Ahead of the forthcoming release of his surf film Yi-Wo, Thomas Campbell recently compiled a selection of “ultimate leftovers” from an Indonesian session with Alex Knost and Jared Mell. Filmed by Campbell and cinematographer Dave Homcy, and scored by a live demo version of “Eyes Closed” by Seventies Tuberide (Knost’s latest audible endeavor), the cut offers a glimpse into Campbell’s long-awaited fourth surf film and continues a niche tradition of surfers surfing to their own music. With this outtake in hand, we caught up with Knost to learn more about Yi-Wo, his working relationship with Campbell that spans two decades, and more. Please enjoy the short above and the interview below.
BW Seedling, Sprout, The Present—each surf film in Thomas’ canon seems to have an overarching message. What do you think Yi-Wo’s is?
AK It’s hard for me to speak about someone else’s creative endeavor, but in filming with him it seems like this project’s an extension of his tastes and the people he admires in surfing. That’s what it felt like when we went to Indo. It’s like he invited his favorite surfers, who are all pretty interesting characters regardless of what type of board they ride. It wasn’t a uniform trip in the sense of how everyone surfed, but more about the spirit of surfing. To me, everyone on that trip was a piece of the puzzle that would make a nice picture for him when put together. I haven’t seen the film yet, so I could be totally wrong.
BW Tell me a little about what it’s like working on a film with Thomas.
AK He’s kind of relentless in a good way because he pushes you. He gets you really excited about taking full advantage of the situation—which makes you not second guess yourself. He’s like, “Just get out there and hang ten as long as you can.” He’s very comfortable in his communication skills and [explaining] what his vision is. He’s giving it his all, so that pushes you to give it your all. It’s different from working with anyone else in the sense that I work best with guidelines and deadlines.
BW I imagine there’s stress on him and stress on you to perform.
AK He’s kind of playing chess. He knows how to put people on trips who will naturally push each other in the water. He’ll pair friends with friends but also with people that open up their own tool chest for others to use. People like Ryan Burch and Ozzy [Wright] will be on a trip with Bryce Young. Those are three amped-up and knowledgeable surfers in very different ways who push each other in new directions. It’s equal parts camaraderie and inspiration. For the surfers Thomas is filming, he makes it very easy for us to perform. It’s organic.
BW Having seen the photos from that Indo trip, it looked pretty wild visually.
AK It was insane. If I were to have a birthday party and be able to hire a boat in the ocean with good waves and invite not only friends but surfers whom I look up to, that’s what it was like. Ozzy Wright, Bryce Young, Ryan Burch, Craig Anderson, Jared Mell—everyone surfed so differently and that’s what made it great. It made everyone realize everyone else’s role. We surfed great waves with absolute freedom to ride whatever we wanted. Complete freedom. Also, I think it was the first time Bryce heard ELO—I had a tape with me and played it for him. He’s a musician, so he dug that.
BW What board are you riding in this edit?
AK I was riding a Dane Peterson longboard. He’s one of my favorite longboard surfers and shapes some of the best logs. I took that board with me on that trip and it got completely destroyed flying home, like broken in half—part of the nose missing, part of the tail missing. It was like one of those board breaks you see on social media when a surfer calls out an airline company. It was so bad that it would’ve totally been one of those viral situations. I was bummed. It was a really good board but it’s no more.
BW Any favorite memories in the making of Yi-Wo?
AK Going on a longboard trip to Costa Rica with Nick Melanson, Jared Mell, Karina Rozunko, and Joel and Tosh Tudor was amazing. We got beautiful surf, great conditions, saw giant cayman crocodiles and bull sharks at arm’s distance the whole trip. What else? Shaping a board with Ryan Burch in like 20 minutes. Both of us shaped it at the same time. The cords to our planers actually were getting tangled. That was pretty shit-hot because he’s such a talented shaper. So yeah, a lot of highlights. I don’t think there were any lows.
BW Last question: How do you pronounce the name of the film?
AK I dunno. That’s open for interpretation.
[Photos by Grant Ellis]