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In Conversation With | Mikey DeTemple

From pro surfer to film director, from Maine to New York. We caught up with The Ocean Doesn't Care director Mikey DeTemple to talk about changing perspectives, overcoming diversity, barriers and the cold water surf scene in New York.

How would you describe your relationship with surfing to somebody who might not know much about your background. Surfer come director. New York to Maine.

Surfing and the sea are in my blood. My dad was a commercial clammer on the Great South Bay of Long Island and my grandfather owned a fish market on the Island. My parents actually met surfing in the 1970s.

I didn't really take to it until I was 12, but when it happened, it really happened and it was all my eyes would see. I surfed competitively until my late 20's.  I stopped contests in 2008 to make a surf film called Picarasque.

I had found a new addiction in filmmaking and quickly followed up with another in 2010 called Sight Sound. From there, I've transitioned into all kinds of commercial filmmaking and photography without leaving surfing behind. It's a great balance between the two. There isn't surf everyday in New York so it's easy to have time for other things.  

The film touches on perspective gained from being in the ocean – has your perspective changed during your career, or has how you gain perspective changed?

I think your perspective changes all the time depending on what's going on in your life. It even changes during the seasons. Living somewhere that's so cold 4 months a year, you really learn to love those moments in the ocean. They don't happen that often in the winter, mostly because everything needs to really line up properly for it to work. But when it happens I try and remember how special those days are and to take it all in. 

How does your voice and narrative fit into the film? When you direct a film like this, are you a mere observer and recorder, or do the themes of the film personally resonate and therefore is there part of you left in the film. 

I think a bit of both. We chose these characters because they were the people in NYC that we found most interesting. They're real people with careers whose lives still revolve around surfing. I can relate to that, but what I want to do is observe that. I want a window into their life and see how they see surfing, not how I see it. 

With a growing culture and prominence in media, tell us more about the New York surf scene and the access to good waves.

NY really doesn't have much of a year round surf scene like you would think. There's definitely one in the summer months, but in the winter it's all business. Get in, get out and go somewhere to get warm. There's no hanging and bullshitting in February when it's 19 degrees out. You've definitely have access to anywhere you want to surf but you have to work for it. NY and NJ each take different swell and wind directions so it gives you double the opportunity to find get great surf.

 

If the ocean doesn’t care who you are or what your background is, what do you think some of the barriers to surfing are? 

The biggest barrier is to find the time. It's a drive out of the city to surf. It's also really hard for some who works 9-5 to surf during the winter because the surf is so infequent and it's only light from 7:30am-4:30pm. That basically only leaves the weekend, holidays or vacation if you want to surf in the winter. I don't really think it's the cold that's stopping people, it's the lack of daylight. It's much easier in the day light savings months, where you can leave the city at 4:30am to have a sunrise surf and be in the office by 8 or 9.

The Ocean Doesn't Care

Interview by Rachel Buchanan | Images by Mark Tesi.

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