Inside Psychic Migrations

Director Ryan Thomas discusses five peak moments from his latest film

Ryan Thomas’ new surf film, Psychic Migrations, may be named for the mind-melting talent it showcases, the great distances traversed by the cast in pursuit of surf, or for the mental stamina required to edit hundreds of hours of epic footage into a single film. At any rate, it’s been quite a journey for RT. With the film now wrapped, Thomas took a moment to share five of his favorite stills from the project, and the story behind each.

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Ozzie Wright and Ryan Burch. Frame grab by Nate Leal

“This shot of Ozzie [Wright] and [Ryan] Burch, sharing a set, was the last surf morning of our South America trip. They're both riding fishes that Burch shaped. We already scored pretty hard in the days prior with full bluebird weather. We woke up the last day to cold, gray skies, but they were just as beautiful in their own way. This was filmed by Nate Leal on a RED camera. It's one of those shots that couldn't have been planned any better than the way it unfolded by pure chance.”

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Balaram Stack. Frame grab by Ryan Thomas

“We were on the Caribbean side of Central America, and one day Balaram Stack sat on a rarely-seen slab all by himself for about four or five hours straight. It wasn't the biggest slab ever, but it was a full-on mental and physical test. There were some long waits. When it did come in, not every one of them was good. The drop was so square and he took some heavy licks getting a feel for the wave. Once he did get a feel, he'd knife the drop on some and pull in only for it to end up pinching on him. It took a lot of patience to get one that was going to have a clean exit, and even then the odds were against just making the drop. It was one of those times when you know something special is happening as you're filming it. This is a shot I filmed on super-16mm with a telephoto lens I bought ten or so years ago from legendary surf cinematographer Greg Weaver. It was the first shot I got in the can of Bal getting a clean exit at this wave. It was a pretty triumphant feeling, even for me, when he got spit out. I'm really impressed with Bal's tenacity.”

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Andrew Doheny. Frame grab by Scott Stinnett

“Andrew Doheny was absolutely ripping in the East Indies. It was so great to watch him take things apart on both his front and backhand. He connects the dots in his own way. I love that about him.”

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Mitch Coleborn. Frame grab by Tom Jennings

“This water shot of Mitch Coleborn, in Australia, is by Tom Jennings. Tom and the other principal water cameramen on the film, Daren Crawford and Talon Clemow, did incredible work. Mitch and Ozzie saw a sea lion get smoked by a Great White while checking the waves around the corner from this spot. Jenno's got some big balls and nerves of steel to swim this place.”

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Yago Dora. Frame grab by Scott Stinnett

“Yago Dora is a freak. Tom Carey was with us to take still photos on our West Indies trip with Yago and Nate Tyler. Before one of the sessions, Tom said, ‘Hey, Yago, how 'bout a straight air?’ This is Scott Stinnett's RED angle of what Yago did right after being asked. Thanks, Tom!”