Recently, we ran an edit on of reigning World Surf League longboard champ Justin Quintal having the time of his life at a local sandbar. The surfing was great–certainly befitting of a world class surfer. But the edit, put together by St. Augustine lensman Luke Kothera, was equally notable for the way it telegraphed and presented the pure joy in action. 

Kothera’s been a fixture in the Oldest City surf scene for years. A talented wave rider in his own right, in recent years he’s become one of the most-prolific makers of surf videos on the East Coast. To date, he’s uploaded more than 30 surf shorts to Vimeo, nearly all of which feature a budding crop of wildly creative Northeast Florida wave riders seen through a grainy, Super 8-reminiscent filter often overlaid with titles that make use of psychedelic fonts; both have become something of Kothera-film trademarks. 

NOT SO SECRET from Luke Kothera on Vimeo.

We caught up with the emerging Northeast Florida surf auteur to learn more about his grooving pictures. 

What got you into filming and making surf videos?    

I grew up skating and I was around my dad and his friend’s cameras. I eventually got older and more into the skate scene to the point where I was out skating [and] getting filmed by talented filmers and helping to edit some projects. I got to a point though, where my body couldn’t take the abuse and caught up with all my past injuries due to skating; so that’s when I decided to pick up the camera. I really let myself dive into that world at a really young age. Surfing just came natural through friends I had known from the skating world. I have always surfed but once I picked a camera up I felt like I needed to start filming my talented town and the amazing people and surfers around me. 

On location || Photo: Kothera

What are some videos or edits that have inspired you the most?

I literally grew up watching Thomas Campbell’s skate films and a lot of crazy classic skate films like Jamie Thomas’s Welcome to Hell, Ethan Fowler’s A Visual Sound, etc. Skating vids just bring a rawness that I connected to.

You seem to always be working with very talented and creative surfers. Does that happen organically or do you seek certain people out? 

Through my years skating, surfing, and filming, I’ve just gained very amazing friends from traveling to new places and being surrounded by local legends. I try to remain open to learning and gaining as much knowledge as I can by just going out and creating. It’s all very organic but I know what I like. For some personal projects I do sometimes seek either certain styles and personalities in the surfing world. 

LJK from Luke Kothera on Vimeo.

People may not know that you are also a skilled longboarder. How hard is it to decide whether to surf or film on the really good days?

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t always want to surf. But I have a passion for filming and creating surf films as much as I do surfing. I’d say being able to see my friends have the best waves and get clips and see the smile and stoke they have while we watch it on a big screen with other friends later on is a pretty good feeling that makes what I do easy.

Can you describe a perfect film trip? 

I recently wrapped up a trip for an upcoming project [traveling] from my hometown in St. Augustine to the far ends of Montauk, New York. We covered nearly the whole East Coast and stopped at almost every spot we could in between. I would do that again right away. 

A few cerulean frames of Parker Sawyer || Kothera

Any future projects we should know about?

I have a film coming out later in the year called Mind Flowers that stars Saxon Wilson, River Covey, Parker Sawyer, and a lot of other world-renowned legends. I’ve also been working on another project for a year or so now of everything I’ve been filming and creating over the few years that  isn’t named yet. There’s also an all-ladies film with Kirra Seale and many more that I started a couple months back. Oh, and a couple local magazine projects and small book projects for friends. 

“Aloha adventures” from Luke Kothera on Vimeo.

Any advice for the young surfer filmers out there?

Go out and experience things yourself. Learn from your mistakes because there will be a lot to be had. And don’t stop when things get hard.

CLICK HERE to watch Kothera’s films

This feature originally appeared in Void Magazine’s July 2020 issue.