Nathan Balli Teams Up With Mountain Dew for New “Arctic Surf” Video
When surfing comes to mind you tend to think of sun-drenched shores, a cool ocean mist coming off of the waves, and an abundance of smiles and good vibes. In this instance, those smiles are a bit tighter, as teeth are clenched from the frigidness of the water. The waves are also a little less forgiving, the good vibes are very necessary, and the wetsuits are a little thicker because the water up north is tad on the brisk side.
Surfing in the bone-chilling 38-degree water off the coast of Alaska might not be something you’d consider, but thanks to filmmaker Nathan Balli–winner of the 2014 Green Label Studios: Open Call contest–we just found out how feasible it really is. He recently teamed up with Mountain Dew to produce the latest Do The Dew video, Arctic Surf. The video features surfer/photographer Scott Dickerson and his crew carving up the waves of Aialik Bay in Alaska. The crew, who can only be described as passionate surfers, paddle through chunks of ice in search of the best waves Alaska has to offer.
We caught up with Nathan to get some info on the video and find out what led him to brave the subzero temperatures of Alaska in the name of catching an empty wave.
Where did the idea for this video come from?
Throughout my entire life, I have had a fascination with surfing and the ocean. It’s always been a source of inspiration for me. In the last few years, I had been following a couple of surf photographers on social media that have been doing a few cold water surf projects here and there. But I felt like there was a bigger story to be told from what actually goes into these trips. It is truly an expedition on the last frontier. You have no support, it’s in the middle of nowhere. You have to be on your “A” game or something may happen. I had a photographer friend of mine that was doing a project in Homer, Alaska, last year and hired Scott Dickerson, our lead surfer, as their local guide and connected us. From there the rest is history.
I have always loved taking traditional ideas and putting them into an unexpected environment. It really changes audience’s perspective of what is possible.
How many miles did the cast/crew travel to get to the shoot location?
It is about a 16-hour boat ride east from Homer, Alaska, into the remote area of the fjords, but it can feel a lot further during rough seas. It’s incredibly remote. We never saw another boat or plane during our entire time in the outer region of the Kenai Peninsula.
What was the temperature outside? In the water?
Water Temperatures were 38 degrees. Air temperatures were around the low 40s and below freezing at night.
Can we get short bios for the surfers?
Scott Dickerson is an Alaskan native, professional photographer, and surf pioneer in Alaskan region. He has guided countless expeditions in search of the next great wave in the Alaskan Region. Scott has pioneered miles upon miles of incredible coastline with many more to go.
Taylor Paul is the Editor at Large for Surfing magazine. He has spent years traveling the globe in search of the best waves in the world. Taylor is known for being one of the most influential people in surfing. Not only for documenting the sport, but also because he isn’t afraid to drop in on some of the biggest waves in the world at Mavericks.
Jake AKA Mr. Alaska – Jake is the ultimate Man’s Man. He lives off the land on his homestead outside of Homer. He is an avid surfer and tries to go as much as he possibly can. He is the guy that you would want on your team if you ever became stranded or ran into a problem.
Is this something (Arctic surfing) that these guys have done before the video?
Scott Dickerson has been one of the pioneers of surfing in Alaska. He has become a seasoned guide in the region. Scott and Jake try to surf as much as they possibly can. They are patient and wait until conditions are optimal but when they are most of the Alaskan surfers say they rival some of the other best surf spots in the world. But with 34,000-plus miles of coastline you could surf a new spot where no one has ever surfed before, every day, for the rest of your life, and not surf the same spot twice.
What was the average wave size?
During the trip, the wave size got progressively bigger day by day. It helped everyone to warm up on the smaller waves. So when the waves were 16-18 feet during the final session everyone was quite comfortable.
Any unique techniques/technology used to shoot this content?
Throughout the entire project, we really focused on using the latest and greatest technology to help push the boundaries of what is possible and bring the audience into the environment with our surfers. We shot, and delivered the entire project in UHD/4K resolution with Red Digital Cinema Cameras, and the GoPro 4. The Red Dragon camera gives you unparalleled performance and helps to really deliver your vision of what you saw on location to the screen.
We also used a Cineflex with the Red Dragon camera for all of our aerial support that has been specially engineered by Daniel Zatz of Zatzworks for these types of projects. It helped to capture the vastness of the beautiful landscape.
Is there any backstory to the song choice? Who is the artist? Is this a friend of yours or someone you know?
The song came about through a friend of mine in Salt Lake City. Right after we had wrapped shooting the project. He briefly mentioned that he might have a great song for the piece. He sent the song “Running” from The Brocks over to me, and the moment I heard it I knew we had something special. It was one of the songs you hear that was as epic as the visuals. It made the piece into a perfect harmony of the audio and visual aspects.
The Brocks are an incredibly talented band that are gaining respect from the critics and popularity from their fans based out of Provo, Utah. The song had the exact tone of what we were looking for. They are a band that has massive potential. I would definitely keep an eye on them.