STAB has always been known for its concept shoots. Think acid drops from helicopters to wave pools and towing death slabs with a twist – there is always something unique and innovative behind the idea, and the results are generally jaw-dropping. The Dock – the latest iteration is a collaboration between STAB and Volcom and involved a floating dock anchored to a boat off the coast of Bali… and it’s results were no different – a visual feast that spread like wildfire, like 1 million views in 6 hours wildfire…
The Business of Surf caught up with STAB’s Sam MacIntosh to find out a little more about what went down behind the scenes.
Q. Congrats on the latest STAB shoot! Did you get your indemnity forms signed in time!?
It’s the most successful shoot we’ve done. In the currency of playcounts, at least. We’ve always been a little cavalier in these shoots and have never had insurance.
I rationalise it as these shoots still being safer than surfing the Superbank at three feet.
Q. Where was it shot?
On Bali’s east coast late in May. It had been such a good season for swell up there that we had to wait for swells to drop to bring to life.
Q. It looked incredibly fun… but I’d imagine there were a few hairy moments?
The sketchiest part was the boat out the back that was connected to it. If a wave hit it square on, the surface area would be minimal and the boat wouldn’t be impacted. But, if a wave hit the dock side on, the drag backwards would nearly pull the boat under. We had a rope that was stronger than steel – with the capacity to lift a super yacht – so the boat was going to sink before the rope broke.
Actually, the sketchiest part was what I promised Volcom. To get the shoot happening I promised their entire annual contract with Stab would be refunded if the shoot didn’t reach 1million views in the first week. We got there in the first six hours it was live, though.
Q. Noa said something about ‘that thing being able to kill you’ if it connected!
It was heavy and made from really hard plastic. That’s what made it dangerous. But these guys dodge surfers in big waves all over the world. They’re street smart in the water. And compared, say, to dodging a couple standup paddleboarders, these guys would be fine with a dock that doesn’t have a mind of its own. The dings and holes in the boards were serious though. And we put a good sized hole in the side of a ski.
Q. What was the most challenging part of the shoot?
Dealing with the ocean, weather and these shoots is hard. Really. F*****n. Hard. There’s no real way to do a dress rehearsal so you’re improvising as you go. And, the results are always different to what you’re planning, often for the better. You just have to be malleable and open to a new evolution of the idea. Ideas are everywhere and execution is always the most difficult thing.
To succeed on these shoots you can’t take no for an answer because you get no a lot. At every corner on almost every Stab concept shoot, there’s someone there telling you it’s not possible.
Q. Was there much red tape involved in setting it up?
Basic logistics, dealing with harbour masters and shipping agents. These blocks were made in Canada so we needed to be organised to get them there. It’s always the boring stuff behind the scenes that makes these things work. There’s always the same problem regardless of the project: an unforeseen bump that can destroy everything. When we hired wavepools way back with Taj and Parko, we were first only allowed to ride soft top boards. When we hired cinema lights for our surfing studio shoot in the Canary Islands, they wouldn’t let us pay with a credit card. And the bill was near $20k. The night before we did the Taj and Mark shoot at The Right, Mark pulled out an old board and Taj was so angry.
“You expect me to ride this piece of shit,” he laughed.
The guy’s probably had over 2000 brand new boards in his career and the night before he’s supposed the biggest wave of his life with someone else behind him, he’s presented with a dusty old has-been board.
Q. And then the swell came up and it got even more interesting!
Well, day one was the big day and it got smaller as went. The beauty of storytelling by video.
Q. STAB has always been at the forefront of these types of shoots. What has been the driving the thirst for this type of innovation?
To create something that looks photoshopped but isn’t. To reverse engineer the creation of something will arrest you in your scroll pretty much. It sounds corny but something that makes you put your thumb on the screen and stop. We’re all flooded with exquisite, perfectly-lit photographs and it’s hard to capture someone’s attention.
Q. What has been your fav concept shoot to date?
At the start they’ve pretty much all sucked and I usually leave deflated after the first day. This most recent one in Bali included. But, then we rethink and re-engineer.
They’ve all been fun in their own way but when I towed Taj and Mark in at The Right, I honestly thought I’d killed them.
When I saw the wave, I knew it was the one but as I towed them, and looked over the ledge, it looked like they were riding down the clean part the rapids in a river. At the last second, I was yelling NO! NO! NO! but it was too late, they’d let go of the rope.
Bruce with the flare in the Mentawais was also real special. It was his first outing since he’d lost his brother Andy. And the shoot was dark and kinda spiritual that reflected his mood. It suited him. Still does. Bruce should only surf at night.
Water shots: Tom Carey @tomcarey | Land shots: Richie Olivares @rich_landos