Tom Jennings is a SURFING favorite. For the past few years he’s been our go-to guy for water cinematography on all of our major projects. From The Factory, to Jack Freestone’s Low Profile, Tom has traveled extensively with us. We recently inducted him into The SURFING Union, and he just dropped a new website along with a mesmerizing 10-minute film reel showcasing his work in Indonesia, West Oz and beyond, which you should already be watching above. We gave Tom a ring to hear about what he’s been up to recently, and what we can expect to see from him in 2017.
You’ve had a nonstop two years. How many edits/movie projects have you worked on in the last 24 months?
TOM: I spent so much of last year traveling all over the place. We wrapped up shooting for Kai Neville’s Cluster, and I also did trips for Rip Curl’s The Search, Volcom’s Psychic Migration’s and Creeds web series, Real Axe. This year has been different — it’s been more of a year on the road in Australia rather than a year on a plane.
With the odd exception I’ve spent most my time at home. I got involved with the SURFING Factory trip over here, which was such a blast, and I’ve been working with Jay Davies on an upcoming project, which has given me the chance to really sit back and take in everything winter has to offer in the west.
We had four insane swells back in autumn and that was so thrilling to be a part of. On one, I think there were close to 18 skis out in the middle of the ocean with the biggest lips you’ve ever seen at this open ocean slab. Then, a few days later, we had the best swell of the year hit Gnarloo, and then North Point lit up a few days after that. I’ve never driven so much chasing crazy surf in my life.
You’re known for swimming in big waves/heavy locations. What’s your scariest moment while swimming?
I had really wanted to try swimming out at The Right, but I always said to myself that it wouldn’t be worth doing unless I had a RED, and since I bought one over summer I had no excuse not to jump in this year.
There can be incredibly long waits in between waves out there, and you’re just sitting around bobbing up and down trying to read your position off the skis sitting in the lineup. When they all start moving outside and toward the channel faster than you can, it’s concerning. At one point this lump popped up from the west and Russ Ord and I were not in the best spot. It was a 12-footer, and it punished us both for being so unobservant. I bear hugged the RED underwater and held on for life, and somehow my body and camera came up unscathed. While it was scary, we both got super lucky. To see the ocean from that perspective is just so awe inspiring and mind-altering. My view of the ocean has forever changed after that day.
What are you planning for 2017?
My plan is largely the same. Hopefully a few solid projects pop up but there is never a shortage of epic times and crazy waves to be had on the road over here in the west. I’ll be hunting them for sure.
What’s your ultimate goal as a cinematographer?
To bring the highest level of surf imagery to life. I grew up watching films like Montaj and the various Rip Curl films (I also love the Tension bodyboard films, but that’s another story). I’ve always been inspired by the work of Jon Frank and the two Rick’s (Jackovich and Rifici), and also Chris Bryan, so to be able to have creative freedom to shoot amazing imagery and to see it appreciated like theirs — that would be amazing.