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Riley & Chippa: When crews blow up

The end game of Nike’s Chosen contest is the chance to “live like a pro,” with all the fluffy perks that entails: surf trip, cash dollars, Nike gear, a film staff to doc it all and make you famous. But some crews burst out of obscurity and make it big even without a golden ticket like Chosen, which should serve as inspiration to your crew that it really can happen — and provide the motivation to get hustling.

Take for example a makeshift crew of two that’s made a major impact on surfing in the past couple years: filmmaker Riley Blakeway and progressive surf savant Chris “Chippa” Wilson. They met when both were still lurking just under the radar, and since then, their complementary skills have brought success neither could’ve imagined pre-2008.

If they can, you can.

Riley Blakeway, for his part, was a first-year film student taking the train 90 minutes each way into Sydney for classes. The everyday grind of school wore on him, especially since Riley already knew what he’d rather be doing: he had surf film aspirations clouding his teenage mind, and soon he just couldn’t wait any longer. With a bit of an advance from his dad, Riley “took a break” from university and set off to make his first film, SPECTRUM.

Chippa, meanwhile, was living quietly just south of the Gold Coast, out of the surf industry spotlight that shines so bright on Coolangatta. “I live about 15 minutes away from there towards Sydney,” Chippa later told SURFING Magazine. “It’s a lot quieter and there are good waves here. I’ve just never really gotten the froth to go up and surf with hundreds of people at the Superbank, so I just stick around my little coastal town, really.”

He was working for his dad as a carpenter, and doing some landscaping as well, living like anything but a pro. He’d had a surf sponsor for a spell, but the company had gone under. Chippa was 21 years old and, for all intents and purposes in a sport that prizes prodigies, he was past his prime.


A clip Riley and Chippa filmed in Bali together last year

“I think he had just been through a sponsorless period and had just come off the back of a few raw deals,” Riley says of Chippa. “He was getting paid very little at the time.”

That is until Analog Clothing took notice of the shy, innovative aerialist. They put him on a trip on the New South Wales South Coast to film and shoot photos, and a 19-year-old named Riley Blakeway was hired freelance as the second camera. It was a watershed trip for both of them.

“I still remember the first session I ever filmed with him,” says Riley. “Even then he was just so damn consistent.”
Riley saw the opportunity presenting itself and approached Chippa straightaway to appear in his personal film project, still under construction.

“I gave Chip the pitch, told him what I was about, and asked him to be in SPECTRUM,” Riley says. “I shun when I look back at SPECTRUM now, but Chip had some nuts footage for sure.”

Immediately, a bond was forged and a powerhouse crew — surfer and flimer, two mates in a surf fairytale — was formed.

“From then on he’s been my favorite to work with and pretty much my favorite dude to hang with,” Riley says. “We’re so alike in our opinions, especially when it comes to surfing, filming and editing. We have a mutual understanding and respect for each other’s roles and the difficulties involved. We’re both really driven individuals.”

The results of this partner- and friendship are on display everywhere you turn, from Analog’s full-page ads of their now star surfer to Chippa’s “non-biopic biopic” profile film, “NOW”, which Riley made last year. They work well together, Riley says, because, “behind-the-scenes direction is so important when it comes to surf films and Chip understands this better than most. We respect each other’s craft and we both want the same result. Not to mention he’s probably the most easygoing dude on earth.”

It’s been a whirlwind couple years for the duo, and the still-youngsters are just getting started. Look out for even bigger things to come from this crew of two that made the jump.

So what’s your crew story? Tell it now at nike.com/chosen and we’ll see you on the other side of the velvet rope.

PHOTO-Chippa and Riley, a ragtag crew made good. Photo: Lifewithoutandy.com