All Photos: Kyle Sparks
In February of 2014 I received a random email from a company called Sweetgrass Productions. They asked me if I had various contacts for "pro surfers for an exciting new project". After a bit of back and forth, I gathered that this company was going to be making an advertisement for Phillips TV and would be traveling to the Wadi Wavepool with an incredible array of Hollywood style lighting, a custom built LED surfboard, and a highly specialized production crew famous for amazing ski and snow films, one of which was the award winning ski movie, Valhalla. Instead of giving them the emails, I leveraged my position and demanded a spot on the trip as some kind of consultant/behind the scenes host/PR/surfer wrangler guy — whatever I pitched, Sweetgrass accepted and I was on my way to the UAE with Chippa Wilson and Damien Hobgood for four days and nights of lights, camera, wave pool action!
Our crew consisted of eight people, 36 bags and cases, one LED surfboard weighing in at about 30 pounds — a massive amount of gear for a long trip to middle of the desert. 24 hours later, we arrived at the Wadi Wave Pool and the crew began the extensive setup, complete with four powerful 5K lights placed both above and underwater. The color of the lights cold be changed with brightly colored gels. Divers secured underwater spotlights while lighting operators controlled moveable 5K spotlights positioned on the edges of the pool. Under the direction of the Sweetgrass Production team, Chippa Wilson and Damien Hobgood took wave-for-wave turns in the pool with constantly changing light setups and filming angles being used to create an colorful light array that blasted pinks and neon blues in to the night sky while illuminating the crystal blue water — the effect was stunning.
The whole project was conceived for a European Phillips TV spot to showcase the brilliant light display of the brand's new TV or some shit, and it went above and beyond what anyone expected it would look like. The resulting advertisement and short film titled, Lightwaves, along with the photo collection is nothing short of stunning. And for Damien Hobgood, Chippa Wilson, and myself, it was a trip we'll never forget. —Chris Cote