Chris Christenson has been shaping surfboards for over a decade. He’s never been a pro surfer, so imagine his surprise when the 37-year old got a call inviting him to star in a surfing film. Outside called up the Cardiff by the Sea, CA resident as he sat in traffic on the way to the premiere of Grey Whale Sessions at the US Open of Surfing in Huntington Beach.
How’d you get involved with the film?
From my recollection, I got a random email from Tyler Manson saying, “Hey, this project’s coming up with Pacifico beer, yadda yadda yadda, we’re looking for four different characters who only have one thing in common, and you seem to fit the casting.”
So you didn’t know the other guys (Garrett Dutton, Keith Malloy and Tyler Warren) before filming started?
I knew Tyler and Keith already, not like super well. The surfing community is a pretty tight circle, so we all heard of each other one way or another. But it’s pretty cool, we all kept in touch in the three months since.
You shot this three months ago?
Yeah, we were only down in Baja for like four or five days.
You have your own board-shaping company. Did you make the boards for the film?
No, not all the boards. We all shared boards—there were basically three different labels floating around.
What boards did you bring?
I think I brought four different boards. At the time I got the email about the project, I was just approaching the 12,000th board that I’ve made and I wanted to build a 12-foot board, so I hurried up and made a 12-foot board, all black, which is featured in the end of the movie.
Yeah, that was special for me because just about every year, I build about a thousand boards and do something special, like take myself out to dinner. And when I got my ten-thousandth board, I had to keep up the tradition, so this was the first time I actually made myself a board. So I made this 12-foot board and it’s all black and we were afraid they wouldn’t let it on the airplane, but they took it.
How would you describe the style of surfing in the film?
Oh, it’s all over the place. We’re body surfing, riding inflatable surf mats to longboards. There’s not a whole lot of surfing in the movie, it’s more about exploring Baja, like we’re going spear fishing and diving and jumping off rocks and eating at taco stands and driving down dirt roads and filming everything.
Did you see any giant squid?
We went down and talked to the local fishermen and there just happened to be a giant Humboldt squid run and they took us out about two miles off shore and we caught probably like 10 of them between the four of us.
Catch and release?
We gave them to the fishermen and kept one of them. We tried eating it ourselves, but we didn’t do a good job cooking it. I guess we didn’t know how to marinade them or something—they were kind of nasty.
Do you see yourself having a film career in the future?
Haha! No, I’m still pinching myself—it’s cool, or rare I guess, for a surfboard builder to be accepted as part of the film for what I do for a living. It was an honor.
Grey Whale Sessions--named after the gray Volvo the guys drive in the film--premieres tonight at the Shorebreak Hotel in Huntington Beach. Check out the website here, and the trailer above.