The London Surf / Film Festival is a melting pot and meeting place for filmmakers and creatives. We were stoked to meet filmmaker Rebecca Coley at the festival this year. She’s making a film about how surfing transformed Nias, told through the eyes of a local girl who surfs on the Asian Surfing Championships. She is crowdfunding her project so if you love surfing and love film, please give her your support HERE. We caught up with Rebecca to find out about her and how she got started.


Whats your connection to the sea? What drew you to the sea and why surfing?

I grew up on the island of Jersey in the Channel Islands and I have always loved the sea ever since I can remember. It’s a very small island so you are always near the sea.

My dad used to run a beach concession at St Brelade’s Bay, so I would spend a lot of time with him running up and down with the tide and playing on the pedalos and canoes they hired out. There was also a speed boat that would take tourists on a banana ride. That was pretty fun too. I had a near drowning incident fairly young but it never put me off. I remember sometimes my mum would come to pick me up and I would pretend I couldn’t find her so I could stay longer on the beach.

My dad came from a small landlocked village near Manchester to Jersey in the 1970’s for work. He fell in love with sailing and built his own boat. He used to take us on trips around the island or over to France. For me the sea is a place of calm contentment I can’t find any other place.

I tried surfing on a youth club camp when I was about 14 with some good friends. We loved it, but we only surfed quite sporadically. I remember being put off by the boys and how mean they could be! Ha ha ha. Now I wish I’d kept it up from a younger age as I’d obviously be much better now! There was something about surfing that enamoured me. I think it was the outsider rebellious nature of it as well as the freedom. For me surfing definitely represents freedom.

When and why did you get into filmmaking?

I was always into telling stories. I used to make up stories for my little brother and sister and our cousins. I used to write these elaborate stories where I drew all the characters and made diagrams of how they were all connected to each other.

I got a video camera when I was about 16 and just used to annoy everyone filming them constantly.

I went from being quite badly behaved to finally getting my head down towards the end of school. I realised I didn’t want to let everyone down so I worked hard. I studied Law A-Level and thought for a while I might be a lawyer. The idea of being a filmmaker hadn’t really occurred to me. Then I went to Liverpool John Moores University to study Law and they were making lots of films in Liverpool at the time. Some friends and I started being extras on films as it was good money for students. I quickly fell in love with being on set and started skiving off uni to work as a runner or production assistant. I tried acting and pretty much every job on set before finally deciding to have a go at making my own films.

What piece of your work are you most proud?

This is hard as I make lots of very different work, from little drama and comedy shorts to documentary. Probably the project I am most proud of and meant the most to me was a trip to Mentawais after the tsunami in 2010 with Christie and Alice from Wavepark. We had raised funds to bring aid to the locals and it was a humbling and eye opening experience. I didn’t make my best film, but it probably had the most impact on me as a person.


The first image of Nias published in SURFER magazine in 1978. Image courtesy: Erik Aeder

What would be your dream session?

This is hard as it would be between my two favourite islands. So a sunrise surf in Jersey down at St Ouen’s – perfect offshore glassy day, you paddle out and bump into your favourite surfing buddies you haven’t seen for ages. You hoot each other on waves and have a right old laugh. Get out and go to the Splash for a hot chocolate and a brekkie. Then can I have a sunset surf in Nias? This is a dream right so it hasn’t taken two days to get there… Surf perfect Nias barrels with the beautiful pink painted sunset skies they get there and get out and enjoy a Bintang, a nasi goreng and a catch up with some old friends on that side of the world too.

To find out more about Rebecca’s project, hit the link: