Filmmaker Feature: Hayley Gordon

It’s not too often you hear of female filmmakers in the surf industry? Why is that? We weren’t so surf but it just so turns out that Hayley Gordon, an Encinitas resident, recently began sending us some clips she was putting together, so we decided to ask her about the lack of women in surf filmmaking.

Hayley, originally from Eastern Long Island, New York, moved to Encinitas three years ago. She has been making videos since fifth grade, and made her first surf video edit in 2006. Combining two passions in life: surfing and filmmaking, and Hayley is stoked to be able to start focusing on making her own videos in the last few months after finally buying a new camera and an updated computer to edit it.

How did you get started in filmmaking? Do you have a formal education in filmmaking?

I’ve been making short videos on and off ever since I was maybe 10 or 11. It all started with the video camera my friend’s parents owned and let us play around with. Eventually I got my own camera and started videotaping everything. However, editing was hard back then since the technology for at-home editing was still pretty rudimentary. I eventually got an early version of Adobe Premiere and made a couple of short surf videos. I went to school and studied film at the University Of Michigan. It was mainly theory based, but I think I definitely learned a few things while I was there.

What was the draw to filmmaking for you?

I absolutely love the interplay between images and music. That’s my favorite part of any movie. If a film has a good soundtrack that suits the visuals, I’m hooked. I think the soundtrack is 50% of a good movie, no matter what the genre. I think a great example is the recent movie Drive. The soundtrack added a really unique dimension to the film that wouldn’t have been there otherwise. But that’s just my opinion. I also love the emotion that films can draw out of you. It’s such a unique experience.

Where do you look for inspiration?

I started out watching surf movies like Shelter, September Sessions, Thicker Than Water, and others from those same guys…the Malloys, Jack Johnson, and Thomas Campbell. Those were my favorites. I think Shelter is probably my favorite surf video of all time because of all the nostalgia for me, but right now I love Modern Collective and what Kai Neville has been doing. The new snowboard movie Art Of Flight blew my mind. I’ve also been inspired by filmmakers I’ve discovered through Vimeo. Even just going to the movies and observing the cinematography and overall filmmaking techniques is fun. I want to draw as much inspiration as I can, but I also want to find my own style and not just be derivative.

Do you find that being a woman in surfing allows you a different access to or give you a different view of the sport?

I don’t really focus too much on this, but I would say yes. I think the girls have a different perspective on surfing, and bring different talents and personalities to the table. I really want to showcase this…I think there’s a severe lack of coverage in female surfing, and a lack of diversity of the surfers covered. You also tend to see the same faces over and over. There’s some incredible and relatively unknown talent out there and these girls deserve some credit. I don’t want to make it about guys vs. girls and who’s better and all that. I’d rather just showcase the girls’ talents and make something enjoyable to watch. I noticed that there’s a bunch of cool mini-films on the internet but it’s 99% guys. I enjoy watching the dudes, but I also want to see what the girls are doing.

Why do you think there are not more females out there doing what you are doing?

Honestly I have no idea! [laughing] I am not sure why filmmaking in general is so male dominated. I think if there are women out there that like doing this that they should get a camera and start shooting. I do think you’ll see more and more women get into filming though. Now that good equipment is easier to come by, hopefully more women will start. There are some great female filmmakers and photographers out there right now, and I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know some of them. I’ve also been lucky enough to become friends with the founders of, a media group that is promoting women’s action sports using video as the main vehicle, as well as

Where do you see women’s surfing going in the near future? And what have you observed in the progression of women’s surfing that has stood out most for you so far?

I see the talent continuing to get better and better. I see the girls launching (and landing) airs and throwing buckets, and the overall progression has been incredible over the past few years. It seems that coverage has been shrinking a bit rather than growing, though. You kind of see this with the women’s magazines that popped up then disappeared. Even the Surfline Women’s section is barely updated anymore. I really hope the tour adds more contests and that general coverage will be more widespread and democratic. I think it was very cool that Carissa Moore was included in the Sunset contest this year. That was fun to watch, I wished the waves were better for her heat. But at the same time, I wonder why the women’s tour has reduced the amount of events, and why genuine coverage continues to shrink.

Who do you enjoy shooting the most?

I enjoy shooting with people that are enthusiastic about filming and pushing their limits, aren’t too cool for school, and keep on paddling back out to get more even if it’s not the most epic day. The girls I’ve shot with so far have been awesome, and I have to thank them for helping me get going and giving me material to work with.


What kind of equipment are you using?

I’m shooting with a Canon T3i and an assortment of fun lenses. I have become a lens nerd. I’m using Adobe Premiere to edit. Gotta love my Manfrotto tripod as well (at least when I don’t leave the tripod plate on other people’s lenses and then drive 2 hours to shoot. Whoops.). On my wish list is a setup to do water shots, and one of those pocket dolly sliders.

Besides surfing, what else are you interest or involved in filming?

All action sports. I recently started shooting skateboarding, and I’m hoping to get into some snow and wakeboard shooting in the future. I also enjoy doing travel pieces and just experimenting with imagery. And filming my friends goofing off.

What’s next for Hayley Gordon?

I would love to work on a full length surf video…something that will stand the test of time and people will continue to watch for years to come. Right now I’ve just been doing shorts and trying out new ideas and perfecting my technique, but my wheels are turning for a bigger project in the future.

Check out more of Haley’s work at

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