Masterful surf film and video-maker from Australia; winner of the Surfer Magazine Video of the Year Award in 1996 and 1999, and widely regarded as the sport's premier cinematographer of the 1990s and early 2000s.
McCoy was born (1948) in Los Angeles, the son of a radio and TV show host, spent his early childhood in Hollywood, and moved with his family in 1954 to Hawaii, where he soon began surfing. The preteen McCoy worked in the early '60s hanging movie handbills on telephone poles for touring surf filmmakers. He moved to Australia in 1970, and with encouragement from surf filmmaker Alby Falzon began shooting still photographs; McCoy's work was soon featured regularly in Tracks magazine.
After McCoy teamed up with Australian photographer Dick Hoole in 1975, both began shooting 16-millimeter film, and Tubular Swells, their well-reviewed first surf movie, was released the following year. Storm Riders (1982), their follow-up, premiered at the Sydney Opera House. After splitting with Hoole, McCoy went on to make Kong's Island (1983), a short film featuring Aussie powerhouse surfer Gary Elkerton; The Performers (1984), one of the first surf videos; a documentary on the 1986 Quiksilver in Memory of Eddie Aikau big-wave contest at Waimea; and Surf Hits, Vol. 1 (1988), an "album" of video shorts released on video. McCoy continued to shoot still photographs, and from 1977 to 1995 was listed on the Surfer magazine masthead.
McCoy—6'3", lanky, well-spoken, and sometimes imperious—was hired in 1990 by surfwear giant Billabong to produce the first in a series of marketing videos that would to a large degree define his career. Traveling to exotic locations with Billabong team riders (including Mark Occhilupo, Shane Dorian, Ross Williams, Luke Egan, and Michael Barry), doing much of his best filming from the water, and working closely with art director Graham Davey and film editor Calli Cerami, McCoy turned in one beautifully crafted video after another, including Bunyip Dreaming (1990), The Green Iguana (1992), and Sik Joy (1994). Released into the '90s flood of surf video titles, the huge majority of which were raw, loud, and abrasive, McCoy's work existed on a different artistic plane altogether; he shot in 16-millimeter film, rather than video, and used world music on the soundtrack, instead of punk and metal. He also had a feel for pacing, color-matching, visual humor, and peripheral shots.
McCoy developed and directed the 1995 Billabong Challenge surf contest, held in remote Western Australia and featuring an elite group of eight surfers, including Kelly Slater, Rob Machado, and Sunny Garcia. McCoy's Billabong Challenge documentary brought him a Surfer Magazine Video of the Year Award in 1996; he earned another award three years later for Occy: The Occumentary, about 2000 world champion Mark Occhilupo. Other McCoy surf movies, among roughly two-dozen total, include Sabotaj (1998), Blue Horizon (2004), and Free as a Dog (2006)
A Deeper Shade of Blue, McCoy's 2012 surf history movie, won the Best Documentary Award at the X-Dance Action Sports Film Festival; McCoy also took home a Lifetime Achievement Award at the festival. McCoy also provided underwater shots for Paul McCartney's 2011 music video Blue Sway.
McCoy has lived in New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, and Western Australia. He was featured in 50 Years of Surfing on Film, a 1997 cable TV series produced by Opper Films.