COME HELL OR HIGH WATER & Behind the Scenes NZ

Woodshed Films, Patagonia and Nixon present Come Hell Or High Water. Keith Malloy’s movie about his passion for bodysurfing: “It’s about taking a breath, and kicking your feet, in the big blue sea — come hell or high water.

The film explores the history and progression of the sport of bodysurfing and the pureness that comes from riding a wave. Shot primary in 16mm, the film takes a unique look at the culture, beauty and simplicity of the sport, capturing the stories and locations of those who belong to this community. This film was made to benefit Keep the Country Country and The Plastic Pollution Coalition

While Keith Malloy is most widely known for his time in the water as a surfer, his exploration into the world of bodysurfing began some 10 years ago when he wanted to reconnect with the ocean and did so through bodysurfing. Winning awards in best cinematography, and best film at both The London Surf Film Fest and The Surfer Poll Awards, Come Hell Or High Water was shot on location at The Wedge, Point Panic, Piha Beach, Las Escolleras, The Pipeline, Waimea Bay, Makapuu, Sandy Beach, Sandspit, Cloudbreak, Yellowstone, Mentawais, Kamakura, Teahupoo and Nantucket. The Film features Mark Cunningham , Mike Stewart, Chris Kalima, Durdam Rocherolle, Patrice Chanzy, Belinda Baggs, Crystal Thornburg-Homcy, Dan Malloy and many more…

Behind the scenes in New Zealand with Keith Malloy, Jeff Johnson and Belinda Baggs.

Out the corner of my eye I spot a sweaty brown trucker hat emerging from the scrub. Behind the hat is a beard, and buried beneath the beard lie a honest smile. Its Keith Malloy, with his lovely wife Lauren, Jeff Johnson and Cara…Fresh off a flight from Sydney, Adam and I are excited to re-connect with our friends and begin our 2 week journey camping and bodysurfing through New Zealand’s North Island. About 3 years back I was inspired by Jeff and Keith’s bodysurfing skills on the North Shore. After a few pointers, a couple of trips and many sessions later, aspiring to the talents of the boys, its now said that I bodysurf with the grace of a fibrous nugget swirling down a toilet bowl in the morning!

Our journey begins in Piha. A small swell for the West Coast but early in the morning, ideal for the numerous beach breaks that line this shore. Although its January the ocean temps in this Southern region of the Tasman Sea are quite chilly. Being totally submersed can bring your body temperature down fast, after 3 plus hours of swimming its best to stay warm in a toasty wool lined R3 wetsuit. Through high tide left and right peaks reel off, but once the tide drops out the waves break over 200 metres off shore and dribble across deep and shallow bars. After a few fun sessions and long days waiting out the tides we hit the road. Headed East we skip across the country to the Coromandel Peninsula. A popular tourist destination, the 85 km north to south offers many beaches just off the beaten track. Through the rolling Green hills, an electric blue sea glows vibrant in the mid-day sun. After hours in the car and a bout of motion sickness its impossible to hold us back.. With smiles from ear, to me, this is what bodysurfing is all about; invigorating, motivating, cleansing, energising, always fun, sometimes spiritual and most definitely a way to a deeper connection of the ocean and nature… and the best part– no matter what how terrible the surf is, the bodysurfing is always good enough to get you in the water.Our campsite is a semi-circle of small white vans, one open at the back cooking pasta and a side of fresh brocoli. Towels and blankets line the grass as the sun begin to set. A sea fog rolls in with the cool night air.. Who would of thought I’d be relying on my down jacket for warmth in the southern hemisphere summer! Lauren and Keith are busy downloading footage form a long day of shooting, Jeff is reading a book, Adam is fishing off the rocks, and i’m relaxing in the back of the van; thankful for all the beautiful places our world boasts and the adventures that lead here. Spending most of his surfing career in front of the lens Keith takes pleasure in everything he shoots, working primarily on ‘capturing the moment’ he is all about having fun and living in every sense of the word.  Sunrise brought with it a major decrease in swell size. With high spirits and a NZ surf guide in hand we hit the dirt exploring all nooks and crannies along the coastline. Its onshore on the West coast and flat on the East. We have spent all day driving, this time our luck has really run out.. Normally on a surf trip this can be frustrating, but with this group, we are happy to count our losses for the day, throw in the towel and head inland to a fresh water lake. We set-up a little camp fire talked story of swells past, long bodysurf rides in Chilli, big swells to hit the north-shore, and nothing related to the ocean or surfing at all. Through the night the night the wind continued to blow. Grey storm clouds filled the sky and it began to rain. In the morning the wind blew stronger and the rain fell harder, but we knew that with a little patience a little left point in the west would light-up and thrive from the weather change.The winds cleaned up beautiful Manu Bay into crispy long lines of swell. Infused by the prehistoric streams to which it flowed, the green mirky water was not welcoming. But to my delight the lefts were fantastic to bodysurf. Full of power and speed, streamlined we flutter along the long walls far into the bay and the still water. Wind and sunburned faces, blisters and aching calf muscles were the much welcomed aftermath of each session. As the minutes turned into hours and hours into days one wave became 10, then maybe up to 100. Our Journey will always be remembered, COME HELL OR HIGH WATER!

All pics– Adam Kobayashi / Belinda Baggs

Words– Belinda Baggs



Background Photo: by Mike Tittel