Indigenous surfing doco shows ocean through Māori eyes

By Michael Cugley

By Michael Cugley, Te Rito journalism cadet. 

An indigenous surfing documentary is looking at the moana through Māori eyes.

Te Ara Moana is an indigenous documentary looking at four different coastal areas in Aotearoa and telling their stories of the seas.

Director Dr Nick Reo says, “It talks about Māori connections to the coast and to the sea in the various forms that those connections exist.”

This project is a first for Reo but it is one he has had his eye on for a long time, drawing inspiration from old surf and skating films that he idolised while growing up.


Awareness on the moana from an indigenous lens.

Reo has visited four communities for this documentary. Whāingaroa (Raglan), Ahipara, Ngāti Manu and Aotea Island, with each community having a different perspective and view on the seas.

“We go over to Aotea Island where it's a different situation. The pressures on their local environment are different there from here. Here (Whāingaroa) there’s agriculture, tourism, different things, and climate change. Up in Aotea they’ve got that kind of stuff but they’ve got other issues dealing with the shipping industry, the big ships and the pollution they cause and things like that,” Reo says.

Filming has been underway since mid-November and is likely to continue till mid-December but Reo has another project in mind beyond this documentary.

Reo is an indigenous person, descending from the Anishinaabe tribe in Turtle Island (America), and is looking ahead to creating similar projects based on his own kōrero.

“Something that is parallel to the Te Ara Moana story but in the Great Lakes. So I will talk about Anishinaabe connections to the Great Lakes or our fresh water seas. That’ll be cool to have them tie together thematically with a similar name but in our language. I think that’ll be a cool follow-up.”

Reo is looking to release this film in October next year at the ImagineNATIVE film festival in Toronto, Canada. Following its release there, Reo is looking to come back to Aotearoa and premiere the film to everyone involved in its production.