Vaughan Blakey on 'Red Monkey, Full Moon'

Stu Nettle
Swellnet Dispatch

Recently, while doing the runaround at a NSW pointbreak I bumped into Vaughan Blakey, he of Tracks, Waves, Surfing World, Ain't That Swell, and The Hold Down. Have I missed anything..?

We chatted about inconsequential shit: tides, boards, etc until I lost sight of him down the line and he was gone.

Almost immediately I kicked myself because I wanted to congratulate Vaughan on last year's 'Red Monkey, Full Moon'. RMFM was a twenty-minute promo film, small fry in comparison to many other works, but it left an impression on me and I wanted to let him know.

At the time I saw him, the lockdowns were just beginning, our freedoms were being curtailed, and if they continued surfing would be but a memory - at least for a while.

Coincidentally, it's a scenario presaged by Vaughan in the opening skit to 'Red Monkey, Full Moon'. But let's not veer south here, because the film is buoyed by an XXL serve of joie de vivre. Irrespective of circumstances, it's impossible to watch it and not get drawn into the slipstream, making it the perfect film for our current predicament.

I couldn't wait for another chance encounter, I called up Vaughan to talk about 'Red Monkey..'

Swellnet: You've worked on a few different Rip Curl projects. Did that connection begin with Neil Ridgway [Rip Curl CMO] at 'Tracks'?
Vaughan: Yeah, pretty much. When I did work experience, Ridgway was the deputy editor at Tracks. He's been the most important mentor I've ever had outside of my parents.

You guys have had a longstanding relationship. Was it on the back of that relationship that he roped you into The Search?
No, he actually felt The Search was a bit too earnest. It had gone into this space of, I guess, lacking a bit of personality. You couldn't really criticise those films in terms of the surfing in them - everything was first class - but I think he was just going, "Fuck, I just want a bit of ridiculous energy pumped in these things."

If you ask me, that's a good sign, that's the sign of someone who is not scared of change. I guess he just knew that I was the most ridiculous person he'd ever worked with.

Was the trip to #### ##### the first one?
Stu, you'll get killed if you say that out loud.

I'm an editor, I can make things disappear.
Right. Yeah, that was my first one and it was unreal as an introduction, just hanging out with Mick and Mason. It was just a perfect set up. We literally camped in a little circle with no one else around. No phones, there was no nothing, and it gave me a really good chance to understand those two guy, their dynamic, how they ticked...

It's a funny one, because when Mason got signed up for Rip Curl, I didn't see how it could work. I didn't see the fit.
Mason is the ultimate fan of history. He's a massive fan of competitive surfing - he loves anyone who's achieved. He loves it all and he has so much respect for everyone that's come before him, but in his peculiar way he's so happy to just like lord everything.

I think there are two ways you can go if you're someone who really loves the past: You either worship that particular era and only ride those boards and think that was surfing's glory days, or you can be like Mason where you take everything that was great about every era and just suck it into your own game.

So it comes out in a melange.
Oh yeah. He's all over the place with surfing - there's a million different styles. But the cool thing is, he just worships Mick. He just thinks Mick is the best. And Mick has to basically roll with this, not unhinged, but completely unpredictable character.

It seems to loosen Mick up.
100% it does. Yeah.

Now, 'Red Monkey Full Moon', it was filmed over a couple of months in Indo. It has a story of sorts, did you come up with it?
First up, I wasn't on any of those trips in Indo. The first one I was on the trip, so that was really easy. But for this one, I've got a call from Ridgway and he was like, "Hey, the boys have scored all over Indo, classic, classic waves."

He was like, "We want to make a Search clip out of this. I'm going to fly you up there to try and build a story around it." And I went, "Oh, my God." I was stressed out because I was going, a) it's not really a Search trip as the waves are packed and everyone's surfing, and b) how do you make twenty minutes of left-hand barrel riding look interesting?

How is that going to connect with people?

So....I just went, "You know what? I'm going to take this back to a time when Indo was the Search location." So I asked myself, "What did surf movies look like back then?"

I was borrowing a bit from 'Endless Summer' and all those movies that I grew up with, 'Ticket to Ride' and stuff like that.

Yeah, you included that fast-motion passage that reminded me of Bruce Brown, or mid-career Jack McCoy even.
Yeah. 100%. I was tapping the surf movies I watch growing up, so that includes all the McCoy movies. You didn't realise it at the time, but that guy was always making you feel good about surfing. He always did that. Freak at it! Always just fun and silly, so that was my other plan with it, because you know how I was saying it's really hard to engage?

Well if you haven't got a story, then you've just got to be funny. That's what I was thinking. Just think of the premiere and imagine what's going to make people laugh. That's all I wanted. Yeah, so I borrowed that one. I thought the music was really important too. I was going, "What did surfing movies sound like back then?" Aussie Crawl was a no brainer...

