Luca Merli is a talented Italian surfer/filmaker. His latest project, Onde Nostre, follows the well-known surfer Allessandro Ponzanelli. We spoke with Luca to learn more.
Where did you grow up, and what was it like?
Well, I grew up in the outskirts of Milan in the seventies/eighties an area kind of inspired by the American suburbs, small detached houses with front and back garden and empty streets. It didn’t look like being in the classic Italian town at all, it had an international/modern feeling and my friends and I were skating in the streets all day, California and the surf culture seemed a far distant land but we felt part of it in some ways, or maybe we thought we were. I have great memories of that time, I’m actually writing a film inspired by those years and the place were I grew up… I don’t know whether it will ever be realized… too many things to do so little time…
When did you start surfing?
During the summer with my family we were traveling a lot throughout Italy and Europe, (Sardinia, Apulia, Tuscany, Uk, France, Spain, Portugal) all by car, my dad had an old school long windsurf on top of his red Alfa Romeo and I enjoyed paddling and catching foams on every stop at the beach, every where and every time with all kinds of different conditions. I didn’t see many surfers back then, just here and there, I didn’t really manage to do much but I enjoyed being in the sea. Then, back in the city I was more into music, skate and snowboarding and of course partying. Then I moved to London where I finished my studies, I actually went back to surfing when I was much older, mid nineties where things were picking up everywhere in Italy.
What drew you to surfing?
Well my dad was a real surfer/skater fan, never really surfed or skated but as he worked a lot in the US he was bringing me back all kinds of stuff from Tony Alva’s skateboards to Greg Weaver VHS movies like Stylemaster to magazines and other stuff, I think that was the beginning, the image before the action… then nature, which plays a very important role for me, I came from a city and I just physically needed to feel and breathe and enjoy the natural elements around us whenever I can. I want to feel the power of nature and I like to share this feeling with my friends. It’s kind of primordial, my inner nature, a drive and I need to do it.
What has been the influence of surfing and how has it changed your life?
Surfing plays a very important role in my life, as I was saying I just need it to survive in the city. It’s like an open window where I can look out when I need to. It feels like freedom, it is in fact freedom. It changed my life in the way that I discovered a different way of being myself more down to earth. I enjoy a simple lifestyle.
Who are some of the people you feel are shaping the path of surfing today?
I respect every style and I like the fact that in this country especially it’s still a kind of new thing, there’s still so much to do and to discover which is really exciting. I personally like more the exploration/artistic part of it, I’m not so much into super human tricks and stuff…Just to name a few who have been and are inspiration I would say Thomas Campbell, Rob Machado and the experimental, eclectic Derek Hynd.
Where did you interest in photography come from?
I can’t remember when I took my first photo, I was a kid anyway. Maybe around eight during one of the summer holidays around Europe. Then I got into cinematography and the art of film making. It’s a powerful tool to represent what’s around us, and it manages to combine photography/music/graphic/storytelling.
What do you look for in capturing a good image?
The light makes everything, of course the surfing/performance as well… so I would say the combination of both. But for me is kind of like surfing, as Derek Hynd once said: “Being in control out of control.” That’s why I prefer analogue images, there’s always a margin of unexpected, a little scratch, the grain, some light spilling on the neg.
Of all the places you have traveled to, what place in particular stands out? And why?
I like Sardinia in the winter and the south of Italy, there are so many empty nice beaches and so much good food…Of course I like other places too, Africa, Indonesia, Mexico, I like to travel but there’s nothing like home. When it comes down to it, the best is where you are with family or friends.
What are you most proud of?
My kids, well at least most of the time… but also I’m proud of the fact that from a small project like ONDE NOSTRE which had a very little budget and expectation we managed to make a film that created lots of interest in a country that is not usually considered a top spot for surfing, I would say I’m proud of it, why not?
What are you most grateful for?
So many things, too many people. We are nothing alone…I say Thank you at least fifty times a day.
What brings you the most happiness in the world?
Speed, friendship, love and a nice sunset with good swell and other small simple things.
What’s your favorite meal?
Parma ham and sun dried tomatoes in olive oil, not necessarily together…
What is on your iPod?
Lots of stuff apart from teenage pop Shakira/Lady Gaga style, although my daughter has got tons of it…The other prejudice maybe is on Italian melodic music, lovesong kind of stuff… I cannot stand it. Most of the time I searching on myspace for new unknown bands that I could use for my films.
What’s next for Luca Merli?
I’m already thinking and starting working on the new surf movie, Onde Nostre | Ritratti di Surf, basically surfer’s portrait… there’s already a small teaser online, it’s footage shot last winter in Indonesia by Alessandro Ponzanelli and there’s going to be another soon shot by Thomas Cravarezza in Australia.
The next project is going to be a more documentary project where we will explore and portray surfers already involved on the movie ONDE NOSTRE, I will try to get deeper on their life and even explore the young history of the Italian surf culture, the old generation which is now between forty and fifty compared to the new one emerging and pushing.
I will also would like to travel southern in the peninsula, to discover new and unseen areas where surf is rapidly growing and alive…that’s the aim, It’s probably going to take a long time to organize, find a distributor and put together the finances to do it, and then to shoot. it will be probably out in the summer of 2012, I still would like to shoot in 16mm. We started already building brick by brick… handmade style.
To learn more about Luca Merli’s film “Onde Nostra” click here.