Behind Barrels

What does it actually take to pull together a film and photoshoot in one of the world’s most prestigious line-ups? How far do the riders need to push it to get “the shot”? For CORE’s recent film Behind Barrels, team rider Willow-River Tonkin lays bare all the moving parts that come together to create the kind of images you’ll see in this magazine.

Words: Willow-River Tonkin
Photos: Thomas Burblies


Since the day wingfoiling popped up on our radar after watching Kai Lenny’s first attempts, I knew that it was something that I just had to get into. Being a surfer, kitesurfer and hydrofoiler, combining all three sports in such a unique way was something I was intrigued by. Having been with CORE for almost 10 years now, I immediately started asking questions, creating prototypes with the team and began testing equipment from day one. We spent countless hours testing and developing to get the maximum performance out of our gear and it wasn’t until last year that we finally released our first wingfoil line-up.

We decided to do our wingfoil campaign shoot in Mauritius, as it offers a huge variety of different conditions for all types of riding. Of course, coming from Mauritius, I was extremely stoked to be doing the first ever wingfoil campaign shoot here in my backyard. After years of ongoing testing of all the equipment, I just couldn't wait to put the gear to the real test, push its boundaries and push my own wingfoiling abilities with the entire team in some of the best waves in the world.

Growing up on an island like Mauritius, your options are endless. There's a reason it’s a world-renowned destination for surfers and kitesurfers of all levels across the world. Mauritius has so much to offer from a water sports perspective. We have a huge variety of different spots, the main one being at Le Morne on the southwest side of the island. Le Morne offers a huge flatwater lagoon which is amazing for learning how to wingfoil and kiteboard, but also offers a variety of different waves of all levels. From a playful, beginner-friendly wave called “Manawa” to an extreme, shallow and hollow barreling wave called “One Eye”.

Living and growing up here surfing and kitesurfing every single wave on the island has given me the opportunity to learn the insights to all the spots, waves, wind, and lagoons across the island. But now coming to Mauritius with the CORE team on a wingfoil photoshoot, we had to look at it from a slightly different perspective. Not only did we ride amazing waves at Le Morne, but also explored all parts of the island, including some places that I never even considered to visit before. What I find so amazing about wingfoiling is that it opens up the possibilities of so many new spots and conditions, that you may have never even considered before.

I have been on dozens of CORE photoshoots all across the world to capture the new products in the best possible way showing the best possible performance. It was interesting to now adapt years and years of knowledge on how to create the perfect campaign shot on a kite, but now transition that same knowledge into wingfoiling. It was a new and very exciting challenge for me. I had the fire burning inside of me, the stoke, the motivation and love for the new sport and was willing to give it everything I could.

The transition for us was easier than we imagined. It was immediately clear to the team that in order to create extraordinary results, we needed to put in extraordinary efforts. And just by having our first ever wingfoil photoshoot, it added a whole other motivation to go all out and put on our best possible performance in order to hopefully create something that stands out and shows our huge passion and love for this new, exciting and fast-growing sport.

Our latest short film, “Behind Barrels”, takes us on a deep dive into the behind-the-scenes of what it takes to create the story, the campaign and the images that we capture on an official production with CORE. In Behind Barrels, I share what it really takes to create something that has to make an impact. A group of dedicated people come together with one mission in mind and put it all on the line. There are so many small and finely tuned details that happen during a photoshoot. And to create that sort of footage isn't just a matter of luck or skill – it takes a huge amount of planning, preparation, and multiple safety measures to make it all happen. So when you see the final result, you might never even imagine what it took to get that specific shot. I’m hoping this film shines some light on that.

We continue to put extra-ordinary efforts in everything we do and that we create, both on and off the water. I really hope that this film encourages and inspires you to go out and put in your extra-ordinary effort into anything that you love to do. The outcome is always no matter what, just so much more special.

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