Angie Takanami - Editor/Producer

When did you first start surfing?
I started surfing at 12 years old, in chilly South Australia. My grandfather, Rod Bedford Snr, was one of the first shapers in the area, starting with balsa and was arguably the first to experiment with making foam blanks. Don Burford was actually a mate of my Aunty’s boyfriend, so they used to hang out at my poppa’s factory Jay Bee Boats and watch him make the foam – I think there are some good stories of foam explosions as he experimented with different moulds and methods. Unfortunately his factory burnt down a few years later, and he never did patent his foam formula. 
My aunties and uncles were all into surfing, even my mum but she never really liked it so sometimes I joke I was born to the wrong mother. Fortunately, my cousins all got into surfing and coaching professionally and as they were a bit older than me I really looked up to them and one Christmas day when I was 12 they finally took me out. I was hooked. 

What is it that you love about surfing and the ocean?
Initially it was the pure joy, the challenge of wave riding and the lifestyle that surrounds it. South Australia is pretty rugged, and I grew up in Adelaide where you have to drive far to get good waves. It’s cold, there are a lot of big sharks, and the waves are powerful, but we would all go on camping trips along the wild south coast and when you did finally get in the water after a long week of school or university it was like a huge release. 
I am also an avid traveller and surfing goes hand in hand with travel, and from a young age I dreamed about surfing the world. The Endless Summer was one of my favorite surf films growing up, and I used to dream of traveling the world surfing and meeting new people. 
Now I am a mother of two and the past few years I haven’t been able to surf as much as I used to, but am now back in the water everyday. My kids are getting into surfing and it’s like a dream come true to spend our days on the beach surfing, playing, and being away from technology and the stresses of modern life. We live in Byron Bay now, after six years in Japan where we eventually evacuated the Fukushima disaster. This really changed me as a surfer and a human and the past few years of traveling for work and then coming home to Byron Bay where we don’t have to worry about radiation, it really makes you appreciate the ocean and just how important it is for us to take care of it. 

I love that surfing can empower communities, and I think John Witzig was on the right note all those years ago when he started Tracks Magazine in believing that surfers were going to be the answer to modern man’s destruction of the environment. Surfing and ecology goes hand in hand, and I think there is a beautiful pull back to simplistic living and the origins of surfing that are going to have a profoundly positive effect on our oceans and our kids’ futures. 

Do you have a session that stands out as your most memorable?
Every session is pretty special, especially at some of my favorite secret left spots back home in SA, but most recently I would have to say my first session at Chicama in Peru. It has been a dream, as a goofy footer, to surf long reeling perfection at Chicama and I finally got to do it. I was pretty unfit on that recent trip, still just getting back into surfing after having the kids and working full time, but that session was the inspiration to get back into surfing and it brought back every reason why I surf. The waves are just so long and perfect, and I was traveling with Harold who is the star of the film I am making and we were just going wave for wave laughing and having a blast. The power of the Peruvian land meeting the sea at Chicama is very strong and spiritual, and to have that with great waves, good company, and no-one else in the water…you never forget that for the rest of your life. 
I also will never forget the first time I stood up, and likewise the first time I got my kids on boards as babies, and now their first times catching waves by themselves. And I can’t wait for the day when they can paddle out the back by themselves and we have our first family surf session. I think I will probably cry with joy. 

What kind of education have you had?
I was very fortunate to have a solid education, going to a private school in South Australia and encouraged to go to University. I was not really sure what I wanted to study but I had a great interest in world affairs and a burning passion to travel and save the world, so I ended up with a degree in International Politics with a double major in Asian Studies and Japanese. After moving to Japan, I started to move toward my dream of traveling and writing and using the media to make a difference in the world, but never dreamed I would end up being able to combine this with the surf industry. I met my husband Kuni Takanami in Japan and he was a professional surf photographer, so it was a natural collaboration that we would move into surf journalism. After a couple of years in the mainstream surf media we grew pretty discontent with the contest scene in Japan, so flipped everything over and set off for India to document a 26-page feature on surfing in India and how travel and surf can empower communities. 
I guess everything else just evolved from there. After the disaster we moved back to Australia and we had a new baby and I scored the gig as the Travel Producer and Editor of Yahoo!7 Travel, in their Byron Bay office, which was an amazing two years of my life. When Yahoo!7 decided to shut down their Byron office at the end of last year I had the offer to follow the job to Sydney but new better of myself, and opted to stay in Byron Bay, going back to freelance but this time launching a creative business with the other ex-Yahoo editor Chris Ashton, and that was the birth of Switchboard Media and me going back to doing what I really love, writing and creating to help make a difference. 

You seem to be a bit of a 'jack of all trades'. Can you give us a quick rundown of the work you're doing at Switchboard Media and as a freelancer?
As I said above, Chris and I just launched the business this year. Editorially we work on a lot of travel and lifestyle content for yahoo and other media clients, and write freelance for magazines mostly in travel, lifestyle and I also continue to do some surf travel features. I don’t really like to label myself but I guess if you go by my email signature I would class myself as a writer, editor, producer and now, debut director. 
We merged into film production this year when we were asked to produce travel webisodes for a major New Zealand travel media project, and that was the first time we got to work with our filmer/editor Tim Wreyford. I actually met Tim through my good friend and mentor Taylor Steele, as Tim is his DP and recently shot and edited the Mick Fanning movie “Missing”. 
It’s ironic because my first ever published piece of writing was an interview of Taylor in Japan for a Japanese surfing magazine when he was releasing Sipping Jetstreams. Taylor and his family live in Byron Bay and when we moved back my husband started working on fashion photography projects with Taylor’s wife Sybil, and now those guys are some of our closest family friends here in Byron. Taylor and Sybil are both huge inspirations and have really encouraged Chris and I to just reach for the sky and moving into film has felt like such a natural progression for our business. 

