Filmmaker focuses on surf: Arroyo Grande native works with Billabong

Even a plum job such as David Malcolm’s has its drawbacks.

As a filmmaker for surf giant Billabong, the Arroyo Grande High School graduate travels to exotic places such as Tahiti, South Africa and Spain, shooting footage of some of the world’s best surfers.

But still.

“I was just down in Mexico, and I was filming the most amazing waves I’ve ever seen,” Malcolm said, speaking by phone from a hotel in Bilbao, Spain.

The conditions were so good, he said, the young surfers he was filming didn’t want to get out of the water. And as long as they were in the water, he had to keep his camera rolling.

“I had to watch — for three days straight — the most amazing waves ever,” Malcolm said. “And I didn’t get to surf once.”Of course, Malcolm knows it’s a minor complaint — one that most working stiffs would gladly put up with.

“It’s fun,” he said. “I can’t complain.”

Malcolm would attend tonight’s screening in Avila Beach of “Still Filthy,” a film he shot and edited. But he just covered the Association of Surfing Professionals world tour contest in Spain and will be traveling back today to his home in Solana Beach, near San Diego.

Malcolm took up surfing himself when he was 13. At the time, he surfed daily at Pismo Pier and near his parents’ home in Shell Beach.

“I was always the one with the video camera,” he said.

Back then, he shot surf videos of his friends and silly videos inspired by the MTV show “Jackass.” But at Arroyo Grande High, he took a video production class that inspired him to pursue film as a career. So upon graduation he enrolled in the Art Institute of California in Los Angeles.

“I actually went there thinking I’m going to get involved in the whole Hollywood side of things — television and documentaries and stuff like that,” he said.

But while in school, he forged connections in the surf industry. And he quickly worked on his first surf flick, “Chasing the Dream,” about a group of aspiring pro surfers from Huntington Beach High School.

That film, which he worked on as associate producer and assistant editor, was screened at film festivals in San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara.

He then co-wrote and edited a film called “Mundaka,” about an old fishing village in Spain that became a major hub for the pro surfing tour.

After that movie was well received, surfwear and clothing company Billabong offered him a full-time gig. His first big project was “Still Filthy,” a sequel to the 1980s movie “Filthy Habits,” featuring music and images of today’s top competitive surfers, including Taj Burrow, Andy Irons and Joel Parkinson.

When he’s not making movies for Billabong, Malcolm films segments for the company’s Web site or TV specials that air on Fuel.

He’s currently working on a piece about the Billabong Pro Mundaka contest, which concluded Sunday.

The contest, which featured top surfers such as Kelly Slater and Mick Fanning, was almost not held because of poor conditions.

“It was a nightmare,” he said. “You depend on Mother Nature with these things. We had a 13-day waiting period for the event. And Mundaka is such a fickle wave as it is … We wrapped up the final, and the ocean just went dead flat.”

On his filming projects, Malcolm conducts interviews, gets shots of the towns he’s in and shoots waves from the water.

The editing that follows can be time-consuming, Malcolm said. But even if he’s too busy to surf, the work is rewarding.

“Hopefully, people 10 years from now will pop in a copy of ‘Still Filthy’ and go, ‘Oh yeah!’ — and it’s a thing I shot.”