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‘Fishpeople’ tells the stories of those who are at home in the ocean

The love for the ocean surfers feel is not necessarily something felt by everyone. Some people have never seen the ocean, some are afraid of it, others could care less for it. So how does a surfer translate this feeling of utter peace to those that don’t feel it?

Keith Malloy is one of those people who has dedicated his life to the ocean. He was transformed by it as a child and it has made him who he is today. The pro surfer/filmmaker recently made his second film, “Fishpeople”, which dives into six lives that have been shaped by the ocean.

We caught up with Malloy to find out about the filmmaking process, the ocean’s abilities to heal and how his own relationship with the ocean has changed over the years. The film starts touring around the country on April 13.

Where did the concept for “Fishpeople” come from?

The ocean has had such an awesome effect on my life, that I knew there had to be some other good stories out there where people have had the ocean affect them positively.

If ever there were a fish person, Dave Rastovich is one. Photo: Courtesy of Donnie Hedden/Patagonia

How did you end up choosing these six individuals?

I had friendships with some really interesting folks like Dave [Rastovich] and Eddie [Donnellan] and Kimi [Werner] that I thought it would be a no-brainer for them to be in the film. I wanted people who had their entire lives completely shaped by the ocean.

Matahi Drollet on one of the largest waves ever ridden at Teahupoo. Photo: Courtesy of Domenic Mosqueria/Patagonia

What did you learn in your first film “Come Hell or High Water” and being a part of all your brother Chris’s films that helped when making “Fishpeople”?

The first film taught me was how important it is to have a good crew of talented people you get along with to help make the vision come to life. I was lucky, because I have been around my brother Chris’s films and got to help around them and got to know the people who worked on them, who are all just really good friends.

That definitely bled over into this film as well. The better of an experience it can be for everybody working on it, the better the film comes out as well.

Director Keith Malloy. Photo: Courtesy of Donnie Hedden/Patagonia

Were you surprised by anything anyone of the Fishpeople said about the ocean?

Somehow, a few of them ended up saying the ocean just feels like home. It was funny because I didn’t expect to hear that. I did, but I didn’t. As much time as I’ve spent in the water in my life, I don’t think I would quite say that. But I thought it was really cool that unprompted at least half of them said the ocean feels like home to them. I totally agree in ways, but at the same time just surprising a little.

Ray Collins giving the ocean its well-deserved salute. Photo: Courtesy of Donnie Hedden/Patagonia

Did you come away with any new ideas, perspectives, or thoughts on the ocean after making this?

I kind of knew going into it, but learned more about the therapeutic values of the ocean. In one section of the movie we have inner city kids who have rough upbringings in San Francisco, and we took them surfing. We interviewed a couple different doctors and healthcare professionals, and it was neat to see them telling it from their perspective. To hear those therapeutic values of the ocean in the medical world and to hear it validated was pretty cool.

One of Eddie Donnellan’s disciples. Photo: Courtesy of Donnie Hedden/Patagonia

How was that experience with the inner city kids?

I’ve done quite a few different surf days with kids that have life problems. There’s a little bit of fear involved, these waves are coming at them that are constantly changing, the cold water. All those things are so distracting to get your mind off of what is bothering you, and get you away from your worries. It did take those kids a while to crack a smile, the end of the day is when you really see them smiling and happy.

A youngster learning the ins and outs from Eddie Donnellan. Photo: Courtesy of Donnie Hedden/Patagonia

To see that experience happen is pretty amazing and special. Hopefully the film will help people that are on the edge of being more in the ocean, maybe they’ll be affected in the way that will help them take that extra step.

How has your own relationship with the ocean changed over the years?

It has changed over the years. Up until I had kids, I was surfing everyday no matter what. Now I have two little girls, I still have this love and connection with the ocean that is so strong. But now I take my girls surfing and that’s more fun than being out by myself.

Dave Rastovich from above. Photo: Courtesy of Ryan Kenny/Patagonia

I still have the same connection that I’ve always had, I think that’s part of the reason why I wanted to make the film. It’s been such a great influence on me and my life. I could not imagine not having the ocean there for me.