MSW roving reporter Shambles Mc Goldrick caught up with three times World Bodyboard Champion and Aussie icon Ben Player on his new movie and the relaunch of the print bodyboard magazine, Movement.
Hi Ben. Wow, last time I was talking to you you were dying on the rocks at Rileys.
Good to hear from you bro! How's your injury? [Shambles suffered a broken femur early last year, also at Rileys] Have you been getting some waves?
I'm good man. I haven't been surfing big waves since my accident. I got a 9' 0 high performance longboard from Fourth Surfboards recently to keep me frothing on the small stuff this winter and hopefully I'll be 100% to charge it next winter.
Shivers! The might of the Emerald Isle ey? I have to get my arse back there.
Your new Far N0rth documentary looks sick, tell me about it.
A few years ago I had a desire to try and explore new frontiers and new challenges but to also create a common goal with a bunch of like-minded, (or crazy) people, so I decided that travelling to the north of Europe in winter would offer the biggest challenge for me. It was on the other side of the world, surfing waves I have never surfed, in freezing conditions which are nothing like I am used to and Far N0rth is the by-product of that.
It took me five years of planning and three years of execution to make the movie, and I feel that the movie is the accumulation of my life and experiences through the years, creating what I believe to be the pinnacle of my career.
What were a) the highlights and b) the lowlights of the three years filming Far N0rth?
For me, the highlight of the trip was the camaraderie that we all shared. Nothing brings a bunch of people together like an adventure and a common goal. As an athlete, it’s rare to feel that sense of kinship and being a part of a team, so it felt great to have that up there. The worst part of making the movie is the amount of work that goes in behind the scenes. It’s crazy how much you have to organise to make a movie. I never knew it before I started, and now that I know I don’t think I will do it again.
I saw Mickey Smith did the score for the movie. How long have you known Mickey?
I first met Mickey many years ago, way before I started the movie, and knew of his music and his creative genius. I knew I wanted to work with Mickey and I thought that this movie would be a great opportunity. Mickey offered early on to help out with the music but he was busy on tour with Ben Howard and, to be honest, I felt out of my league getting Mickey to help out with the movie, especially because I didn’t have any budget to pay him for the work, so I let it go.
Then about a year later, after I was starting to give up on producing the movie as a result of hitting dead end after dead end with music rights, Mickey contacted me and offered again. This time I was honest about the budget and his reply was that he would do it. I still can not believe how lucky I am that Mickey agreed to score the music for the movie. I was at my whits end with the movie one day and then the next day I had one of the most talented people I know making the music for my movie. To this day, I believe that if Mickey hadn’t have offered to help out when he did, the movie wouldn’t have happened. So lucky!
I've just heard you are relaunching Movement Mag, epic!
Yeah man, I’m relaunching Movement. It's been a long ride to get it back up and running but it has definitely been worth it. People seem to be so stoked that it’s available again.
How long was Movement going originally and what were the highlights for you?
We first started Movement way back in 2002. I was 25 at the time and had a bit of cash saved from the previous years when I was sponsored by Quiksilver. I didn’t know what to do next. I thought that maybe I should retire from professional bodyboarding as I felt like I was too old, (I actually thought that at the time) because I couldn’t relate to any of the bodyboard magazines which were meant to be representing our market.
Back then, magazines were the axis to which the whole industry rotated around. I remember having a chat with an old mate - Murray Bell - who also used to be sponsored by Quiksilver about this issue and straight away we set our goal of creating a magazine that we felt shared the interests of our generation. A few months later we published our first magazine and kept publishing for 41 issues, or until 2013 when the global financial crisis caught up with us. It’s strange to say, but the thing I loved the most about publishing the magazine wasn’t it being praised as the best magazine or the actual product, it was the sense of commonality and camaraderie that we shared with everyone from the industry.
The magazine created an enormous sense of belonging and a community which was a weird by-product and something I hope to re-create.
A lot of bodyboard print magazines vanished in the last few years. Why do you think that was?
All print media was hit with a double edged sword back in 2013. In that year the rate of advertising spend on digital surpassed print and then the final blow hit in the form of the global financial crisis, which cut nearly all magazines down. The only magazines to survive were the ones with healthy cash flow or those who had a wealthy publisher and none of the booger magazines had either of those things.
Most bodyboard magazines were independent and put any profits they made back into making better magazines. One thing was evident to me when we closed the doors: the magazine sales never declined. And judging by the reaction we have had to relaunching, it still seems people are attracted to good quality magazines.
What can the readers expect from the new Movement?
My goal is to create a magazine which offers escapism and takes the reader on a journey. I plan to do that by offering some common themes like the best imagery and stories from the sport we love but to also offer the chance for the reader to go deeper into cultures, lifestyles and the community if they want. That is my constant goal with the magazine, and I guess Far N0rth is a tribute to Movement and everything we have been talking about in this interview.
Do you think bodyboarding is in a good place today?
I think it is still alive and healthy. I’ve been reading reports of the market growing and I would have to agree from what I have seen. But, the sport is in a situation like it was before where the market is heavily fragmented. I think it’s mostly because bodyboarders tend to seek waves out of the mainstream media and hype, like some out-of-the-way wedge or deathly slab on some back beach, and as a result the participants are pretty hidden and isolated. So, the goal for us is to resurrect the magazine and bring the community together once more and make them feel like they’re a part of a collective again and grow together.
Are you stoked Pierre Louis Costes won his second world title at the Fronton King event?
I am so stoked he won. Pierre is a progressive bodyboarder and a good role model to spearhead the sport. It was so rad to watch the final event at El Fronton and seeing him win the world title. He was pushing it and surfed amazing, he definitely deserved every bit of that that victory.
El Fronton is such an incredible spot and I am stoked that we have events like this on tour. It’s the kind of spot where the only thing limiting your performance is you. If you want to go nuts and do something amazing, you will probably have the opportunity to do that in a 30 minute heat out there, it just depends on how badly you want it.
What are Ben Player's plans for 2017?
I’m not exactly sure yet but I am keen to compete in some of the better venues on the APB world tour. They have events in rad places like Teahupoo, Pipeline and El Fronton now, so I’d be an idiot not to compete in those locations. Who wouldn’t want to surf Pipe with three other guys for half an hour? Haha.