The transition project is a film telling Noah Cohen’s story from growing up and surfing in Tofino, to his recent competitive push towards the 2020 Olympics in Japan. Filmed over a year by Nate Laverty and Kyler Vos, you will see various free surf and competitive trips from Vancouver Island, Nova Scotia, Portugal, France, and more. Scroll down to view the full-length film as well as Noah’s interview from our 2018 Summer issue.
Film by Nate Laverty
Water cinematography by Kyler Vos
Written By Andrea Turner
Noah Cohen // Interview
We’re catching you at somewhat of a highlight year of your career, after staring in two major films, making heats on an international stage, and now premiering Transition, what do you feel triggered all these events to come together?
Haha umm yeah, I guess it has been a little bit more exciting than previous years. I think there have been a few more circumstantial things like the competitive push on a national level to compete at the ISA World Surfing Games and then obviously that was integral in the making of Transition as well so that all kind of snowballed a bit. It’s awesome though; I enjoy keeping busy that way and the balance between being in a competitive mindset and also going on filming trips and trying to get clips to make both of those always aspects fresh and exciting.
Tell us more about Transition? How did the project come about and who else involved?
Well when the announcement was made that surfing would be included in the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, Nate Laverty decided that he really wanted to make a film documenting a Canadian surfer pursuing that opportunity. It has since morphed a bit into a little documentary on my upbringing, my hometown, and also followed my year both in competitions and on free surf trips. As far as surfers go, Pete Devries is a huge part of it as well. He came along on almost every trip outside of the contests, and I feel that he raises the bar in terms of progression. Then we were joined by Nico Manos, Michael Darling and Shannon Brown, and of course all of the national team athletes at each of the events. Nate shot the majority of the film, with Kyler Vos on hand to do all of the water cinematography. He also shot a ton of photos for us, along with Marcus Paladino as well. It has been Nate, Pete, Kyler and I as like the “core four” though.
Were the trips outside of the competition planned or was it more looked at the swell charts and head out?
We had a pretty good idea of where we wanted to go from the beginning of the year, but the swell charts dictated when we pulled the trigger on each trip, especially with places like Nova Scotia that are fickle and hard to score. I think I booked my ticket at 2:00 pm and boarded my flight out there at 8:30 pm on the same day, so that was the epitome of a last-minute-swell-chase kind of trip.
Outside of competitions and the regular breaks at home, which trips were your highlights throughout the year?
In all honesty, I felt like we got fortunate with waves on almost every trip. The final segment of the film was during the biggest swell we’ve had in nearly a decade, so that was definitely a stand-out, as was the two weeks of non-stop surf that we got during our time in Nova Scotia. But overall, I think my favourite trip was the one on Rycam’s boat to a break closer to Tofino. The weather was beautiful, the crew was a bunch of my childhood best friends, and the waves were firing for a couple of days with hardly anyone in the lineup. It was pretty much the Canadian dream surf trip.
How was the shift from free surfing to competition once the Olympics were announced?
Feeling like you are at the top of your game and in “contest mode” definitely requires a bit more effort than just going on free surf trips all the time. I think for me the biggest change was trying to get more time in the water and more time in below average waves. I had lived in Victoria for the previous few years, so when I realised that that would be one of my goals over the coming years, moving back to Tofino was something that made sense, and I decided to do it right away. As far as the training and healthy lifestyle goes, it is almost mandatory these days, because every other competitor is doing it and if you don’t you basically just get left behind. Fortunately for me, I already was pretty into the whole “food and fitness” thing, haha, and it wasn’t an adjustment that I had to figure out on top all the other stuff.
After doing so well representing Canada in France and Peru, to then miss out on the team selection at the nationals, what are your thoughts on CSA putting all the Olympic qualifying hopes into one competition?
Yeah, it obviously kind of sucks to miss out on the national team this year, but that said I completely understand that that is the way it goes. It is tricky to have a circuit with multiple events to determine the team because there are a bunch of athletes that don’t even live in Canada, so having a more sporadic schedule makes it near impossible for them. I tend to think of it as something that I had an entirely fair chance at and squandered the opportunity, and I don’t like point fingers or blame the system or whatever. That said, I think Mathea Olin has established herself as a pretty precise number one on the women’s side after her double-medal performance in Peru last year, and she missed out on the top 3 at nationals too, so it will be interesting to see what they do with that…
Let’s talk more about the athletes outside of Canada; we have seen quite a few Americans and other international surfers who have a Canadian passport coming to compete, apparently making the heats at Nationals a lot harder.
Haha yeah, it seems like a lot of guys (and gals) have come out of the woodwork, and it has shaken things up at the national level for sure. I think that’s a pretty common theme for the Olympics though, especially when new sports are included in the games. It can be easy to let it agitate you when you lose in your national event to someone who doesn’t even know that our “states” are actually called “provinces” or what our capital city is, but that said, it has elevated the level of surfing for sure. In the week leading up to the Nationals contest, it was pretty cool to witness so many good athletes in the water with everybody killing it and have the realization of how far surfing in Canada has come in the last few years.
Let’s talk more about Mathea and the talent level drive of Canada’s young surfers now compared to when you started.
Yeah, it’s pretty damn cool to see how focused and driven and talented some of the younger generation is now. Mathea has had the most competitive success, but her younger sister Sanoa is an amazing surfer in her own right too. And on the boy’s side, Kalum Temple-Bruhwiler and Reed Platenius are both impressive also. They all have coaches and continuously train and work on technique and live and breathe surfing, so its definitely different from the way myself or guys like Pete had it when we came up.
Now that you found your stride in heats will you pursue competitions such as the ‘QS or possible ISA’s if you don’t end up competing in Japan?
Honestly, I don’t think I will. I do plan on travelling to Japan with the team regardless, so that will be great to just be around that level of competition, and also to film and free surf in such a rad country. I do plan on doing a lot more filming for a couple of different exciting video projects and just try to keep improving and working hard and make sure I don’t miss out next year when it counts!
We are going into summer now, what’s your season looking like?
Well, we will be doing a couple more premieres of Transition in the coming weeks (Vancouver, Montreal and Quebec City) and then basically going straight into filming the second season of it, starting with a trip to New Zealand and Australia.
Seeing that Transition 2 will be telling Pete’s story, do you know of any plans for it other than the aforementioned trip?
I don’t know a whole lot outside of what I just mentioned, but we are actually all going to try to get together for a day in the near future and kind of go over everything and brainstorm ideas. I am super excited though, there is definitely a certain level of pressure that comes along with being the focal point of a film like that, and I think I was always carrying a little bit of stress and worry last year just hoping it would all work out, so I think it’ll be a little bit more relaxing this time around, hopefully… Haha!