Ishka Folkwell and the Thrill of Filming Perfect Waves

Stu Nettle picture
Stu Nettle (stunet)
Talking Heads

Just days before the release of Lost Track Atlantic's third episode, filmmaker Ishka Folkwell took time out from the editing bay, and from dad duties, to chat to Swellnet about tripping down the edge of Africa, filming when he could be surfing, and surfing when he should be filming.

Swellnet: How's COVID treating you?
Ishka Folkwell: It's been OK. I've been busy.

A lot of people I know don't what to do with their spare time during COVID, but by splitting one film into four episodes you've increased your workload. Is that how it's panned out for you?
Yeah, for sure. I mean, it's definitely a lot more work, I guess if we made it into just one feature film, we would've cut a lot of footage out, so there's that...but yeah, it's definitely kept me busy.

Also, just after we got back from the trip, I had my first kid as well so I'm glad I could stay home.

Congratulations, what did you have?
Cheers. We had a boy, he's just turned one the other month and it's been great. It's given me the time to be at home, because normally every month or two, I'd be off filming somewhere. It's worked really well in that regard, just being able to spend time at home with the family.

That's fantastic. Now look, about the trip, at what point did you realise, 'Hey, we've got so much footage here, it's too much for one episode"?
I don't remember exactly. It probably would have been some stage in Morocco. We got a bit of footage in Europe, not exactly what we were hoping for, even though looking back on it we're stoked with it, yet at the time we were like, 'Oh, I don't know about this...'

Then yeah, once we got to Morocco, it seemed like we couldn't do anything wrong - it was just swell after swell. And then at some point we were like, 'Alright, I think we can break this up and make something more substantial.'

Filmmaker and subject, artist and muse, mate and mate - Ishka, at left, with Torren

Did you bounce that idea around for a while? For instance, were there any negatives to splitting it up into various episodes?
I don't think so. After the initial idea was talked about between Torren and I, we had to make sure that we had enough footage that wasn't surfing to support it. By that I mean, enough footage to tell a story in each episode and for it not to be sort of repetitive. I think that was probably the main concern because the idea was always to tell a story and not just be a standard surf flick.

So we had a chat with Ryan [Scanlon - needessentials founder] and got his input, and he was all for it.

Did the COVID lockdown have any bearing on the decision..?
I don't think so, from memory. Torren and Ryan might have a different memory, but I'm pretty sure we based our decision solely on footage. Like it was never about, 'Oh, no-one can travel for a while so let's milk it.'

The way it works, you get four premieres instead of one, which is exciting.
Yeah, it's great. With 'Lost Track New Zealand', the one we did on motorbikes, we released that right at the start of COVID and all the lockdowns. We didn't get to screen it and it felt really strange - almost a bit of an anti-climax. The thing is, the screenings are just so much fun and it's really cool just getting to chat with people. It's so different to reading some comments on YouTube. A totally different atmosphere.

So yeah, the premieres are unreal.

Now, I'm gonna do a quick little sidestep here Ishka...

That footage in Morocco was insane. Tell me, did you surf at all?
Ha ha...yeah, I did. I surfed a bunch. I guess the hard thing about filming though, is you never get to surf when it's at its best. Luckily it worked out that the first day we got there - that swell we raced in for - we got, I think, two days straight off the bat where it was that great footage. Then as the swell tapered off, we were like, 'Well, we're not going to better the footage we've already got.' So that's when I jumped on the opportunity to get in the water, and we were lucky enough to keep having these runs of swell. 

There's another section in Episode Two that's a lot smaller at the same wave, but it's just a long little tube. We were lucky enough to get so much surf that I was able to get in the water then.

To surf, or not to surf?

On those flawless days, what did you talk about at night? Torren caught all these great waves, you're filming, so what can you offer? Tell him about the waves he missed..?
No, I try not to. To be honest, you're not really giving any sort of're just sort of buzzing. Just stoked with what you got and how eveything is going.

As hard as it may be to film when the waves are pumping, I think it's harder to film when it looks fun but isn't pumping, because you're not sure if you're even going to use the footage. When the surf's that good, it's obvious. 'Oh yeah, this is epic. It's definitely going to be in the film.' I get stoked just to be capturing it.

