Last summer, filmmaker Thomas Campbell invited a group of surfers to join him on an Indonesian boat trip to gather footage for his upcoming film. Campbell has always documented surfers who draw idiosyncratic lines and who have an openness to experiment with a wide range of surfcraft. For this trip, Campbell called up a freewheeling cadre of characters: Alex Knost, Craig Anderson, Ryan Burch, Jared Mell, Ozzie Wright and Bryce Young. Each of these surfers has carved a unique path through surfing, and some have left indelible imprints on the surf world at large.
Over the span of ten days, the crew bounced between perfect reef breaks, swapping boards (many of them handshaped by the surfers themselves) and drawing inspiration from each other's distinctive approaches to riding waves. For the next week, we’ll feature conversations with each surfer, offering a glimpse into the minds of an eccentric cast who have gravitated toward obscure lines and modes of thinking, defining surfing's modern counter-culture in the process.
Today we're featuring our conversation with Former founder and stylish freesurfer, Craig Anderson.
In the past few years you left your main sponsor to start your own brand, Former. Is it harder to chase waves and do trips like this now that you’ve got a brand to run?
Well, this trip was super special. Those guys are some of my favorite surfers. They’re all super charismatic and eccentric and I’m always learning from them, so I made sure I’d be able to go. But Former kind of runs it’s own course. I’m pretty lucky because I work with great people who keep the cogs turning. We’re still refining little things, but it’s been a really cool, creative project.
Every time Former drops a new edit, it goes viral. How much creative input do you have on the video side of things?
I had a big hand in the filming process for the launch of our first collection, Luxury 29.99. I was organizing everything, chasing waves and yanking skis across Australia to surf in South Oz. Warren Smith, the creative director of Former, and myself probably go back and forth 10 to 20 times on an edit. Sometimes we get pretty frustrated toward the end [laughs], but I feel like every little battle he, Dane [Reynolds, Former co-founder] and I have in the creative process just makes the edit better.
Do you think it’s harder to make a standout edit now than it was when you first started putting video parts out about a decade ago?
The Internet is so saturated with content, but I think there is a noticeable difference when a filmmaker or surfer spends time on a project – that’s what I try to keep in mind when approaching a film. Shit, it usually takes me a year or two to piece something together, but the goal is to make something people will re-watch and appreciate.
Do prefer being in the driver’s seat of a fledgling brand to being sponsored by a big corporation?
I had a really good time with Quiksilver. I traveled a lot and was able to meet Dane. But when I look at what we’ve created and what the brand is becoming, I couldn’t really see it any other way.
Was that a difficult move for you to make?
It was a pretty hard decision because I had actually signed a 5-year deal with them a week before they filed for bankruptcy. Dane and I had spoken about starting a brand for a long time and he encouraged me to can the deal. I’m really glad I could lean on Dane. He’s a genius and he gave me a lot of confidence while transitioning out of that. I look back on it and I couldn’t imagine doing anything else. I’m really happy with everything.
What’s it like being on the other side of a brand, having the ability to create something and build a team?
It’s been awesome. Last year we got to sponsor this kid Oscar Langburne, who’s only 14 but already way ahead of his time. It’s crazy. Out of the water, he’s the coolest little kid and he knows so much about music and art. I’m excited to go on trips with him and introduce him to new waves and places. It’ll be cool to see someone like him evolve and then in turn influence other kids.
What kind of impact do you hope to leave on the next generation of surfers?
Over the years I’ve been fortunate to learn a lot from guys like Dave Rastovich, Taylor Steele, Thomas Campbell and Dion Agius, and I feel like I’ve incorporated what I’ve learned into what I do. But most of all I just want to be myself and be a good person and hopefully kids can relate to that. I hope that in 10 years, starting a brand like Former will be the norm in the surf industry–just a bunch of people coming together to create something cool.
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