How much do I know about wakeboarding? I'll be straight with you, I do not know much about wakeboarding. I went to the Harbour Reach Liverpool event in 2015, and saw some then. It was fun. A fun day out. Since then though, I've not really given the sport much thought. I mean, there's only so much time in the day right?

So when snowboarding hat-wearer Samuel McMahon, of Whitelines and Onboard, phoned me up and said "I've got a mate who's made a wakeboarding film, and was wondering whether it might work for Mpora" - I have to say readers, I hesitated.

"A wakeboarding film? I'll give it a look but, honestly, it's not really my area of expertise." 

"Just have a watch and see what you think. He's a really good filmer." 

End of phone call. 

I could now walk you through, in detail, what followed but, as I've already mentioned, there's only so much time in the day. I'll summarise by saying that I watched a cut of the wakeboarding film known as 'Ice Cream 1.5', and was drawn into it in a way I hadn't expected. I liked the way it was shot, I liked the dour midlands voiceover satirising the overblown guff you get in a Travis Rice film, and I liked the wakeboarding. I liked it a lot.

Wanting to find out more about the film, I sorted out a phone call with Ben Howells from Pilchard Productions (the man behind it) so I could get the lowdown. 

How did you get into wakeboarding? What's the story?

So basically I'd done a snowboard season before Uni and loved it, and then I started Uni and because we all know English winters aren't that great I just really missed not being able to snowboard everyday.

I realised there was a lake in the Cotswolds that had just opened up and saw the potential to do wakeboarding in summer as an alternative to snowboarding. Nowadays I do get to snowboard a lot more so it's less of a big deal but at the time I was just amazed by being able to effectively snowboard, in England, on water.

"I called this 1.5 because it's a reference to this snowboard film I really liked when I was younger called 'DC Mountain Lab'"

Was there an Ice Cream before Ice Cream 1.5? What's the deal with the title?

Yeah, so in 2010. I can't remember why but I decided to make a UK based film called Ice Cream. I can't remember why it was called that. Great backstory, I know. Anyway, I made that and filmed with like so many different people in the UK. Then I just sort of forgot about it.

I called this 1.5 because it's a reference to this snowboard film I really liked when I was younger called 'DC Mountain Lab'. They then made another one called '1.5' and they did that because it wasn't really a full sequel. It was just a funny little extra one.

While we were making this, a few of the younger riders who'd grown up and loved watching the original because they were only like 12 or 13 at the time, and they really wanted to a make a sequel with them as the next generation. So it was their idea last summer.

Originally, it was just going to be a little project that was a follow up to Ice Cream. So I thought I'd call it that in kind of a homage to the snowboard movies. Although everyone is definitely going to think it's a reference to this wakeboarding film called... shit what's it called? 'Statement'. There was a 'Statement' and a 'Statement 1.5' so I think all the wakeboarders are going to think I'm referencing that but I'm actually not.

Ice Cream 1.5 obviously has a globe-trotting feel to it. Where exactly did you go while shooting it?

So, we started out in England and the plan was to just do stuff around Liquid Leisure in London because they've got such a great set-up. They have this yearly contest called Plastic Playground, which is where we're premiering the film actually.

But anyway, all the boys were going to be travelling all over winter so we ended up going to CWC, which is a lake in the Philippines. I'd always wanted to go there, and that was really fun.

So we'd got to that point and I thought we were finished but then, following a chat with the owner of Liquid Leisure, we ended up going to shoot a Plastic Playground contest in Bali as that's where all the riders were going to be.

After that we realised we could premiere it this summer, and the film kind of follows that narrative of summer into winter. And then through winter, which could then push back through into summer as well.

Who's the guy doing the voiceover? 

Ah, yeah. That's just my Dad. I gave him the script but he very much brought his own edge to it. We're originally from the Midlands. His accent isn't usually that strong so he put it on for the film a bit. We wanted to give it more of an English feel because voiceovers always have this... they're always so cheesy. Especially when they're voiced by North Americans.

It's like the opposite of a Travis Rice style voiceover?

Yeah, that was kind of the plan. Like, with the soundtrack being what it is and the way the video is... I kind of felt like it could have that pretentious air to it so hopefully my Dad's voiceover contradicts that and makes the whole thing a bit more down to earth.

What did you shoot with? Presumably there was some drones in there? And what are the main challenges of shooting wakeboarding as oppposed to, say, snowboarding?

