One year ago, Albee Layer and friends headed to Portugal with little more than the seeds of an idea for a movie project. Twelve months and several trips around the globe later, Attractive Distractions is a wrap, and with some of the most progressive and versatile surfers in the world making up the cast, the anticipation is palpable. On the eve of the world premiere on Maui, we got Albee on the phone to discuss the finished flick.
So your premiere is coming up quick. How are you feeling about the finished product?
I'm stoked. We didn't set the highest standards for the movie in the beginning, so I think we actually overachieved in the end. To have it come out as good as it did feels awesome. Originally we went to all our sponsors and said we wanted to make a movie with Matt Meola and me, but no one really had funding for it. Everyone around us was saying that we should keep making webisodes. But in the end, the filmer/editor Dan Norkunas and I just said, "Fuck it, we're doing this." We just decided we were going to do it on our own, with or without support. The easy part was getting the crew together, because my really good friends that I grew up with happen to be really good at surfing.
What part of the movie stands out the most in your mind?
One of my favorite parts was actually a trip that I didn't even go on. I had wanted Matt to get a crew together and do a trip that was kind of his brainchild, because I thought that would be really cool and I didn't want the movie to feel like an Albee Layer bio or anything like that. He went to Indo with Chippa Wilson and Clay Marzo, and the waves that they got were pretty ideal for their approach. They all do similar maneuvers but with really different styles, and you can tell in the footage that they were really pushing each other.
You're unique in the way that you're at the forefront of both big-wave and aerial surfing. Does the movie paint a pretty complete picture of that?
There are quite a few slabs and really gnarly waves, but as far as big waves go, there's just one Jaws segment. But Kai Barger and I also got a few big paddle-in waves during a swell in West Oz, and I went with Ryan Hipwood to some crazy slabs, so I think that it's pretty balanced with the progressive stuff.
Who do you think pushes you the most in your crew?
I don't necessarily feel that about any one person more than another. But I set really high goals for myself, so I always want to do better than John John. The only problem is that's pretty much undoable. But I still think it's a pretty good goal to have [laughs.] A lot of that has to do with the fact that when I surf with Matt or Kai, those guys are goofyfoots, so they have such a different approach to the waves we're surfing. John is one of the few regular-footers I surf with, and he happens to be one of the best in the world, so he's a good guy to be competitive with. Even though it's usually an epic fail on my part.
Where did you score the best waves?
Hippo, Dan, and I did a last minute strike mission to some unnamed desert in Australia for a few days and definitely got the best waves there.
When you say best waves, what's the criteria? Are we talking best for airs or best for barrels?
To me, it's always barrels. Even though air sessions are super fun, there's no way I'd ever claim that we got great waves surfing in sideshore air-wind. So on that trip, we probably got some of the best barrels in the movie.
Speaking of movies, I heard that you did some stunts for Point Break 2. What was that like?
It's kind of a weird concept to me when Hollywood meets surfing. I'm not a big fan most of the time. But the whole crew for the Point Break thing was really cool, and we basically ended up getting paid to get barreled at Teahupoo, so we really can't complain [laughs]. The waves were actually so good the whole time we were there. It was insane.
I saw that you and Billy Kemper had a few party waves out there.
Part of the stunt was to have two surfers pulling into a barrel together. I was the guy in the back, and think I was doubling for Johnny Utah. The funny thing was that I was supposed to fall in that scene, but they couldn't tell me to fall. Maybe it's a liability thing, but they kept hinting at it, like "So you're going to be the surfer in the back, and in the script he doesn't make it…" It was definitely implied that I was supposed to eat shit. It was actually pretty fun. It made it really challenging.
So in 10 years, which do you think will stand the test of time better? Attractive Distractions or Point Break 2?
I'm sure it will be easier to find a copy of Point Break 2 [laughs]. But I don't know, I'm stoked with how our project came out. I hope people watch it for years to come, because that's kind of the overall goal with making a movie rather than a bunch of web edits that are forgotten in a week. We really wanted to make something that lasts, that kids can watch over and over and get psyched to surf.