That's not a no brainer. Don't pull that shit. It's not a no brainer.
Ha's not?

I'd heard that song for years and years and I'd never given it a second thought until it was matched with Desert Point. The song starts with a lead break, which is unusual, starting with a lead break, and the first scene is Mason coming down the line at Desert Point. It's the most perfect match of footage and music. How did you choose that song?
Well there were two things. I wanted to pretend I'm in Bali in the '80s and I tried to go back to when I was 13, in '88, and what did every single Aussie bar in Kuta and Legian sound like? And that's what it fucking sounded like, mate.

It was before techno and stuff, that's all they played. All they played were Aussie pub classics. I was like, "That's it!"

But the other part of it is that I decided on that song purely because my mum's best friend is married to the bass player in Australia Crawl so I had a feeling I might be able to get it for a cheap price. I just thought, "Fuck yes, that's perfect."

Oh, it's a perfect song for Desert Point. There's no breakdown in the song, it doesn't slow down, no cutback section, so it's the same as Desert Point. It just keeps pumping down the line.
Yeah man, it worked out so good. The second we watched it, the second we dropped it on unedited, we knew. It matched perfectly, which I think is unbelievable.

OK. The hat hookup, was that staged?
100% legit. I wasn't there, but I know that Mason and the guy that he swapped the hat with, his name escapes me right now, but he's the little Japanese guy who got the wave of the decade at Pipeline.

Oh, Heit, Heito. No, Kay, Kate...
Keito Keno or something like that?

Yeah, I know the one.
But anyway, that's that kid. When I was watching that footage, I was like, "Who is this dude?" But when I was in Bali for the premiere, that kid was there, and everyone was just lording him. Like he was still riding on the back of that Pipeline wave.

For me, it was goosebumps kind of stuff. Surfing when it's not selfish and you're smiling and sharing with other people - take the hat, hand it back, and then laugh about it afterwards. All the way through that DP session Mason's bouncing around, he's grabbing rail with his other arm, he's shuffling his foot onto the nose. It's joyful to watch.
Yeah, man. That's the word. I think that's one of the biggest things for me personally with surfing, just in general. You know, we work in surf media which has copped a hiding. When I was a grommet reading surf mags, people weren't overly critical. I mean, you could be critical to yourself and stuff, but now we live in the age of hate. That's fine, that's fine, but it's just not my schtick at all. I would way rather just be stoked then be overly self important, or the other side where you're just tearing into anyone who has a go at something. 

You don't have a bit of anger inside?
Nah. My mind doesn't even go to those places.

Yeah. Well, that's unreal. And I mean, for a while there, twenty minutes at least, you took viewers to where your mind is at. Impossible not to smile when watching that film.
Well that stokes me out a lot. That's cool.

It's funny that we're talking about this now because we're under a lockdown. The opening skit shows Mick and Mason reminiscing about past sessions when there are curerently thousands of surfers across Australia doing the very same thing. 'Red Monkey' is a perfect film for the lockdown.
The whole world's having a breather, mate.

We're all sitting around like Mick and Mason, dreaming about past sessions.


Eugene Green's picture
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Eugene Green commented Wednesday, 1 Apr 2020 at 6:49pm


Blowin's picture
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Blowin commented Wednesday, 1 Apr 2020 at 4:45pm

Loved that film.

Thanks very much, Vaughn Blakey. It’s a good one to get lost in some pure stoke. Watching it right now.

Fuck .....I miss Indo already.

ringmaster's picture
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ringmaster commented Wednesday, 1 Apr 2020 at 5:05pm

One of the best surf flicks in recent memory for sure!

How good is Indo!!!

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surfstarved commented Wednesday, 1 Apr 2020 at 5:30pm

Anyone who wants to work on their backhand reo technique, just watch Mick's wave from 5:39 - 5:55 ish on repeat. That bloke's got the best, most technically flawless backhand reo in the business... ever, I reckon

Don't let the bastards grind you down

Blowin's picture
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Blowin commented Wednesday, 1 Apr 2020 at 5:34pm

Sorry , mate.

Occy has the best backhand belt of all time. Bar none.

Fanning is smooth and fast but it’s a bit tapered with regards to commitment.

Watch Occy drawing his concentric circles of blind side power and allow a universe of possibility open before you.

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surfstarved commented Wednesday, 1 Apr 2020 at 8:55pm

I'll give you that one Blowin. Wilko's was always a bit reminiscent of Occy's too and he's made me swear involuntarily a few times when he's gone past vertical and belted the lip with no apparent concern for personal safety.

But fuck I love Mick's though...

