My Canvas - Alan Stokes
Are we as surfers somehow naturally and intrinsically connected to the rhythms, vibrations & energies of the ocean?
A candid look at one of Europe’s best surfers, who has dedicated himself to the art of riding waves, and his search for connection with the ocean.
A short film from Mr B Productions featuring surfing from Alan Stokes.
After a few months spent experimenting with different boards in search for a deeper connection, Animal rider Alan Stokes and Mr. B release the award-winning short film ‘My Canvas’.
They premiered their surf video at the Approaching Lines festival in Newquay a couple of weekends back and received a huge amount of praise from the crowd of frothing ocean-lovers and surf movies enthusiasts. Read about their experience at the festival here.
We caught with the pair to get the lowdown on what it was like making ‘My Canvas’.
Can’t help but feel there was a slightly different approach to what we’re used to from you in My Canvas. Am I right in thinking something’s changed/evolved in your surfing experience?
S: Not really to be honest, I’ve always kind of felt that way, I guess the only difference now is that it’s in the public eye for all to see.
I guess I’ve never really felt that comfortable putting my true inner thoughts out there until now. Or at least I never found a way to really articulate it properly. I’m not sure why now was the time to do that, but the whole process unfolded naturally and felt good so I rolled with it.
That side of my surfing has always been there underlying it all. It’s the foundation I’ve built my whole surfing experience upon, and over time the same mentality has crept into my day to day life.
I feel like making this side of my surfing public has somewhat liberated me from this shortboarding high performance stigma I’ve been attached to for so long. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still super driven to push my shortboarding every day. I’m working hard on backflips at the moment and to be honest I’m getting close to it!
I’d say shortboarding still represents 70% of my surfing experience, but now I feel like I can go explore other ways to ride a wave too. It’s always been on my mind really, even since I was 18 years old I used to ride a bunch of different boards and I’m stoked to see how this has naturally evolved into us making a film about it.
Can you expand a little on this connection (to nature or something else?) you’re talking about in the film? It’s something we all feel but can’t quite explain, how would you describe it to a non-surfer?
S: I guess watching the film will probably answer this question a little easier but I’ll have a go!
I’m only speaking from my own perspective on this, but for me it’s just a feeling that cuts through everything else. It’s a bond and a feeling of acceptance with everything that is happening at that specific point. I would call it complete presence but without thought or mind. I’d even go as far as saying for me it can become a complete out of body experience.
When it all comes together I feel like I disappear and all that’s left is flowing energy. I don’t know if this is something that I have created myself through surfing for so many years, or if there is actually something bigger to it, all I know is that it feels really good and I feel extremely grateful to have that experience.
We know you’ve been beavering at it with Mr B for the past few months, how long did it take overall to gather all the clips?
S: I think we spent 4 or 5 months in total. Once we had the bulk of the footage in place, the tricky part was to start putting the story together, linking transitions with imagery that would poke people’s imagination a little.
B: Yeah 4 or 5 months on and off shooting around life and other things, it all happened fairly organically.
What was it like working with Mr B on this film, I know you are good friends and have worked on many projects in the past. Did that help with the understanding or direction of this film?
S: I think so for sure. B has seen my surfing change over the years; he's witnessed first-hand how my personal life affects one and vice versa so we were on the same wavelength from day one.
I love working with really passionate people and B is one of them. He is so driven to get a certain shot and his enthusiasm mixed with a dry almost wrong sense of humour is infectious. His real talent lies in shooting water, the man is a fish and can swim for what seems like days.
I’m not sure how he manages to keep up with me, because I tend to see a good looking peak down the beach and sprint paddle off all excited, but somehow he's always in the spot when it counts.
B, what was it like to work with Mr Stokes?
B: As long as you do what he says, it's fine, miss a wave though and he doesn't stop shouting and hitting! Ha, no it's good, we've known each other for a long time and comfortable saying exactly what we think so the whole process works really well.
He's really open to shooting lots of water footage which I love doing. He's also great at working towards something and getting into the whole creative process. With it being a very personal piece for Stoker there were some points where I felt some pressure to make the film reflect what he wanted to get across, but between us I think we got there and produced something we're both happy with.
Stoker, we’re very much digging your skills on a twin finner, any plans to expand the quiver?
S: Thanks! Yeah I’m always looking for interesting boards to ride. My quiver is always moving in one direction or another, but yeah at the moment I’m really enjoying the speed and lines you can draw on a twin fin, but specifically with keel fins. They really open up the wave face and feel really good.
That air reverse at the 7:50 mark is easily the biggest turn we’ve ever seen done on that type of board, can you please tell us how the heck did you make that?
S: Haha yeah I was blown away half way through that air. It felt really good because I’m always balancing my shortboarding with riding retro/strange boards, so that was a really cool point for me.
It felt like I had bridged a gap where all the subtleties of riding each different board all came together at just the right moment. So yes, quite a special moment for me indeed!
B, when this happened, were you like, “Yup, nailed the shot.”? What went through your mind at that point?
B: It was my birthday and I was just sat in the sun shooting, we'd planned to shoot on a different board but in the spirit of the film had chosen the board that best suited the conditions. The waves were fun but a bit shifty and nothing major had happened, then bang off he flies. Midway through I just assumed it would be a fly away as I'd never seen an air like that on a twinny, but he lands perfectly on his feet and there we go... that combined with the light and the backdrop and it makes for one of the most striking shots of the film!
What’s next for Stokes? Any more video projects in the pipeline?
S: For sure there is always something bubbling away under the surface… We have a couple of film projects in the pipeline, including one with an artist friend of mine that could be really cool. I’ve still got to figure out how to shoot it properly so I’m going to stay tight lipped on that one for now.
I’ve also recently launched Wild & Free, which is a side project my super talented fiancée Philly Lewis and I put together. We just want to share our expertise and passion with people, Philly with her Yoga and meditation and myself with surf coaching and guiding.
We’re offering unique experiences to small groups of people in some of our favourite places in the world, so check out Wild & Free Retreats on Instagram and join us!
And for you B?
B: I'm currently making a short 'no-budget' film about a seniors table tennis club in Devon with some amazing people in it for my Dad. That's almost finished and has been epic!
After that I've got some different shoots lined up, surf comp season, and hopefully some more fun and creative projects like this one. I've really enjoyed finding different ways to shoot different boards and conditions and hope I can continue with more like that, and perhaps some more projects with Stoker, we shall see...