Interview with Filmmaker Michael Veltman | Oasis

OASIS was selected for the 4th Annual NYC Women's Surf Film Festival 2016, featuring surfer Bianca Buitendag, filmed and edited by Michael Veltman, drone footage by Chris Rogers.  Bianca Buitendag made a last minute decision to venture just beyond the borders of her home country, discovering an oasis of wonder not many people have had the privilege of uncovering before. Could she be the first girl to ever surf Skeleton Bay?

nyc women's surf film festival lava girl surf oasis
nyc women's surf film festival lava girl surf oasis

Where did you grow up and where do you call home now?

I grew up in Durban, a surf city on the east coast of South Africa. I now live and am studying in Stellenbosch, close to Cape Town on the west coast.

How did you get started in filmmaking and why? 

I began filmmaking after feeling the need to document the amazing moments I was experiencing in the ocean. The raw natural beauty felt while being in the sea is indescribable, and thus must be shown not told. Like most people these days my journey into surf photography and filmmaking began with a GoPro, and from there I soon bought better equipment with which to capture more moments in the sea.

How did Oasis come about?

Oasis came to be after making a trip to an amazing and rarely surfed wave called Skeleton Bay with Bianca Buitendag. A 2 kilometer sand-dredging barrel - the most perfect wave I've ever seen. It really is an Oasis of beauty and perfection in amongst the abyss of the Namibian desert. 

How did you come to meet Bianca Buitendag featured in the film?

I met Bianca only a few days prior on embarking on our trip. Funnily, she was staying in Stellenbosch for 2 weeks or so and was then put in touch with me through a mutual friend. She phoned me up asking if I'd be keen to shoot together at some of the local waves, which of course I was very stoked on given her status in the surf world. Little did I know after the first big swell of the year popped up on the charts, we'd be on our way to one of the best waves in the world a few days later.

What was some of the challenges in making this film?

The first challenge was actually getting there! We had major trouble with the logistics of the whole thing after our flight was cancelled due to the cold front's storm the night before the swell was supposed to arrive. We made a plan and changed our flights. We ended up having to flying to Namibia's capital and then driving in a beat up old taxi for 6 hours, arriving at our accommodation in the early hours of the morning, just in time for the best day of the swell.

The spot is also probably one of the most difficult to film with thick mist, strong winds and the wave being so long. It made it really hard keeping track of Bianca in the line up.

Where was the film shot? Tell us more about the break? 

I can't give a way much about Skeleton Bay but all I can say is it's a mission to get to, it's cold, it's windy, it's raw. There's dead seals all over the point with shark bites in them. It's the type of wave where all the conditions are against you but it's so worth it for that perfect ride.

Tell us more about the surf culture and scene in South Africa? 

South Africa has one of the richest surf cultures, dating back many decades. This strong surf culture has produced world-class surfers for.. 

Is there a discrepancy with the number of women and men that surf in the water in South Africa?

I don't believe there is any sort of discrepancy between women and men surfers in South Africa. We're all just doing it for the stoke. I think guys are stoked to see more women pushing their boundaries in the water and also in competitions.

Do you feel that women’s surfing has improved over the past decade? If so in what ways?

 I certainly think women surfing has improved over the past decade. Women surfers having been pushing the boundaries competitively, in free surfs and in big waves like never before.

Where has been your favorite places to surf and shoot surfers?

One of my favorite places has to be Indonesia. I did a month long trip there last year and it's paradise - warm blue water, perfect waves and friendly people. I'm also loving shooting the heavy cold water slabs near my new home Cape Town. That being said there's no place like home, it's always amazing to get good waves back home in Durban. That being said... there's also no place like Skeleton Bay. I'll be there on the next swell for sure!

What can't you live without when you travel?

My old Pentax MX 35mm film camera. 

Where do you find your personal inspiration? 

I find my personal inspiration in capturing something someone, even a non surfer, can look at, wether it be a still or moving image, and find it visually appealing and evoke some type of emotional response.

Whats next for Michael Veltman?

My plan is to finish my Bachelor of Commerce degree at the University of Stellenbosch and after I have that behind me give filmmaking and photography a shot full-time for a year or two. I look forward to where the future takes me.

nyc women's surf film festival lava girl surf oasis