I'm going out on a limb here, but I reckon there are one or two waves in the last episode that are as good waves as any wave I've ever seen on film.
Yeah. There are two in particular that are pretty incredible. Just from the top of the point all the way down.

One of them towards the end, there was a little bit of foreground foliage - a tree or something - towards the end of the wave. Were you ever worried that you might lose Torren down the line?
Yeah, I think you're talking about the very last wave.

I think so.
I didn't film that wave. That's the one wave...I had already gone home. So there was a local Moroccan guy who happened to be filming some other people and he got that wave. We were lucky enough to get that, because that was the closing wave of the whole episode.

Really? It was a nice touch the foreground noise...what would you call it?
Yeah, just some bushes in the foreground right at the end. I really like it. You can sort of just see him come out the end. I thought it was a cool way to finish it.

The wave in question starts at 2:30

OK. So you had to dart home for the impending birth of your son and Torren keeps going down the coast, is that correct?
No. The last stop for us was Senegal. So we went down to Senegal and then we went back to Morocco and that's when I headed home, and then they continued travelling through Morocco for a few weeks after I left.

But you did film all the footage that's to come for Episode Three. Is that correct?
Yeah. I filmed everything except for that one wave that I mentioned earlier.

Right. And what can we expect in the coming episode?
Episode Three picks up where we left off Episode Two - still in Morocco. We tried to make it as chronological as possible as we moved further down the coast. We progressed down the coast and so basically we move into the Western Sahara as we got further south. It's got some more epic waves, but not quite as good as Episode Two. I'd call it different, a few more big wally waves with turns, and a nice slab that we got to shoot in the water, which we don't get to do much, so that was nice.

We also met some incredible people. One guy in particular, a Moroccan guy named Omar. He was living in a cave right in front of this perfect little slab, so we hung out with him a lot and he's got quite a big part in Episode Three.

I know you're only halfway through releasing this instalment, but are yourself and Torren planning the next one?
We haven't spoken about it too much, to be honest. There's a few ideas going round; I mean at this stage, it's probably going to be in Australia, but we're thinking it would probably be something a little more challenging, and probably not as long of a timeline. We had three months for both the last Lost Track films. It might be a bike riding film where we're on bikes or hiking or maybe kayaks and just do it maybe over a month or a few weeks.

When I threw this question at Torren, he mentioned sailing.
Yeah. That's another one.

Do you know how to sail?
No....ha ha. I don't. I've never even been on a sailboat! Torren doesn't know a whole lot about it either but he's definitely dug deep into it and anything he sets his mind to he picks up pretty quick. So yeah, it's on the cards at some stage.

I really enjoy the angle, where the film is not just about the location but about the mode of transport as well. I think it's fantastic.
Yeah. It's such a simple concept, but I think it works. I think we're lucky to have needessentials backing us. Ryan's such a legend and he's good to work with, he's really good at storytelling and it's good to be able to collaborate with him. 

It's epic being able to do these projects, there's not many people that would let us go out and make them happen.

Well I look forward to seeing what you guys have got in store. See ya, Ishka.
See ya, mate.

'Lost Track Atlantic: Episode Three' will be released next week


tommy southcoast's picture
tommy southcoast's picture
tommy southcoast Thursday, 29 Jul 2021 at 1:34pm

Only bad thing about their videos is the anticipation for the next episodes and the jealousy! Love their films, very grateful for them during lockdown!

zenagain's picture
zenagain's picture
zenagain Thursday, 29 Jul 2021 at 2:53pm

See above.

vbabin's picture
vbabin's picture
vbabin Thursday, 29 Jul 2021 at 4:06pm

Some of the best surfing travel/spirit movies in modern era i reckon also “second thoughts” bck then was pretty epic too at capturing the true essence of surfing remote location and the hardcore dedication to scoring uncrowded waves at any cost

Roystein's picture
Roystein's picture
Roystein Thursday, 29 Jul 2021 at 4:20pm

Great article, best part was that the third instalment is imminent!