It's often camera nerds who are like "Oh, what did you film this on?" and I'm just like "Who cares?" Because it's not the camera you have, it's how you use it. There's a lot of people out there with really cheap cameras doing amazing stuff. And, on the other hand, there's a lot of people with expensive cameras who don't have a clue how to get the best out of them.

But, to get back to the point. We used a little bit of drone with myself controlling and also a couple of friends who are pretty good pilots. Which was really useful when I'm trying to film from one angle and then you can have someone fully focused on the drone from the other.

What with the environment being water, you know, that's the main challenge with filming wakeboarding. You're constrained. You can't just walk wherever you want. That's where it's really good to have the support coming in. They've been brilliant at Liquid Leisure, at the lake. Because we've been able film on the waterskiing boat, on the jet-ski.

"It's not the camera you have, it's how you use it"

In the other countries we went to, there were floating pontoons we could position. Which is great. And obviously the way technology has progressed means we had a Ronin with us which is a really good camera stabiliser. In the past, if you were filming on a pontoon they'd always be a little bit of that wobble. Whereas now you can just hold this stabiliser and it keeps everything perfectly stable. If you want to add some movement in now, it's so much easier to diversify your angles while still getting the shots you want.

It's a lot easier than it used to be to make the most of that environment. It's just important to have a place where they support you really because we did a lot of stuff early mornings so there was no, I don't want to say "idiots", but some people tend to be a little unaware. Even if they're trying to avoid you while riding round the lake, they might get really close.

Shooting before the day really gets going means you can avoid other people, and it's also about getting that nicer morning light. Which sometimes we got, sometimes we didn't. But anyway, I like doing things that way. It's also really satisfying because when you're done by midday, in the Philippines it was even earlier as we'd start at about 5:30am, and all the other riders rock up and you've already done all your shooting. Ticking it all off before members of the public get there makes life so much easier.

Who's the injured guy that we see about three quarters of the way through the film?

So that's Ryan Peacock. Two of the guys, Ryan and Liam, are brothers. They're a few years apart in age but they ride a lot together. And they push each other a lot.

I was actually talking to Ryan about it the other day and how they maybe have a different style of going for stuff. Like, Liam just goes for everything whereas Ryan maybe plans a little more. But what he [Ryan] was saying about the way they ride is that "trying hard tricks is scary, but nowhere near as scary as the idea of his brother getting it before him."

"Having problems with your knees is part of wakeboarding. A lot of wakeboarders I know have had an ACL replaced"

Basically, Ryan did his knee in a pretty major way about a year or so ago. He was hanging out at the lake all last summer working there, and really wanted to be in the movie as well so was feeling bummed out that he couldn't be. And then, as the project grew, we realised we had more time and that his recovery was going to coincide.

Having problems with your knees is part of wakeboarding. A lot of wakeboarders I know have had an ACL replaced, it's a common injury. So I thought, without pressing on it too much, it'd be interesting to show Ryan's recovery. One of the other riders Joe, I wanted to put in but not sure I'll have time now, he shot a lot last year but wasn't able to do the end section because he broke his leg like halfway through winter. Broke his femur. Injury is part of wakeboarding, for everyone sooner or later, so just I wanted to touch on that a bit.

Did you think the injury aspect of wakeboarding is underestimated?

Yeah, absolutely. There's a few different ways of looking at it. Of course, there's the water aspect which if you're coming in fast, and you catch one of your edges, the acceleration of your body from when its stood up to when it hits the water is brutal. And, obviously, we all know what it's like to bellyflop into water so imagine that but emphasised even more.

The other thing to consider is knee injuries. Knee injuries are really common. Probably more than anything else. Because almost always you're dealing with flat landings. Like whereas a snowboard jump can be 100ft or more, but if it's a well built jump you hardly feel the landing. As long as you get it right.

With wakeboarding people get the misguided impression that water is soft but, as you can see in the movie, traditional kicker landings work your knees hard. When people go massive, they can only take those flat landing impacts because they've got technique right, they've got confidence in the air, and they've got massive leg muscles to take the hits.


If all this talk about wakeboarding and ice cream has got you hyped on wakeboarding and films named after frozen dairy desserts, you'll be excited to hear that Ice Cream 1.5 will be premiering on the 14th of July 2018 at Liquid Leisure. We'll be sharing the stream of this event on the Mpora Facebook Page which means you'll be able to watch it anywhere on Earth (so long as you have a half-decent internet connection). The film will be made available on iTunes and Google Play in August.

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