American based Freestyle Windsurfer and Filmmaker Alex Mertens (Fanatic/Duotone) released a new clip with some of his latest action. In this extraordinarily well made video, he talks about his passion for our sport and what sparks this flame within him. We caught up with Alex to talk about the process going into making this video, his creativity and of course his freestyle windsurfing aspirations! But first, check out the clip if you haven’t had the pleasure yet:
FPT: Hi Alex, sick clip! Can you tell us a bit about the spots and the conditions you filmed in for this one?
Alex Mertens: Thank you guys! I’m incredibly honoured that you enjoyed the video. A lot of thought and hard work went into it, so I’m seriously happy to hear that it’s being appreciated. In the video we see a total of 3 spots. Funny thing is that there is only about 4 filming days in this video. It’s much harder to get people to film when it’s windy haha! Anyways, in the video we see some clips from La Ventana, Mexico, Sherman Island, California, and Floras Lake, Oregon.
La Ventana is where I spend the majority of my winters. It’s a super fun spot with great people, and a great atmosphere. It’s a spot that holds a special place in my heart since my family and I have been going there for 8 years now. Now it’s becoming an extremely popular winging destination thanks to the large rolling swell the spot has to offer, and because of how accessible it is for people in the US. If anyone wants to get out there let me know!
Next is Sherman Island, which I consider to be my home spot. In California we are blessed with having many options to pick from, but Sherman Island is the spot I tend to always flock to. The spot is challenging which I really enjoy. The challenge lays in that it’s a tidal river, so that means one run will never be the same as the next. Water conditions, current, wind gusts and fresh water all change every second, making it so you can never truly adapt to the spot. The benefits of this are what makes this spot so much fun though. We get conditions ranging from big swell to flat water all in one day.
Lastly is Floras Lake. This is a spot that my family and I went on a one week trip to, just to check out and try a new place. It’s on the Oregon coast north of Pistol River and man was it windy. We had 20-30+ knots every day in the 5 days we were there. I thought it was going to be a freestyle heaven but the spot was just way too gusty. I ended up winging there since this sport could account for the gusty winds a lot better.
FPT: Thanks for the extensive spot descriptions, maybe we should get you to do one of our FPT Spot Guides soon! Back to the video, what sparked you to make this clip?
Alex Mertens: There was a lot building up to this video. I hadn’t created for myself in a while and I really had a story that I wanted to tell. In the last year, I had learned so many new ways to create art and express myself I had this deep burning desire to create.
FPT: Tell us a bit more about the flame you discuss and the symbolism behind it. And what about the contrast it has with water that enables our sport?
Alex Mertens: The flame represents passion to me, and how it is something that burns deep within us all. Some people choose to listen to this flame and follow it, some don’t. My goal is to encourage people to follow their passions and see where it takes them. That burning desire is there for a reason, so we shouldn’t just let it burn out. I think it’s kind of beautiful and symbolic how one of the ways I can keep my fire calm is through water sports. Like, I need to physically water the fire to keep it at bay. I think this is something everyone in our sport can relate to. Without that passion, our sport wouldn’t be where it is today.
Alex: “I think it’s kind of beautiful and symbolic how one of the ways I can keep my fire calm is through water sports. Like, I need to physically water the fire to keep it at bay. I think this is something everyone in our sport can relate to. Without that passion, our sport wouldn’t be where it is today.”
FPT: It’s clear that your flame lies in windsurfing and filmmaking, can you tell us a bit more about how this was kindled back in the day?
Alex Mertens: Windsurfing and filmmaking is a funny story for me actually. They are both kind of intertwined together. I was originally pushing to go professional in soccer (football) and even got to the level of playing for my local pro team. I then faced an achilles’ tendon injury that stopped me from being able to push as much as I was before. My dad started pushing me to windsurf and I hated it haha. Eventually he signed me up for a windsurfing camp with ABK Boardsports, and in one weekend I was planing and completely hooked. From there my parents started filming my progress as I began to push myself in the sport, and I got inspired by videos from Adam Sims, Romain Pinocheau, and Stephen van Broeckhoven. I wanted to make videos more than anything and just started creating.
