Interview // Michael Kew


It’s hard to know what your life goal is. Some people never even find it. But for photographer, film maker, writer Michael Kew he knew what he wanted to do even before he made a career out of it. It was all about passion that’s what lead to Michael to become what he is today. From an early age having an interest in photography, reading, and writing it lead him in a direction to where he is now. If you have a passion, keep going and one day you may actually succeed in doing what you love for a living. Enjoy this interview with Michael Kew.

Who are you and where are you currently right now?

I’m a writer who also dabbles in photojournalism and video. I’ve done a lot of surfing-related stuff. After spending 90% of my domestic life south of Point Conception, California, I’ve recently relocated to the Oregon coast.

When did you start surfing?

Officially in June 1986, but I’d been bodyboarding since about 1980, when I was 5.

How did you first start becoming interested in filming surfing?

I’ve been shooting photos since I was about 12. The video stuff didn’t happen until about 2011, when I acquired my first DSLR that could do both stills and video. But ever since I can remember, I wanted to make surf movies—digital made it feasible since I could never afford to do it via film.

Photo by Michael Kew

Photo by Michael Kew

Photo by Michael Kew

Photo by Michael Kew

Other than filming surfing, you are also a writer. Can you tell me about how you started writing.

It just evolved naturally. Since I was very young, I’d been a voracious reader, and I think that just translated into wanting to do it myself. I never deliberately sought to become a writer. It’s just what I was born to do.

You have also written a book called “Crossings.” Can you tell the readers here in Taiwan more about the book.

It’s a compilation of travel stories from some of my trips taken between 2001-2011. It is strange, but I took trips to several countries that I did not write a single word about—places like Greenland, Azores, Peru, Ireland, etc. I do regret that now. But “Crossings” is full of exotic places in the South Pacific, the Indian Ocean, Africa, Europe, North America, and Asia. All of the stories had been previously published in magazines like Surfer and The Surfer’s Journal. I self-published the book and am selling it through my website. Crossings

Photo by Michael Kew

Photo by Michael Kew

A lot of the people you film seems to be located around the Santa Barbara area.  Tell me about the surf community there and some of the characters who live there.

All that stuff was shot on clean days at Rincon Point. As far as the local surfers are concerned, it’s a massively diverse batch of humans mostly intent on scoring one or several of the shapely right-hand pointbreaks in the region. Unfortunately, most are quite inconsistent. When the area is lit with the right angle of wintertime swell, the lineups get incredibly crowded with not only locals, but surfers who drive several hours from the north and south to hopefully taste perfection with 200 of their closest friends.

Which surfers do you like working with the most?

I’m not really sure. I suppose he/she can be whoever is humble and talented and interesting and unique and engaging. I haven’t worked with any for a while, though, since moving to Oregon.

Photo by Michael Kew

Photo by Michael Kew

Photo by Michael Kew

Photo by Michael Kew

How many countries have you been to and what are some memories that stand out the most.

I have never counted the number of countries I’ve visited, but I suppose I should. Standout memories? Wow, that’s a loaded question that is tough to answer definitively. I suppose I can just allude to all the diverse cultures and waves, however generic that may sound.

Photo by Michael Kew

Photo by Michael Kew

Photo by Michael Kew

Photo by Michael Kew

Photo by Michael Kew

Photo by Michael Kew

What attracted you to filming people who ride all different types of boards than the standard tri-fin thruster board?

Probably because ‘alternative’ craft is what I ride and can relate to the most. I haven’t surfed or owned a standard thruster shortboard in 20 years, although that is the kind of board I grew up on. I really dislike those kinds of boards now and am rather amused at how the vast majority of surfers and media have deemed that design and that kind of surfing to be the only acceptable ‘mainstream.

Can you tell us about surfing in Oregon?

Cold, stormy, sharky, dangerous, isolated, big gnarly waves…it’s generally pretty bad, but sometimes it can get OK, like the cliché “every dog has its day.” I didn’t move here for the surf; I came for the ambiance and a new life chapter, which has opened my eyes to other pursuits that have nothing to do with surfing, whereas while in Santa Barbara, surfing was basically all I did. It’s good to diversify.

What is your current surfboard quiver and which board have you been surfing the most as of late?

Funny you ask. My quiver is in a storage unit down in Carpinteria, California. The only board I have here—and the only one I’ve surfed since November 2014—is a 7’0” single-fin hull/egg shaped by Ryan Lovelace. It’s been interesting since I was always so used to having so many different boards at my beck-and-call. The 7’0” is a fantastic shape, though, and surfing it never gets old or dull.

What can we expect to see from you in the future?

I wish I knew! My future is a big, blank page. I will always be writing and shooting photos, but I may end up doing non-surfing stuff for income and opportunity, things that involve beer and teaching (but not together!).

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Michael Kew relative links:

Michael Kew Web Site

Michael Kew Films

Michael Kew Instagram @peatheadq


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