The Progression Project Is Now Available Free Online!
An interview with the creator of the SUP’s radical new surf film
Erik Antonson, creator of SUP’s rad new feature-length surf film, The Progression Project, was not always a standup paddler. Matter of fact, not long ago he was a surfer with a major chip on his shoulder for the SUPs in the lineup. Then one day he happened to catch a glimpse of Colin McPhillips’ SUP surfing, and after realizing the sport is actually leaps and bounds more technical than he originally thought, he converted.
Fast-forward a couple years and Antonson is now responsible for some of the most progressive media in paddlesports, producing free content via his PaddleWoo podcasts and blog posts to help expose and advance the industry. We caught up with Antonson earlier this week to talk about his latest endeavor—The Progression Project—which documents nine of the world’s best standup paddle surfers in Costa Rica showcasing the sport in its most progressive form. The film released today at ProgressionProject.com, where you can sign up to watch it for free. Our only warning: If you’ve never seen progressive SUP surfing before, prepare to have your mind blown.
SUP: How did you come up with the concept behind The Progression Project?
Erik Antonson: I started the PaddleWoo podcast because I wanted to know what the guys were riding and how they were approaching the sport. Through doing the podcast I saw that the sport is much farther along than anyone knows as far as performance goes. I sat around for about a year hoping that someone would showcase that progression and didn't see what I was looking for. Everything kind of aligned for me to do it—where I was living in Costa Rica we have access to amazing surf and I was able to get down nine of the best guys in the world to document where the sport is today.
How did you get the athletes to climb aboard?
When the Standup World Tour announced the cancellation of their event in France earlier this year it opened up all of the athletes' schedules when normally these guys are super busy. I realized suddenly the best in the world had a month free because of the cancelled events. I called Mo (Freitas) and talked to Fisher (Grant) and a couple of the other guys and we had a meeting. I pitched the idea and it grew organically, about 15 folks showed up to the meeting and it made me feel terrible. There are some amazing surfers that I didn't get to invite because I wanted to make it fair and we did it by order of when we talked to folks.
Did the athletes' perform to your expectations?
It completely met my expectations of where the sport is, and my expectations are high. I believe you are going to see the sport continue to grow as technology progresses. Performance will never be the same as shortboarding because of the difference in swing weight and volume but progressive paddle surfing is going to see a lot more unfold over the next five to ten years. It was cool to see how competitive the guys were with each other in the water.
You're giving away the Progression Project for free. Why?
I want surfers to watch the film, that's part of the project's initial goal. I know the standup crowd would buy the film, but then its not going to get outside of the group of people already in love with the sport of standup. My hope is that by releasing it for free, we get some curious surfers to watch the film and realize there is so much more in paddle surfing than they realize.
Now that Progression Project is wrapping up, what's next for you? Any projects brewing?
We did a second project in March based on a trip with Dave Kalama, Dave Boehne and Colin McPhillips where we scored incredible surf. There will probably be two projects released from that footage. One is going to be a long-form surf film, and like everything else I’m trying to do it'll be focused on enabling people to get better at the sport and grow the sport. People requested that the film be a long-form film where you get to see how these guys approach surfing different days. It will be very different than the first Progression Project. The first one is showcasing what is possible with the sport, and the second is a model for people to progress into the sport and get better.
Head over to ProgressionProject.com now to watch the free premier!
More progressive SUP surfing videos.