2 Jul 2018





2 Jul 2018

SAE Melbourne Film lecturer’s documentary about Australian surfing legend Maurice Cole The First Wave has been shown at film festivals across the world, amassing an ocean of awards in the process. We chat to the film’s creator Peter Baker. 

Maurice Cole: The First Wave Trailer from Peter Baker on Vimeo.


Congratulations on the success on your film! Firstly, are you a surfer or did you become one during the making of The First Wave?

I started surfing around age 14 down on the Mornington Peninsula then started surfing Phillip Island and the west coast of Victoria. After high school I moved down the coast to Flinders and worked for Balin in their surf shop, fixing boards and making legropes. I bought a camera and did a trip to Indonesia when I was 19 and made my first surfing travelogue. Then I moved to Perth and studied film at Curtin Uni and surfed as well as filming surfing a lot in the Margaret River area and places like Kalbarri up north.

What drew you to the subject of the film Maurice Cole?

I've been intrigued by his story for a long time. I knew about Maurice when I first started surfing, his name had an almost a mystical quality to it, he was this incredibly talented surfer and (surfboard) shaper. A family friend had one of his boards which was beautiful and I tried to lobby my parents to get me one. I also met Maurice on a Billabong Challenge surf film I worked on with Jack McCoy in northwest WA, a film that Kelly Slater, Occy, Rob Machado & Shane Dorian were in. We sat around the campfire playing tunes on guitar with Kelly and Rob and I got on really well with him.

The First Wave was picked up by short film festivals around the world, as well as winning awards, why do you think it resonated so much with audiences?

I think because Maurice is so genuine, he's a very charismatic, larger than life character, incredibly passionate and driven. He's also a survivor of battles with the law and with himself, he's come out the other side a stronger person and I find him incredibly inspiring. People can relate to the idea of finding purpose and life changing for the better when they find the thing they're most passionate about. Maurice still has that passion, at age 62 he checks Bells beach 4 times a day and no-one knows the lineup better than him. Visiting professionals come to him during the World Championship Comp at Bells and ask him for advice on the wave and equipment. He's shaped boards that world champs like Tom Curren and Tom Carroll have won their titles on and he’s known all round the surfing world.

How does your academic practice with SAE compliment your filmmaking?

Being active in the film world has allowed me to bring students in close range with film professionals, e.g. I worked on a doco about the career of Australia's most accomplished Cinematographer, Don McAlpine and was able to organise for students to work as extras on a scene of the film Mental which Don was shooting on the Gold Coast with PJ Hogan who made Muriel's Wedding. Don was very generous with his time and spoke to the students for about 45 minutes during his lunch break and they got to see how crew members interact on set. I'm also an active member of the Australian Cinematographers Society and have organised a number of ACS events in conjunction with SAE. I organised events where probably the world's most successful surf filmmaker Jack McCoy came to talk to students and ACS members at SAE Campuses in Brisbane, Byron and Melbourne. I worked on Big Brother as a director for a few years and was able to bring students in to see the control room there.

Teaching brings me into contact with the next generation of filmmakers, which is exciting! I have to make sure I keep up every new development in technology and can provide answers for enquiring minds! It’s really inspiring to me as a filmmaker to see students throw themselves into a project and realise that all their effort is visible on the screen and they get satisfaction from that.

I’ve also employed ex-students as assistants and had them come out and work on music videos with like this one:

Do you primarily create documentaries?

I've done a bit of everything including shooting TV drama, 2nd Unit Camera operating on a couple of feature films and a lot of TV commercials in Australia as well as in Europe and the US. I have worked on doco's like the film that Axl Grigor directed about Jill Bilcock and their ABCME series This Is Me. I have shot news and current affairs for the ABC and SBS & programs like 60 Minutes and have also made several surfing films for companies like Quiksilver and Billabong and worked on the surf unit of a couple of feature films. I was employed by Rip Curl as their filmmaker and travelled to locations like Morocco, French Polynesia, South Africa and Mozambique to make a film with their sponsored surf team. I have also travelled to Central and South America to make a film for Surfing Life Magazine

What is next in the pipeline for you?

(Was that question a surfing pun?!!) I’m in Indonesia for a few weeks and have a series of film shoots including one on a luxury version of traditional Indonesian yacht and will be sailing from Bali to the Komodo Islands which should be fun. I just bought a drone, so I need to hone my skills on that for the trip. Funnily enough, the person I went to to buy some accessories for the drone is an ex-student, Isaac Jackson, who’s now working for (Drone company) DJI. He coached me on my first flight so it was a nice role reversal.




Peter has just returned from filming filming with some of the World Championship Tour surfers in Bali Island Lyfe from Peter Baker on Vimeo