FPT: We are grateful to your dad then, as the entire freestyle community now gets to enjoy your videos! We can’t help but notice though, that there is also some wingsurfing in your clip. Should we expect more and more winging content, or will windsurfing freestyle always be your main fuel?
Alex Mertens: Yes I have started winging quite a bit actually haha. For me there is a balance between the two sports. Winging is super fun in the conditions we normally wouldn’t go windsurf in. And windsurfing is the most fun, for me, in 20+ knots. So winging fills that gap so I never have to use a 4.8 and I’m always having a good time on the water. What’s also so fun with winging is the adrenaline you get from boosting a huge jump. However it can’t compare with the feeling of sliding and double popping in windsurfing. I think if you do both sports they both compliment each other well and you can just have a great time all the time.
FPT: Becoming a multisport athlete is always a great idea, good to hear you are enjoying more time on the water! To get back to the video, at the end there is a small title “100% originally made”, did you also compose the music? Can you give us an insight on how it is to compose music aimed to be used in a freestyle windsurfing clip?
Alex Mertens: Haha you guys have sharp eyes. Yes everything in the video was created by me, including the music. Music has been something I have been dabbling in for a while now and this project felt like the perfect time to use my own music. I generally have been pretty unimpressed by the music libraries that are available online, so I thought why not make it myself. Music composition is a great new creative avenue that I explored and I’m so happy I did. Visuals are just half the experience, so creating a song that carries as much energy as I wanted to get across was a thrill to me. Music isn’t easy to make. There’s a lot you need to learn and I am not a master by all means.
The biggest thing to focus on when creating music for windsurfing action is energy. Freestyle windsurfing is energetic and intense so the music should represent that. There is a fine line between intense and unlistenable noise and it’s important to remember that it’s still music! There should always be rhythm. I don’t have a specific process when it comes to making music for a certain action. I look at the footage and can imagine a song to it and that’s where I start.
FPT: Going in the steps of Mattia Pedrani and other freestyle windsurfers who make their own music! It seems like you really squeezed those creative juices for this video, any more stories about the creative process?
Alex Mertens: Actually, yes! I am quite picky when it comes to my story. I initially had a different idea on how to tell this story and had so much more I wanted to put into this clip. I ended up creating a whole different version that was significantly longer and, to be honest, a little boring because the story was too obvious. I ended up scrapping that whole project and rewrote the story to be short, ambiguous, and up to interpretation from the audience. For me the story is about my passion, but that fire within could mean something completely different to someone else.
FPT: Great to hear you reflect on your work! Still, if the longer version has even more great windsurfing action in it, we would love to see it! Which brings us to your skills on the water, because they are nothing short of the production quality of the video. What are you working on and what are you proud of landing on camera for this clip?
Alex Mertens: Thank you! I’ve been pushing really hard to up my level this year. It was hard to really progress in the last years for multiple reasons. But overall I’m extremely happy with the progress I’ve made but there is still a lot to go. I was pushing hard to get a Double Culo on film but I keep doing one footed (losing the back strap) doubles and wanted to have a proper one in the video. At the moment I’m mostly pushing for the double popping moves. Getting really, really close to an Air Funnel Burner, and need to figure out how to stay in the straps for normal stance doubles!
FPT: What that kind of progress the next question is a no-brainer: When can we expect your return on the competition scene?
Alex Mertens: I would absolutely love to! At the moment I am working a dream internship for a tech company so travel is difficult. Maybe once I’m done with this internship we could see me on tour next year again! Hopefully there could even be more events that are a bit easier for me to get to haha. Anyways, I’ve been super impressed with the tour this year and seeing the level of everyone. I’m inspired to keep pushing and really want to get back over to Europe to have some sessions with you all!
FPT: We would love to have you back as well! Good luck with your internship and thank you for taking the time for this interview!