Beyond the Pines

Canadian filmmaker Ben Gulliver, the man responsible for films like “Seawolf” and “The Fortune Wild,” recently went on an exploratory trip to an island in northern Canada, along with photographer Mark McInnis and surfers Josh Mulcoy, Noah Wegrich, Noah Cohen and Peter Devries.

The area they visited is a challenging surf mission thanks to unreliable swell forecasts, massive tide swings and heavy winds. Not to mention it’s as freezing cold as you’d expect an island near Alaska to be.

Despite the inherent obstacles, the crew found fun surf in a truly striking environment, and Gulliver put together a 15-minute film called “Northern Touch.” The film paints a detailed picture of the trip and the location, making us feel as though we are right there with the group, searching for surf on the rugged coastline of northern Canada.

Here we catch up with Ben about his edit (which you can watch by clicking here), and take a scroll through McInnis’ photography from the trip.

All Photos Mark McInnis

How did this project come to fruition in the first place?

In the beginning it was for the Red Bull “Chasing the Shot” series on Mark [McInnis], but a couple of the guys on the trip were sponsored by Monster, so they ended up not being able to use it. Originally they [Red Bull] said that wasn’t a problem, but the day the edit was due they came back to me and said they couldn’t use it.

I used some of the A-clips for the “Seawolf” movie, but I was still sitting on a lot of footage. The trip was really behind-the-scenes based since we were focusing on Mark and the “Chasing the Shot” concept, so I ended up with a lot of interviews and cool candid moments rather than just surf porn.

How did you put the crew together?

I’ve done a bunch of trips with Waggy [Noah Wegrich], because he’s always down to do cold trips. He’s been coming up to Canada for the past five years. And then [Josh] Mulcoy actually lives up here part of the time, and Pete [Devries] and Noah Cohen are from here.

Mulcoy and Waggy are both from Santa Cruz, and there’s this huge generation gap between them, but they definitely connect and appreciate surfing in a place where the climate isn’t friendly. When it came down to it, we were just trying to find guys that are down to go way up north. This trip was up near Alaska, and it’s a really fickle area. So it’s hard to convince guys to go up there.

Who had the intel on that area? Had you been before?

It’s an amazing place. It’s got this huge beach, like 20 miles long, and it’s kind of like France. But it’s hard to get swell—it all comes from the Aleutians and Alaska. You get these big north swells and they usually come with a lot of wind. So it’s definitely hard to score.

It’s an amazing place. It’s got this huge beach, like 20 miles long, and it’s kind of like France. But it’s hard to get swell—it all comes from the Aleutians and Alaska. You get these big north swells and they usually come with a lot of wind. So it’s definitely hard to score.

It’s a lot different from Tofino and the west coast of Canada then?

Yeah, it is. We have a lot of big flat beaches in Tofino, but the banks aren’t great. But in that zone, because the beaches face straight north and don’t get hammered with swell, the sand stays good all year round. It’s a different vibe up there on that island. A different landscape. And it’s just so far away—you’re pretty much in Alaska. It’s off the beaten path, for sure.

Did you get what you were hoping for? Or did it leave a lot to be desired?

It’s one of those places where when it gets really good, it could be like France—heavy barrels that are like 8-foot. But to get them you have to go to this place on a big spit, and you can only drive out there at low tide. So, unless you’re camping out there waiting, or driving out at low tide and coming back at low tide, which only gives you a short window, it’s a tough place to score. I’m sure while we were there it was pumping at moments but we just couldn’t be there to see it.

With how fickle that area is, the fact we got any waves is really good. In the clip you can get a sense for that, you can see we’re just running around and trying to get any waves we could, because it can easily be flat. And since it’s not a backdrop heavy place, it’s hard to get stuff that feels super unique. You’re kind of just pointed out to sea a lot of the time, so it’s difficult for a photographer to really capture the atmosphere. But it was really fun trip with an awesome crew, and I think we’d all like to get back up there eventually.