What about Lotus Bazaar, can you give us an insight into what you guys are doing there?
Lotus Bazaar is a non-profit webshop that I soft-launched this year and have just signed on my good friend as manager, Celia Galpin, who is also a great photographer, so we can really grow the shop in the second half of the year. The idea was to create a platform where I can sell and promote handmade, organic, or small-scale produced products from all over the world, geared at women. On my travels I have met some amazing craftspeople, from weavers to jewelry makers to handmade wetsuit businesses run by two people. I think it is critical that we support these small villagers and locals rather than buying mass-produced goods that have short life spans, in order to move toward a more sustainable future and help to eradicate poverty around the world. 
Celia and I plan to embark on more travels in the near future to find more beautiful craftspeople and alongside selling their products, and donating all our profits back to community projects in their villages and towns, we plan to document the real people and share their human stories via the shop’s blog page through editorial, photos and webisodes. 

Can you tell us a little bit about the Double Barrel project and how the idea came about?
I was recently invited on the first ever surfing press tour of Peru and Harold Koechlin was my guide. Harold took me all up the north coast of Peru surfing and learning about Peruvian culture and history for two weeks, and as I said above about my surf at Chicama, I fell in love with the country and the waves. Peru is a very special place blessed with world-class surf and incredible people, yet the north coast is dominated by a dying oil industry, environmental problems, an imbalance of rich and poor and poorly managed land claiming. 
Harold shared with me his dream to put a dollar value on the waves, in order to promote sustainable surfing tourism, and he told me of his Harold shared his idea to turn the small surf town of Lobitos into a truly sustainable eco-surf village, and to create the Lobitos Eco Surf Zenter, a sustainable surf tourism business with the ultimate goal of protecting the waves as an infinite natural resource for the next generation, the kids, to enjoy.
Neither of us have money, but I felt with his expertise and passion, and my place in the media, we could together ignite change. I promised Harold that I would come back to help him on the project, and after I returned to Australia the idea of making a film became stronger so we got together over Skype and Double Barrel started to become a reality. 

What is the desired outcome/ aim of the documentary?
As a surf traveller, I definitely want Double Barrel to be an enjoyable, inspiring surf travel film at the core, with a strong environmental twist. Tim and I have plans to make it very cinematic, and to really inspire surfers to engage in their travels so they don’t just go places to surf, but give back to the communities they visit. The film will look at the history of the oil in Lobitos, the rise, the fall, the recovery and the associated challenges and current environmental problems. The aim is to raise awareness so that the film can support the fund raising for The Lobitos Project and ultimately encourage other villages around the world to follow suit and become sustainable. And the underlining reason we need to do this is so we can sustain the surf and the ocean, and subsequently a decent lifestyle, for the kids and generations to come. 

What has the response to Double Barrel been like so far?
Incredible. The media have been so supportive and we have had donations from all over the world. The Peruvians are so excited about the film as they really care about their waves but I guess have not had the international coverage to help them really do something about the problems, although there are some NGOs doing great things in the north and just from the film’s exposure we have been able to connect with these people and Harold is working together with them on The Lobitos Project. I think the fact that Peru is home to some of the best waves in the world, that are ridiculously consistent, has really helped the film gain momentum – people seem to really want to help protect them from environmental destruction but also from overcrowding, and controlling the growth of the surfing population around Lobitos is something Harold and I are very passionate about and his community project is addressing ways to ensure the waves there do not become full of aggressive surfers. 

What is it that you love about the work you do?
At heart I am a roving gypsy who also craves routine. My job allows me to go away for weeks on end, working from my laptop and meeting new people, finding new inspirations, then coming home to my family in Byron Bay and the comfort of a routine filled with organic living, surf, and the flexibility of working from home, the beach, or a local café. My day job is writing travel stories, and at the moment my second full time job is working on this film, which is both creative and challenging and something that will actually impact other people’s lives in a positive way. To be able to call this work is a dream come true. But it’s not really work if you’re having fun, right? 

What/ Who inspired you to follow the path you have taken?
Many people…my mother and father travelled to 66 countries over 10 years prior to having me and their divorce, and they still have journals and photographs from their journey. They have probably been my biggest inspirations to travel and to document what I see and do on the road. My cousins inspired me to get into surfing, and the ocean inspired me to keep doing it. 
My husband Kuni has helped my growth in the media and as a professional. My kids without realizing it inspired my change to organic, sustainable living alternatives – I was pregnant when we first visited India so had to look into natural remedies to keep healthy and avoid those common travel bugs, needless to say I didn’t get sick and birthed a healthy baby after surfing every day over there! 
Peru inspired me to get back into surfing, to embrace freedom and dream big, and Harold inspired me to make a film. 
Sybil Steele inspired me to believe in myself, reach for the stars, and make things happen. Taylor Steele inspired me to believe that anything is possible. 
And I guess most importantly, surfing inspires me everyday to connect with nature, go with the flow, and smile. 

Read more about Double Barrel

Angie's other sites

Posted by: Matthew Ryan, on June 26, 2014
Categories: Interviews