Through the Lense of Cold Water Surfing with Will Hamling

As the winter months are quickly approaching, we met up with Will Hamling, an upcoming surf filmmaker, to discuss how he got into surfing and videography, and what it is he feels defines today's coldwater surf movement.

How did you initially get into surfing?

My mum used to take me to the beach a lot as a kid down at Lizard Point. I also used to school quite close to the beach so we all used to go down after class had finished and surf, and it really just progressed from there.

What made you wanna start surf filmmaking?

I used to watch a s**t loads of surf films when I was younger, around 14 maybe. That really made me wanna just get in the water and film what I enjoyed doing really. So I got a camera, it was a little video camera, nothing special, and I just started filming my mate's surfing and just messing around. As I got more into it, I got better cameras and equipment and finally got out into the water and started doing surf photography.

So why filmmaking then?

I feel that filmmaking tells more of a story compared to just images. You can really convey your thoughts and ideas and how you want to present them through video. A lot of people, I think, show more creativity through filmmaking, because you can really put your own style into it. Within surf filmmaking, there are loads of diverse styles out there, and you can really distinguish between them and create your own.

How did you learn how to film and edit your work?

Basically, my dad used to work for Seven Television, before it became the BBC. He was an assistant editor, so he got a computer when I was younger that had a lot of editing programmes on it, and I just learned how to edit from that. Then as I got older I took courses and then went on to university to actually study filmmaking.

What do you think are the defining factors that are drawing surfers to surf cold water locations these days?

I think the whole stigma around coldwater surfing is that surfers really do want to experience the elements and want to be wild and push themselves in the water. It’s more than just paddling out wearing ya’ boardshorts, you’ve really got to be prepared for what you are going into by having the right kit, and I think brands like Finisterre especially, have pushed the idea that you’ve got to have the right kit, products, and attitude to really be able to deal with the surf and its elements that encompass the cold water conditions. It’s really something surfers are becoming drawn to because of the dangers and therefore the thrill.

What do you feel characterises coldwater surfing?

Well, It’s unpredictability! In places like Ireland and Scotland, you can’t just pull up to a reef break and expect there to be perfect waves, you have to travel to find them, and that’s something I really feel characterises what coldwater surfing is - the dedication to hunt for that wave or swell by traveling from beach to beach to find it.

As a filmmaker, who do you look to for inspiration?

I love to watch a lot of the old school surf films because I feel that’s where the style really originated from and they really depict the real old surf culture that you dream about being apart of as a kid. Bruce Brown and the really old movies like The Endless Summer are my real favorites. Nowadays there are so many different filmmakers like Finisterre have their own filmmakers who shoot all their films. I get a lot of inspiration from that, in ways of creativity and the style in which they present their work.

What equipment do you take on a surf trip?

First off, I take an SLR camera, along with a couple lenses to film on. I tend to use a 300mm - 400mm, along with a 50mm for portraits and stuff like that. A good tripod is always key to any filmmaker, in order to capture clean, steady shots. But most of all warm clothes are the most important thing I take, especially to the places I go where I’ll be stood on a beach for hours trying to get those perfect shots.

Who are some of your favorite surfers that you have worked with?

I’ve done a bit of filming with Alan Stokes and Ollie Adams up country for Dry Robes. I got involved with them through Instagram, trough writing to them and showing them my work, basically asking them if they needed anyone to film for them and Dry Robes approached me saying I could do some work for them.Then they paid for a trip for me to go and do a bit of filming and they actually ended up using some of the videos which were sweet.

To what extent do you feel social media has impacted the way in which you are able to distribute your work and become recognised in the surf scene?  

It really helps my work, as it’s a platform where you can freely put your work out there for literally anyone to see, with anyone who enjoys such work being able to easily find mine. Instagram and Vimeo are my main platforms that I use to present my work as they are definitely the most helpful to get my work out to the audiences I want to reach. I haven't got round to making my own website yet, but that’s something I’m planning on doing to extend the reach of my work for sure.

What challenges do you face when filming?

Well as a freelance filmmaker you find that sometimes you don’t always have the right equipment and for me, it’s all self-funded, so it can also be quite expensive. It’s also sometimes a struggle to produce a top quality video with the equipment you got so you always got to work with that.

What are some of the best locations you have been to film and why?

Definitely Scotland! Because it’s such a wild place and it’s so diverse. One minute you can be surfing at an island swell, next on a mountain.  It’s a place where you can surf a beach that is totally empty and just make it your own, surfing perfect waves and really just enjoying the swell to yourself. Ireland is another really cool place as there’s just so many different beaches and caves. The waves are really choppy and heavy, with real big swells coming in from the Atlantic.

As a surf filmmaker, you must have been able to also surf some great Coldwater locations. What has been your favorite?

Porthleven on the south coast of Cornwall. I definitely surf more on the south coast compared to the north, because it’s closer to where I live. But I really do love surfing in Cornwall, it's so versatile and unpredictable. As a coldwater surfer, that's exactly what you want!

How far do you see the cold water surf movement progressing?

Well, because the cold water locations haven't fully been explored, to the extent of the tropical places we all know of, like South Africa, Hawaii, and Tahiti, surfers are interested in finding some fresh and new. Something that really tests them and that’s where coldwater surfing comes in, and really why it will carry on growing.

Check out Will’s work at https://vimeo.com/willhamlingfilms & https://www.instagram.com/will_hamling/