at age 25. He followed with Sight/Sound in 2011. Travel figures largely into his life and work. He rides with great style—epic on the nose. I have seen him do marvelous things to a waist-high righthander at Ditch Plains. We caught up via iPhone—Mikey in Brooklyn snow, me in Malibu sun.
What have you been working on?
I’ve been working on this Finlandia/Huck piece, an ongoing project that dates back to July of last year. It’s one of the lengthiest projects I’ve worked on—from conceptualizing back in July to being in post-production now. I’ve never seen a project through from that stage to that stage that didn’t really involve surfing, so that’s been the most exciting thing that I’ve been doing. Working with the Church of London/Huck crew has been great.
Tell me about it.
It’s a mini documentary series about four different people whose lives revolve around water, and those people were picked by the creatives over at Huck, and they did a fantastic job of casting this. They’re all people that I really didn’t know—they’re equally intriguing to me as any of the top guys I’d pick to be in a surf film. It’s exciting to do something that doesn’t involve surfing. All of our people are so different. I relate to them in a big way. Being able to tell their stories is so rewarding.
How did you get into making films?
I was doing the world longboard tour. I won my first longboard contest when I was sixteen. I came from riding heavy single fin Donald Takayamas. If I wanted to keep doing surfing as a career my boards would keep getting lighter and start to emulate shortboards. My dad had once told me that the most important thing in surfing is style. And at that time everything in surfing seemed to be suffering—from my boards to the way I was surfing to just traveling without really experiencing anything. I did okay, one year I think I finished 9th. But I just wasn’t really loving it. It wasn’t really fulfilling. I was going to all these amazing places but I wasn’t really seeing anything. I’d just go and compete and leave. And I had this friend in Florida, Dustin Miller, and I contacted him and I said, ‘Hey, I want to make a surf film. I want to go to all these places that I’d go to throughout the year, and I’d love for you to come, and we’ll get three or four people, and shoot a story.’ And he basically said, ‘Awesome, but I don’t really know anything about longboarding.’ And I said, ‘That’s cool, ‘cause I don’t really know anything about filmmaking.’ And it just kind of took off from there. We made our first film together. We started in 2004 and we finished it in 2006, it was called Picaresque. We shot the majority of it on Super 16 film. It was an amazing experience and I got very addicted to that storytelling, and making something that either makes people feel good or makes people want to go surf—that whole thing is very addictive to me.
What is your favorite part of the filmmaking experience?
It’d be fun to say the traveling part, ‘cause traveling is such a great experience, and everything you get to see and do when you’re making something like that. But I think the most rewarding thing is when the piece you’ve poured your blood, sweat, and tears into actually gets put out into the world for other people to see.
When you’re conceptualizing a project, what is the first thing you think about—travel, people, story, how you’ll shoot it?
It really includes all of that, to tell a complete story it would include all of those things. Location isn’t really the most important thing; you can tell a visually beautiful story anywhere. The most important thing is telling a really good story and having it be equally as beautiful.
The Dazzling Blue is a series of short pieces about things we do in boardshorts. It is written by Jamie Brisick. A Fulbright scholar and a lifelong surfer, Brisick has written several books about surf culture, including Have Board Will Travel: The Definitive History of Surf, Skate, and Snowand Becoming Westerly. He lives in NYC and rides a 5'10" Channel Islands Pod.