“Chasing the biggest waves on the planet” – Tim Bonython’s Australian Surf Movie Festival comes to Sawtell

Australian filmmaker Tim Bonython has captured some of the world’s great swell events in a career spanning more than forty years. Photo: supplied by Tim Bonython.


FOR more than forty years, Tim Bonython has travelled the world with camera in hand, chasing the biggest waves on the planet.

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What started as a passion for surf and videography, has led to a career as one of the leading big-wave surf filmmakers in the world.

“Back in the early days it was just a bit of a hobby, we were just going out and shooting some waves where people wouldn’t normally see them,” said Tim.

From the beginning, Tim sought out the kind of waves that would turn a regular surfer, or filmmaker for that matter, into a nervous wreck.

“I got to a point where I thought ‘why keep chasing normal waves, when the big wave thing is so exciting.’”

“Now I like to chase the biggest waves on the planet.”

With Covid-19 scuppering his international travel plans for now, Tim is about to embark on a two-month tour, bringing the 14th run of his renowned Australian Surf Movie Festival to venues around the country, including a stop at the Majestic Sawtell Cinema on Saturday 21 November.

The festival features five short documentaries Tim has shot and directed.

“What I have decided to do is select the biggest, craziest swell events in the past four years.

“I have made a documentary based upon each location, which are Nazaré in Portugal, Teahupo’o in Tahiti, Mullaghmore in Ireland, The Right in Western Australia and Cloudbreak in Fiji.”

Tim is excited to give the public a firsthand view of these waves, and an insight into the lives of the surfers who attempt to tame them.

“You want to put people in the driver’s seat of what is one of the most extreme things on earth.

“That is why it is so infectious for me to keep doing it.”

In the past four years, Tim has experienced a selection of swells which stand out amongst the rest.

“In November 2017, we had one of the greatest swell events in history, when there was a world record broken at Nazaré.

“At The Right, in Western Australia, I saw one of the best days I have ever seen out there.

“Glassy, 15 to 20ft, and the biggest barrels I had ever seen.”

Camera in hand, Tim has watched as the world’s surfing elite take on waves that defy belief, capturing some of the most glittering, and heart-stopping, moments of their careers.

“When you have a really good swell at Cloudbreak for example, you know you are going to get the best there.

“You have the likes of Kai Lenny and Nathan Florence, Koa Rothman and Aussies like Zac Haynes and Jamie Mitchell out surfing.

“Everyone is going there thinking they might get the wave of a lifetime.

“It’s a really amazing moment for these guys and you just have to be in the right place to try and capture it.”

After forty years chasing huge swells, Tim has a wealth of experience to draw upon in the water, however the job is by no means without risk.

“I want to get the most unique angle, so sometimes shooting somewhere like Nazare from the water can be very scary.

“I try to put it out of my mind and hopefully things work out okay, which it usually does.”

Tim is joined on his adventures by his wife Sandrine, who is the Executive Producer of this year’s film festival offering.

Tickets to see the Australian Surf Movie Festival can be purchased at https://event.asmf.net.au//.




A surfer takes on a curling wall of water in Tahiti. Photo: supplied by Tim Bonython.


Two brave souls defy both logic and belief at The Right, a thumping reef break located off the coast of Western Australia. Photo: supplied by Tim Bonython.

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