Filmmaker Feature: Jack McCoy

Jack McCoy is one legendary filmmaker. With over 20 films, spanning many generations of incredible surfers, Jack has seen some amazing surfing, locations, and people through his lens. His latest film, A Deeper Shade of Blue, is premiering (WORLD PREMIERE that is!) at the Santa Barbara Film Festival this year on February 1st at 8pm. If you are interested in going, tickets can be purchased at or

newly released trailer

You have said before that a Bruce Brown film opened your eyes to movie making. What was it about his films that got you inspired to start making your own?

I was12 or 13 and going to your first surf film for me was a big deal.  The posters were up around my home town of Kailua and because it was up at the high school and a bit far to walk I went with my dad.  Bruce was there selling tickets, I think Pat was there too.  Anyway he greeted us at the door and he took our ticket, he introduced the film, told everyone about it and then turned out the lights and started the projector.

It was electric in that room when the first images came up larger than life.  Bruce sat there with a reel to reel tape recorder that had the music and narrated the film on the spot.

Half time he came and talked to everyone and then went up and gave away some door prizes and talked some more about the second half.  We hung around after listening to more of his stories and I went home dreaming that I wanted to be like that guy, traveling the world and then sharing his adventures with others.  That was the Start.


AI Pitted (all frame grabs from the film)


When did you realize that you were going to be a filmmaker?

That very night.


Cy makes a cameo


With 20+ films under your belt, what was your favorite project so far? Why?

I always say Tubular Swells, or in the USA it was called, In Search of Tubular Swells.  It was my first film and everything Dick Hoole and I did was new, fresh and exciting.


Issac the grom charging


What aspect of your films do you feel most characterize them as a Jack McCoy film? Do you consider yourself to have a specific style or common thread between all of your films?

I don’t go out of my way to have an specific style, I just make movies from the heart and I guess I wear my heart on my sleeve or on the screen.  It’s funny that when my art director and I watched the rough cut of the film after we’d done the first pass of all the effects we laughed when we saw things that we’d put in a lot of the other films we’d worked on together…. like little airplanes and birds going thru frames, but each and everyone of those effect are what we think of when someone like DH says “flying free”  we key in a few birds going through frame.  I guess that is my style and it just comes out that way.  Nothing planned or specific, just straight from the heart.


DH slip sliding along a J Bay speed wall


Who has been your favorite surfer to work with over the years?

My current favorite would have to be Stephanie Gilmore.  I only had one day with her but I felt like I’d known her for a long time and she a very interesting human being, and I really love the way she surfs.

Wayne Lynch taught me a lot when I was making ADITLOWL also with Maurice.  He was a very very private person when I stared to work with him and he taught me a lot about sensitivity to his surf spots.  I’ve carried that through my whole career.


Jordy Boosting


What were the challenges to filmmaking in the 70’s? How has it changed today, what’s still the same?

Today all you have to do is buy the camera and call on OTTO and start shooting.  When I started I had to manually set my focus, aperture and film speed.  If you were off in any of those areas, your shots were into usable.  Imagine scoring an epic day at Padang and your exposure was off.  Couldn’t use a shot, an epic day left only in your head.  At the time it was a heartbreaker.  The term “school of hard knocks” comes to mind.


Trace Marshall Malibu log skis


What is the same today?

The stoke of getting a “keeper.”


What are your feelings about this new age of digital everything? Is it good or bad for filmmakers?

I’ve embraced the digital age with ADSOB full on and I love it.  The first big turn on was with my new HD camera in a water housing.  After 30 years with fixed lenses to have a zoom control was very very exciting.  I virtually had to start over and as a old school guy, it was a big challenge and I’m still learning, but then I love a challenge.  I still however like the look of film and I spend a big part of my time trying to make HD look softer and more film like.  Crazy isn’t it!


Tom at Noosa going long


Where do you see the future of surf filmmaking heading?

Better stories and more water shots.


You have been working on a new film, Deeper Shade of Blue. On the film’s website, it says “This is not a surf movie, it’s a film about surfing’s deepest roots: in the subconscious; in ancient lore; in the craft of surfboard building; in man’s perpetual quest for a joyful relationship with the natural world.” What is it that you are trying to convey?

Growing up in Hawaii I was exposed from an early age of what it meant to be a waterman.  The Hawaiians, I believe are the best watermen in the world that goes way back.  We have been the descendants of those who came before us and I honestly believe that there is a huge majority of surfers world wide have little no idea of how what and why they got that little piece of plastic that they go down to the beach and ride waves on.  Where did it all begin?

Like I felt a responsibility as a story teller with a captive audience to share where surfing was at the turn of the century with Blue Horizon, with ADSOB, I wanted to share what I knew a lot of surfers don’t

Many are going to watch my film and know a lot of the story, but just about everyone say’s they learn something.  Even if you do know it all, I’ve been told from preview audiences that it’s quite an entertaining 90 minutes.  And for those that don’t understand much about our cutlture, well those are the ones who really find the story interesting and entertaining.  A hot new current surf porn wave after wave, manouver program it is not.  As we say, not a surf movie, a film about surfing.


There’s a few epic Burch alaia slides as well


The film is about surfing’s deepest roots. What are your roots to surfing? What does the sport give you, besides a profession?

My roots are firmly entrenched in Waikiki beach where my dad hired a board and pushed me onto my first wave.  I got it the moment I stood up. I’d also have to say that meeting the Duke at my dads TV show had a big impression on me and I think anyone who had the honor of meeting him will tell you the same thing.  I got a personal, physical hand shake from the man who shared Aloha his whole life and that’s been becoming more and important for me to share with others as I get older.

What does it give me, well I don’t look at surfing as a sport, I see it as an artistic dance and a way to live your life.  I am very fortunate to have a great friend and investor who believes in what I’m doing and although it is my profession, it is way more than that. It is my passion and I give thanks every day for being about to do what I do and to be able to work with the people who support me.


For more about the film, be sure to check out or find it on Facebook

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