Director Joel Conroy takes us behind-the-scenes of the breathtaking “Waveriders”

Surfing in Ireland, are they crazy? With typical Irish weather we wouldn’t even dare head out to Howth for a stroll down the pier. But apparently Ireland has the best surfing waves in the world, and director Joel Conroy set out to tell the world just how good the Irish waves were in this award winning documentary ‘Waveriders’

Q: How long have you been crazy enough to go surfing in Ireland?
After secondary school, I went out to Australia on one of the first working visas and I learned to surf out there. When I came back I realized the potential here and I went up around the north-west and met a bunch of other characters. It was a very small community. I mean the very first touches of it happened in the 60’s but they were very dislocated and they didn’t know of each other. I suppose up until the late 90’s there was a very small community doing it. I mean you go surfing in most places and there’d be nobody.

Q: Besides the weather, what are the main differences between surfing in Ireland and Australia?
Well, I honestly don’t think the weather in Ireland is that bad, compared with other places. Compared to Australia or California, the weather isn’t as good – but against Canada or places like that – it’s not too bad. We’ve got much better surf than Australia, and California. For me, I would pick Ireland above those places for surfing. The exception to that is Hawaii, but for me – I don’t really enjoy Hawaii; a) because the waves are very big and very heavy, b) and there’s a very crowded local scene.

Q: When the movie starts to spread around the world, do you think more surfers will make the trek here?
I can see that. I mean some of the British and French surfers have been coming here for many years, in their hoards. There are so many thousands of miles of beaches and stuff that you might not even know about – I’ve been to beaches in Sligo and Mayo that I can’t find again. And these are places where not even your satnav will always be working. I think it will always be remote, but people will come and tourism will rise to places like Lahinch, Tramore and Waterford. I don’t see it ever being as busy as America/California.

Q: What inspired you to go and make the documentary in the first place?
What I really wanted to show people was how beautiful the west coast of Ireland is and also to shoot it for the big screen, in a way that not just surfers would appreciate, but also how everyone else will.

Q: Did you always intend it to get a big cinema release, or was it intended to be a smaller project?
Yeah, I originally made a small film for the film board, which was shown on RTE about six years ago, and that was really a pretext to it. It grew and grew, and I knew I could do a really good job with access to the right equipment and the right people. When I discovered the story, I knew I could link it into something great and inspirational. It was really when I met my producer, she really gave it the next big burst of energy that it really needed, and she brought it to the next level and saw what the film could be.

Q: Was it a frustrating wait to go from last year, where it was aired at the film festival to over a full year for the main release?
Well, yeah it was in many ways. I mean we were two small production companies and the sheer amount of paper work, and logistics. U2 very kindly allowed us to use the music for the film, and it was actually Larry Mullen that saw the film, and he loved it – it as him who said to go on ahead with it.
Just even to deal with the music in the film, to get it all working and go legal on it; it was a lot of resource and a lot of people working on it, and it actually took months to get a close on those deals.

Q: From start to finish was it a long task, roughly how long do you think it took to complete?
Well, about 5 years all in all, 2 years for finance, and over two years for shooting in Hawaii and California and obviously 90% between Ireland and Northern Ireland. We shot over a spring, an autumn, and a spring and then I waited for the big wave sequence at the end and I had to wait until the following December for that. It had already been cut, but I was always missing that killer punch.

Q: You captured some very spectacular surfing shots from under water cameras, was that tough to prepare?
Those scenes were really tough. We were using high-speed film cameras, there’s very few of those in the world we had to get those in from America and the UK. The Camera operators weren’t just specialty camera operators; they were also surfers themselves, or really strong swimmers. So there are only a couple of those guys in the world who could do it. Luckily one of them was in London, but the cameras themselves were these photo-sonic ones that the US air force use on their F-16 planes, so they film the actual g-force on the pilot at 500 frames per second

Q: Cillian Murphy is the narrator in the film, at what stage did he come onboard?
I had a rough cut, and I had always wanted Cillian to do the voice over, so we got in touch with him, he was in London at the time so it suited him. He had just gotten into surfing himself with a couple of friends. I asked him, and before he got it, he had said that there’s no way that a surf film could maintain 80 minutes of his interest, but then he watched it and was totally blown away and he loved it, he was happy to lend his voice. I have to say I’m stoked about Cillian.

Q: What advice would you give to somebody who sees the movie, loves it and wants to go surfing?
In this time of recession, surfing is free and it’s a great thing to do, to paddle into the ocean and swim around with some friends. It’s great! Just go do it!
Waveriders is now showing at Irish cinemas nationwide.


“Waveriders” is in Irish cinemas from Friday, April 3rd.