Wait, you had an epiphany at a double bill with Cyrus Sutton and Dingo?
Four years ago I attended the premiere of Dean Morrison’s movie A Dingo’s Tale at the Ritz theatre in the eastern suburbs of Sydney. I went with a pal and without agenda, just to see some surf on the silver screen, but the events that unfolded had a pungent effect on my palate.
The night was put on by action sports distribution firm VAS Entertainment, and the support act was a little movie called Stoked and Broke by a man unknown to me at the time called Cyrus Sutton. The two movies being pared together was coincidence, but in doing so VAS entertainment unbecomingly put together a dissonant account of surf culture, one that is evident today.
Being fashionably late my friend and I were forced into sitting upstairs in the gallery. Dingo sat among his Sydney conglomerate the Bra Boys, in a mob that took up the first five rows. Next to my friend and I was a known local surf dog with a piece of dental floss hanging from his sun tipped curls, and behind us a tardy and boozy Paul Fisher, who took great pleasure in squawking like a amphetamine riddled McCaw whenever he saw fit, usually with the phrase, “Yeah the Ding!”
Cyrus’ movie chronicled his and Ryan Burch’s man-powered surf trip through San Diego County dragging a cart each containing boards and supplies and relying on the generosity of others for food, money, and shelter.
Contrived sure, but the sentiment was real. The humour and kinship that Cyrus managed to convey powered the boys through the county in a captivating fashion. Not to mention the surfing of one Ryan Burch! Burch carries his sleigh containing all manner of weird and wonder filled crafts from beach to beach and draws highly creative lines in all manner of Cali glass.
The image of the boys sitting on skateboards towing their trolleys past one of Southern California’s many golf courses, while a sparkling SUV is itching to get past them is golden. It reeks of the surfer larrikin. (Not to be confused with the Gold Coast larrikin depicted in A Dingo’s Tale.)
Nah, the same strand of tomfoolery that saw Miki Dora and the boys don the Schutzstaffel uniforms that their Pa’s had brought back from the war and ride flexi’s through the storm water drains that run underneath Windansea in the sixties. Doing surf culture proud.
At the conclusion Cyrus had to stand at the foot of the blank screen and answer robotic questions on his work of great passion
“Where did you get the idea…”
All the while the Boys Bra were five feet away, peering under their flat-brimmed hats and straight into Cy’s soul! I died with him.
A Dingo’s Tale started to rapturous applause and lots of “Yeah the Ding’s.” It was barrels, sand placement, abusive parents, saviour Rabbit, and Dingo’s hi-fi game was near flawless.
Yet I couldn’t rid my mind of the epiphany that Stoked and Broke had triggered in my partially explored brain. These were young surfers actually thinking about stuff! Questioning life, surfing, capitalism, suburbia, whether you really need a four-wheel drive. But doing it in a thought-provoking and humorous way, with an eye on the past and an eye on the future. The irony of doing a feral hobo surf mission in gentrified Southern California was clearly not lost on Cyrus Sutton.
The most poignant moment in Stoked and Broke comes in an interview with surfer, filmmaker, and writer Richard Kenvin, when talking about a young surfer who lives with his single mother:
“There’s nothing better that you can get outta life than having a family unit, y’know. A loving family of your own, which I don’t have… and some sort of security in the world. That’s of a much higher value than anything that you’re going to get out of surfing. And if you can get surfing to fit in there somehow, then, y’know, you’re on top of the game.”
My mind slithered back to the now, where a close-up of distressed looking Dean Morrison appeared on the screen.
“Then I got dropped by my sponsor, my dog died, and my wife left me….”
This moment, clearly intended by the director Matt Gye to be the heart-string tugging climax to the movie, steeled the Ritz’s audience in uncomfortable silence. Just as the awkwardness was almost too much to bear, relief came from a high-pitched nasal snigger from one Paul Fisher. We exhaled, ashamed and embarrassed.
Shuffling out of the theatre my pal, a man of few words, offered his thoughts on the night
“That was good, ay.”
I kept him company in his unintentional flippancy.
“Yeah pretty good.”
But in my mind, thoughts tornadod. There’s more to life than surf? Irresponsibility puts you in a prison? Can this be true? But most potently, “If you can fit surfing in somewhere then you’re on top of the game.”
To view life through surfing, what a dreamy medium!