goofyfoot's picture
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goofyfoot Thursday, 29 Jul 2021 at 6:26pm

Fuck yeah, can’t wait. These are epic.

gunther's picture
gunther's picture
gunther Thursday, 29 Jul 2021 at 9:45pm

That last wave made me want to go surf

rooftop's picture
rooftop's picture
rooftop Friday, 30 Jul 2021 at 2:38am

Amazing waves, great music, stunning visuals, and a good story. If the script were a little better it would be perfect. I get a little tired of hearing how they had SUCH an amazing time and it was SO good to visit SUCH an amazing place with SUCH friendly people where the waves were SO good that they had SUCH amazing memories that they'll cherish for SO long...

Still, what an epic trip. Look at me grumble under my bridge while they're living the dream.

AlfredWallace's picture
AlfredWallace's picture
AlfredWallace Friday, 30 Jul 2021 at 10:13am

Geez Rooftop. Someone spill your ’Weeties’ this morning ? We/I/you as Australians always find something negative in someone’s good work. What is that all about ? Maybe you need some ‘Cheerios’

DanCB's picture
DanCB's picture
DanCB Friday, 30 Jul 2021 at 10:53am

Wow, wow, wow...That was GOLD!!

johpg's picture
johpg's picture
johpg Friday, 30 Jul 2021 at 11:31am

Anyone else here got a missus who would let them swan around the world surfing for a few weeks while they were in their 3rd trimester?

mick-free's picture
mick-free's picture
mick-free Saturday, 31 Jul 2021 at 9:30am

On behalf of the new COVID dads…that’s a no

johnnygreebs's picture
johnnygreebs's picture
johnnygreebs Monday, 2 Aug 2021 at 8:05pm

Farrrkkkk no! Mid second tri & if I so much as eye off a weekend down the coast, or even a night on the piss I'm toast haha.

Surfalot67's picture
Surfalot67's picture
Surfalot67 Friday, 30 Jul 2021 at 5:23pm

Bloody Hell Rooftop, Torren nearly dying in NZ, endless van fuck ups, freezing cold etc not enough punishment for you champ? You must be fun at parties :) Personally I think this is the best series of surf flicks in years, great cinematography (yes Ishka, you are!) and amazing local music choices. 10/10 in my book, frothing for Ep 3.

AlfredWallace's picture
AlfredWallace's picture
AlfredWallace Friday, 30 Jul 2021 at 8:40pm

I’m with you Surfalot. Best series of films for ages, doesn’t have all the fucking in ya face advertising and the bullshit of the other ‘look at me merry-go-round’. Keep up the great work Ishka & Torryn.

bigredcouch's picture
bigredcouch's picture
bigredcouch Monday, 2 Aug 2021 at 9:52am

Certainly not a popular duo in certain parts of Aus. Repeatedly film and publish waves that are off limits to that sort of exposure. Big fella obviously couldn't make it on a thruster.

Surfalot67's picture
Surfalot67's picture
Surfalot67 Monday, 2 Aug 2021 at 10:30am

I've never seem them name or identify a wave BRC. Do you have an example? As for the thruster comment, that's the most backward thing I'll read today :)

Tommo.Naj's picture
Tommo.Naj's picture
Tommo.Naj Monday, 2 Aug 2021 at 2:59pm

I dunno man, I got to have a chat to him a few times this year in Tas, super humble dude and was just after some fun waves. Most of the spots I've seen in his edits are already known about by the people who can surf them.

AlfredWallace's picture
AlfredWallace's picture
AlfredWallace Monday, 2 Aug 2021 at 6:59pm

I surf with a mate who use to live near Torren. He remarked how good the fella is as a genuine human being. He also said he could watch him all day any day surfing craft of any dimension in any kind of waves especially when it’s thumping. Doesn’t have an inflated ego, doesn’t spill the beans on spots him and Ishka share whether it’s surfing or filming, I’d say he’s a good surfing citizen. A way better spectacle than the trapeze artists we see on the Wozzle circus.

Sprout's picture
Sprout's picture
Sprout Tuesday, 3 Aug 2021 at 2:18pm

New one's out!