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Revealed: “Easier to act than surf!”

Chas Smith

by Chas Smith

Actor/Director Simon Baker says its true! Which of our surf stars should head to the silver screen?

I have never read a Tim Winton book but I think he is kind of a big deal in Australia and writes about surfing… or… surf. Or… you know, something. His novel Breath might be his biggest hit. Should we read its back?

When Loonie and Pikelet started to surf, they cycled from Angelus to the beach with their styrofoam boards, buffeted by the wind and, when they finally get to the sea, the waves. They couldn’t help it: they were terrified; they were addicted.

Among the local surfers, one guy stood out. He turned up alone, when the swell was highest, and left the rest of them for dead. Gradually Loonie and Pike got to know this loner, Sando, who took them under his wing. Half a lifetime later, Pike can’t free himself from where the ride took him.

Does it make you want to purchase? Does it sound erotic? Well, famous Australian actor Simon Baker has turned the book into a film also called Breath so you can watch instead. Let’s quickly read about that now.

“What was I thinking?” jokes Baker, recalling the decision to make his directorial debut with Breath, which premieres in Toronto. The film, which Embankment is selling worldwide, is an adaptation of the 2008 novel by Tim Winton, a coming-of-age tale about teen surfers in 1970s Australia. The movie stars two non-actors in the lead roles, and Baker shot the whole thing in six weeks, mainly on location on Australia’s west coast.

“Here I am, never having directed a film before, dealing with kids who’ve never been on a film set before, and we’ve got the ocean — which can’t be controlled and is such a key factor in the story — and we’ve got almost no time to do it,” he recalls. “I thought, ‘I’m probably going to fail miserably, but I’m going to have a great time trying.’ ”

But Baker did have one advantage: He knew the world described in Breath inside out. Because he lived it. Like Pikelet, the film’s narrator and main character, Baker grew-up amid the “crass machoism” of 1970s Australia with the twin loves of surfing and the arts.

“I’ve been surfing since I was 10,” he recalls. “When I read Tim’s novel I found myself weeping out of empathy for friends I grew up with. I was living in America at the time, and his words evoked the things I missed most (about home), the everyday sights and smells of the growing up in Australia at that time, for those of us who discovered the ocean and surfing played a big part in the formation of our identity.”

For the leads, teen surfers Pikelet and Loonie, Baker cast Samson Coulter and Ben Spence. While neither had ever acted before, both knew their way around a board.

“I needed kids who can handle themselves in the ocean,” says Baker. “It’s a lot easier to act than it is to surf.”

Wait… what? It’s a lot easier to act than it is to surf? That just can’t be true. Simon Baker must never have seen In God’s Hands.

But let’s pretend it is easier to act then to surf. Which of our WSL heroes would you most want to see in a feature film? Gabby? Jordy? Who?