‘Almost Pumping’: Dunedin Surf on Film

‘Almost Pumping’: Dunedin Surf on Film

Critic spins a yarn with Isaac “Chaddy” Chadwick

Surf culture in Ōtepoti has always operated in an uneasy tandem with the student community. When a gaggle of students sputter into view of the beach, most local surfers roll their eyes and call it a day, or else begrudgingly share their waves with often very good (if greedy) student surfers. We rarely partake in this taonga, putting us at odds with a surf community increasingly weary of our presence. Die-hard surf bro, MFCO student, and filmmaker Isaac Chadwick, or ‘Chaddy’ as he is best known, is changing that. 

A blow-in from up North, Chaddy’s time at Otago saw him create an array of films that brought the Dunedin surf community and studentville squarely into view of one another. With kaleidoscopic depictions of surf and student skullduggery, Chaddy spent his time in Dunedin making waves. Well, filming them. 

That was when he started BASK, a film project that would take up most of his time at university. Producing a film a year, Chaddy took to documenting his mates’ surfing exploits, along with their more raucous nights on the piss. Eventually incorporating his mates’ music into the soundtrack of each film, BASK began to feel like a real scarfie product. Jam-packed with surf and student antics, the gritty vibe of each film endeared Chaddy to the wider student populace.

Now on the other side of his Castle St. days, Chaddy is moving on from life in Otago for a while. But not before filming a 15-minute tear through Indonesia, interpolated with footage from our own backyard, which screened to a roaring crowd of surfers at the NZ Surfing Nationals on January 12. ‘Almost Pumping’ is a final ode to the city and its surf. 

Reminiscing on his experiences, Chaddy spoke to Critic Te Ārohi about his new film and the premiere which brought it to life. 

For the boys, it started off as a far-sighted plan to “scrape together some money and head to Indonesia,” as surfer Jack McCleod comments in the film. For Chaddy, it was a chance to test his filmmaking chops and try something new, while the rest of the crew were drawn in by killer barrels and idyllic living on the quiet island of Simeulue. That is to say, the trip made it out of the group chat.

The boys booked their flights over to Denpasar in Bali where they only stayed a few days, opting instead for the relative isolation of Simeulue – an island with little Western infrastructure or influence. Chaddy encourages aspiring surfers to do the same: “Get the fuck out of Bali… have a rough plan but just go with the flow.” During their brief visit, he filmed “a year's worth of drop-ins in one session”. “Bali is such a free for all,” Chaddy enthused, “Everyone from seasoned vets to cunts who have been on a soft top twice were in the water”. 

Chaddy explained that when considering the film he first asked himself: “How can I make this as non-stop as possible?” His focus was set on “making a really gnarly surf film […] something that was full-on and in your face, making you appreciate the moments when it slows down a bit and there are these beautiful things on screen.” For Chaddy, the difference between his films since ‘BASK: Volume 1’ three years ago was “day and night […] they’ve all improved so much.” 

Building on a clear vision, Chaddy said the film was made up of “less random shenanigans […] and I was very picky about the level of surfing.” Though lots of this pickiness came as a result of perfect Indo waves, the surfing talent on display also made Chaddy’s job slightly easier. “Going to Indo, a switch just flipped. Put those boys in perfect waves and it all just clicks.” Those boys were Jack McLeod and Ollie Charlesworth, the two central figures featured in the film. While an assortment of other familiar faces appear in the lineup, it’s Jack and Ollie who bind the film. Chaddy told Critic that he wanted to have two or three main characters, “which really sets the direction for how the film turned out.” 

Jack’s dislocated shoulder became a central narrative arc, an injury sustained thanks to a late drop from the top of a hefty right-hander. Writing for the Surf Journal, Chaddy said his “left shoulder was hanging out of the front of its socket” after Jack was sent “head over heels into the churning vortex of the wave”. The boys thankfully had the presence of mind after getting themselves out of the impact zone to consult the “local guru, who massaged it and popped it straight back into place.” According to Jacko, “They got that magic mud on it and it came sweet.” 

At the root of the film is an intrinsic tie to HYDRO surf, Dunedin’s legendary surf outfit which sits on the St Clair esplanade. Chaddy couldn’t sing the shop’s praises enough: “I was really stoked for them to get behind it.” It allowed him to “have the time to not rush it, I could leave it for five days and then come back with a clear head.” His gratitude for this support was practically the first thing he mentioned upon jolting to the front of the stage at the film’s premiere last month.

Held at the South Coast Boardriders’ club rooms at the zenith of the NZ National Surfing Champs, Chaddy’s film boasted a hearty crowd of over 40, sprawled on the ground and against walls, hair still salt-crusted from the day’s comp. Roars from drinkers at the bar could be heard merrily intertwined with the eclectic soundtrack of the film at the other end of the hall. Watching Chaddy as the event went on, it was easy to see the level of stoke (helped by a well-deserved brew or two). 

Despite being set in Indonesia, ‘Almost Pumping’ reeks of dirty old Dunners. High-cooker waves in our own backyard spliced with shots from an Indo trip which any Dunedin surfer would gladly spend hours mulling over. What more could ya want? ‘Almost Pumping’ is a film which attests to what Chaddy has done with his filmmaking during his time here. Taking something universal about Dunedin – its waves – and showing its appeal for both students and locals is something not easily replicated. Yet, somehow, Chaddy managed it, ensuring that maybe, just maybe, things might stay friendly in the surf next time you nearly drop-in on some burly local bloke

This article first appeared in Issue 1, 2024.
Posted 3:33pm Sunday 25th February 2024 by Hugh Askerud.