Don't let the bastards grind you down

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boxright commented Wednesday, 1 Apr 2020 at 5:33pm

The two consecutive G'land waves, Mick then Mason, that begin at 12:50 are the best waves in the film.

derra83's picture
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derra83 commented Wednesday, 1 Apr 2020 at 5:39pm

Way too much pasty white upper thigh for my liking. 'Curl product developers are letting themselves down big time.

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simba commented Wednesday, 1 Apr 2020 at 6:09pm

Seriously of the best fun surf movies ever and thats how they should done Vaughan.


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Fraser G commented Wednesday, 1 Apr 2020 at 7:33pm

Oh speed reef will miss thee

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wally commented Wednesday, 1 Apr 2020 at 8:01pm

If I needed someone to get a backhand barrel to save my life, I think I might pick Mason Ho.

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andy-mac commented Wednesday, 1 Apr 2020 at 8:33pm

Epic film... Loved it!


wbat's picture
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wbat commented Thursday, 2 Apr 2020 at 11:21am

I reckon that was pretty ordinary to be truthful. Not bad, just nothing special.

Best of a bad bunch maybe.

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goofyfoot commented Thursday, 2 Apr 2020 at 11:32am

The surfing, the skits? Please elaborate

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wbat commented Thursday, 2 Apr 2020 at 12:19pm

Well I didn't think anything was that great. Actually I did like the music but again would only give it an 8 out of 10. Didn't blow me away.
Surfing was as expected. Mick was Mick with really solid surfing but only what I would expect. And Mason was doing his usual frolicking (I find it a bit gimmicky, like his rock dance stuff). All good solid stuff but nothing that made me go wow. One really nice air though.
If I was to be critical I thought the cinematography was really average.
Animation was fun.
All up must have been a bad year.
Just my opinion.

thermalben's picture
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thermalben commented Thursday, 2 Apr 2020 at 12:42pm

Well, at most Universities, 8/10 (80%) or higher is equivalent to First Class Honours - their highest grading. So, that's a pretty good wrap!

wbat's picture
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wbat commented Thursday, 2 Apr 2020 at 12:48pm

Yep I hear you.

Having said that Jeremy's 10 in the final and subsequent victory at Hossegor last year was a 10 and mate that was a "wow" moment.

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jaunkemps commented Monday, 6 Apr 2020 at 4:12pm

I second that, great surfing and a greater claim in my eyes........Giddyup

Blowin's picture
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Blowin commented Thursday, 2 Apr 2020 at 11:58am

I find that VB’s comedic instinct is what separates him from the pack.

Red Monkey , Doped Youth these with the embarrassingly poor attempts by Taylor Steele just to emphasise how good he is. Like he said , he likes things fun and his movies just make you smile.

They also want you to go and belt a lip or two.

Big fan of his music selections also.

Don’t go telling anybody, but I actually bought a couple of the Goons of doom tracks off iTunes back in the day.

RB's picture
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RB commented Saturday, 4 Apr 2020 at 10:56am

Best surf film in ages, I'll watch it on the big screen for a psyche up before a promising swell. I'll also embarrassingly admit to practising and mimicking their tube stances before my last G Land trip. Well done Blakey and crew.

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goofyfoot commented Saturday, 4 Apr 2020 at 7:14pm

I wouldn’t be embarrassed about that RB. If you even picked up a couple of pointers that got you more shacked than usual it was worth it.
By the way, did it work??? Ha ha

RB's picture
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RB commented Tuesday, 7 Apr 2020 at 8:04am

Haha GoofyFoot I Don't know if it directly helped. But sitting in position with a set coming, it did run through my mind how those body positions felt and the lines they took. We only got 3-4 foot money trees not the 8 foot speeds I had been mind surfing.

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RB commented Tuesday, 7 Apr 2020 at 8:13am

Also as a side note. Quietly stoked the CT contest has been moved/postponed/cancelled.

Clam's picture
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Clam commented Wednesday, 8 Apr 2020 at 10:08am

Edited: deleted post.

Anyhow this a good surf flick with the indo barrell stuff

Blowin's picture
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Blowin commented Wednesday, 8 Apr 2020 at 10:01am

You like the movie ?

Clam's picture
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Clam commented Wednesday, 8 Apr 2020 at 10:11am

The surf footage is worth watching blowing !
Im not a big fan of either surfer but certainly will watch them have a go. Mason more entertaining for me.

Blowin's picture
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Blowin commented Wednesday, 8 Apr 2020 at 10:26am

You weren’t into the animated stuff at the start ?

What about when the full colour saturates the screen and Oz Crawl goes nuts on the guitar ?

Clam's picture
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Clam commented Wednesday, 8 Apr 2020 at 10:53am

No .
yeah i skipped to the surf don't have time for cartoons