Filmmaker Feature: Aleks Petrovitch

Aleks Petrovitch is an accomplished artist and illustrator who has found himself immersed in more creative endeavors then most people could fathom in a lifetime. From creating award-winning children’s education books to being part owner of Aqua Surf Shop in San Francisco, Aleks has a strong desire to keep the creative juices flowing in order to maintain his happy life.

Being involved in a retail store, there can be a good amount of downtime. Not for Aleks. He and his crew at Aqua have established themselves as comic relief for the surf community in San Francisco with a variety of parody style videos featuring two hippies, Riverrock and Skydar, who get into an assortment surfing adventures. We caught wind of a music video Aleks did for Andrew Kidman that was shot and edited entirely on the iPhone so we figured we should uncover a bit more about it and find out just who Aleks Petrovitch is….

Photo: Darren Akana

So you are a multi-talented artist, children book author, mobile app designer, filmmaker, and store owner. What’s your art background? How did you get involved in all of these various avenues of creativity? Which would you say is the most fulfilling for you?

Well, I really like to keep busy and multi-tasking is just the way I operate day-by-day. It does not feel right to me to be focused on one single thing. I need some chaos, more than most perhaps. There are work responsibilities that have to be completed for obvious reasons, then there is a creative calling I need to fulfill. Drawing (not just with paper and pen) is my preferred mode of communication. Being creative makes me happy on a deep level, much like surfing.

How did you get involved in Aqua Surf Shop in San Francisco? What differentiates Aqua from other surf shops?

I’ve grown up being around and working at surf shops. I feel naturally drawn to the people, places and smells of environments where surfing is the central focus of life, so obviously I spent a lot of time in the various shops around me growing up. If the place had people amped on surfing, I was there. That’s the kind of energy I aim to recreate at Aqua Surf Shop.

I never intended to own a retail shop however and I can’t say it was a childhood dream. It was through a long chain of events and timing that made it a reality and I’ll spare you the blow-by-blow developments and just say that when the opportunity presented itself, it did not take much convincing. My business partner Devin and I enjoy running Aqua Surf Shop in SF, work hard at it, and we keep the shop as simply focused on surfing as possible.

You guys started a pretty unique event at your surf shop…evening yoga. Why did you guys start hosting yoga at your shop? How has the reception been thus far?

I need to do yoga to keep in shape. In my opinion, it is a very balanced exercise. The classes I looked into in the area were expensive and further than I wanted to travel. Spending a lot of money and traveling so that I could unwind after a hard day and practice some yoga seemed downright wrong and slightly hypocritical. I wanted it to flow with the end of my day, so I figured why not roll out the clothing racks and host a local class. Dave and James, our two instructors lead a dynamic flow class aimed at the neighborhood surfers. James named it “Board with Yoga” and the class is perfect for strengthening, flexibility, breathing, and helping you keep a cool head – all essential for surfing, let alone life. Classes are Monday at 6pm, and Wednesday’s at 7:30. Come do it with us!

How did you get involved with Andrew Kidman and start to make music videos for him (and the Windy Hills)?

Kidman and I met through a mutual friend, Surfline Editor Marcus Sanders, at a random art show we were both exhibiting at. As creative types, we gelled and became friends right away. I am very inspired by his art and general aesthetic, and his music is another beautiful expression of his creative force.

Kidman is lead vocalist of the band THE WINDY HILLS and turns out he liked some of the short films I made with my friends Silvin Morgan and Brian Musial, so he asked us to put together a music video for their new single “Three Wishes.” I had an advanced copy of their new record, and I was listening to it repeatedly in my car. This one song titled “Little Hawk” just kind of hit me in the head and I felt driven to work with it. I recently happened to buy some random editing apps and filters for my iPhone, so I asked Kidman if I could make a vid for “Little Hawk” entirely on my phone. Kidman told me to go for it.

You video for Little Hawk was shot and edited entirely on an iPhone. How did you come up with the idea for the video and why shoot and edit on your phone as opposed to a regular video camera?

At the time my mom was getting an operation on her knee at UCSF Medical Center, so I was waiting around in my car a lot. I randomly started searching for interesting apps on my phone and found the Vintage 8 Mil app, and a basic editing app. I started making phone videos on my lunch break, found it worked and enjoyed it. I wondered if I could make a complete project entirely on my phone. Imagine Ed Wood with a smart phone.

When you are making a videos, you are working with a lot of equipment. All this equipment has problems. You become almost superstitious, praying for everything to work. Anyone whom edits knows the feeling that Murphy’s Law is just waiting to pounce – for example, watching your computer just freeze and crash while rendering a scene. I was skeptical about editing on the iPhone, I just wanted to see if it would work.

Obviously the editing capabilities are very limited, and you need some small fingers, but it does work. It was very freeing to not lug a bunch of equipment around. I would shoot, edit, and then order pizza for my friend’s who were on the shoot, all on my smart phone. That is kind of awesome! I can only imagine the tech in 5 years.

There was quite a bit of creativity that went into that video. What was involved in that process? What are all the different aspects that you had to come up with to make it happen?

When I listened to Little Hawk I heard the story of an everyday everyman – someone working their hardest, but being totally overwhelmed and pressed in a corner by PRESSURE! The kind of pressure that causes one to say, “F*$k this! What am I even doing? I’m going surfing!” To me the song is about remembering and pursuing whatever is most important to who you truly are.

With the “Little Hawk” video I had “imaginative fun time.” I persuaded my dog Merle (with many high quality dog treats) into the lead role, and my parrot Lilo played the part of “Little Hawk.” I just used what was at hand to create something that hopefully is visually interesting. It made me happy to make it.

You guys seem to have a lot of fun with your shop videos, which tend to include your dog Merle, hippies, surfing, and more. Any ultimate goal behind them? Who comes up with the ideas?

The goal is to have some fun, be creative. I really enjoy working at the shop, but I can’t say retail is the most interesting thing to me. There is a lot to learn, and there is a lot we need to do to evolve our business to it’s potential, which we are focused on accomplishing; the challenge is making it tolerable by keeping it fun and keeping involved with our incredible community.


Skinny is another amazing actor. Just give him some basic instructions and he just blows up! Here he is with our buddy Ed.

Riverock getting interviewed for a “Big Wave” contest.


You also started a business called Gnomie, which creates apps designed to educate children. How do you use this digital approach for education?

It has been my long-standing dream to make illustrated children’s books. I’ve illustrated projects for the Golden Gate Parks Association and many other publishers, whom have been really great. I founded Gnomie 3 years ago because I wanted to be able to self-publish, yet at the same time keep pace with how media is constantly evolving. I mean look, kids today sure seem to be innately fluent with these modern devices. So my goal is to bring great content to such devices- help create the modern pop up book. I’m excited about all the illustration work, and that I get to work along with incredible programmers and musicians, to build these interactive stories. I’ll be posting all the adventures at

For more of Aleks and his creative endeavors, check out:

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