Opinion: Gimme substance!

Gimme a surf film I can sink my teeth into!

I am in dire need of a new surf film. And by “new,” I’m not referring to the release date. The past couple evenings have seen me coddled on the couch by a thin blanket, fighting a looming cold.  Over the course of those nights, my DVD player has been on more than usual. Steering clear of typical grandiose, Hollywood sponsored, cinematic adventures, I chose to spend time watching smaller budget surf films that focus on my love of wave sliding. I visited several movies that all sounded promising. Films like Sight SoundModern CollectiveMissingGathering, and Slow Dance just to name a few. Each included surfers who’s style and persona interest me, so I went into them with high hopes. But at the end of each, I was left with a repetitive feeling of emptiness and a strong sense of dissatisfaction. In processing my emotional response, I have come to one simple conclusion: they’re boring.

I mean no disrespect to the respective directors. The movies are their artistic expressions and I dig that. As a fan of the creative mind, it’s hard for me to see anything but good in those willing to put together something imagination-based for all to see. My disillusion comes from wanting more. Since their inception, surf videos have followed the same general archetype. Waves, music, limited dialogue scattered through a brief interlude, waves, music, music, and waves. What I have found when studying this method, is that I don’t want more waves and music. I want more substance.

Firstly, at the time in which we are living, professional surfers have surpassed the minor celebrity and meager paychecks of their predecessors. We have seen the surfing world move beyond the realm of a beer slugging counterculture to a bonafide and legitimate billion dollar industry. With that came higher profile and higher paid athletes. Athletes. People with alarm clocks and trainers and nutritionists and coaches and corporate sponsors and a higher regard for their profession. They have become more evolved and subsequently more interesting. So why not let us see more of the people they are? Not more of them doing the same barrel stance or backside alley-oop or vanilla-flavored post-heat interview. But more of them navigating the other 99% of their existence that expands beyond the ocean. We’ve seen it before in Jack McCoy’s Blue Horizon, where he contrasted the likes of the late, great competitively charged Andy Irons to the tranquil, bare-footed, ocean activist Dave Rastovich. McCoy took viewers inside their worlds. We got to follow Andy and see what he was really thinking during one of the most intense periods of his competitive career. We also got to see the stark juxtaposition of Rasta’s free-spirited, wandering lifestyle on the coasts of New Zealand. We saw interviews with their families and gathered firsthand input of who they are as people. We got to know them on a deeper level.

We saw this even before with one of the most soft-spoken, but performance-loud individuals in our world, Mr. Timmy Curran. In the 1995 family-made biography Here and Now, we got to see Tim surfing his home breaks. We got to see Tim with his friends. We got to see what Tim did when the surf was flat. We got see how Tim ordered his boards. We got to see Tim. We got to satiate our curious desires of learning who the quiet and humble kid from Ventura was by going into the world we couldn’t see in standard surf videos.  And how many of us wore that movie out as a result?

What I am trying to say is that I’m nosey. I want to know what time Kolohe wakes up in the morning. I want to know what Jordy eats for breakfast. I want to know how many times a week Julian trains and what kind of exercises he’s doing. I want to know what they do when I’m sitting at work wondering what they’re doing in between contests. I want to see their normal lives. Think Fuel TV’s Firsthand but like three times as long. If corporate companies want me to buy boardshorts and button-downs based off the gents who endorse them, I need to know more about those gents to really understand who I’m supporting. I need to know if their character is really worth my admiration, and not just because their sponsors make that decision for me.

Secondly, I want to see more culture. How many of these directors film in remote places that a vast majority of us have yet to visit? Places in the far corners of the globe that require three planes, a boat, two car rides, and a never ending walk to get to. Places with no internet. Places with a welcoming and loving group of natives who live a lifestyle far removed from the chaotic existence which engulfs most of the world. I want to see more of that. I don’t want to just see the waves that break in those places, I want to see the people who live there and pass by those waves every day. I want to see how life is lived beyond the limited perspective of work, work, work and the commuter infested 405. Sure, I can travel there. I can visit them with my own earthly body, but I have to save the vacation time first! In the meantime, I want to live vicariously through the surf media that is readily available on the short weeknights that follow the long workdays.  I want to zone out and have a pseudo-vacation to those places while I’m saving for my next plane ticket to actually get there.

A couple of recent films I really feel got this right were Taylor Steele’s This Time Tomorrow and Jason Baffa’s Bella Vita. Steele’s This Time Tomorrow had some of the most amorous and persuasive cinematography I had yet to experience. The way he romanticized each of the four stops on their escapade really sucked me in. Think of how he captured the essence of the kind people of Tahiti. How he layered some indigenous music over the footage of streets in Mexico. The way he focused on ships, trains, and the environmentally hardened Alaska. I mean c’mon. He actively chose to break away from surfing in order to shoot footage that solely included the environment and inhabitants of the places they visited. And that really did those locations a beautiful justice.  He showed us more than just Rasta and Ando painting on their aquatic canvases. He introduced us to their overall experience. By the end, it felt like I had taken that trip with them and when the credits showed, I was severely disappointed our journey was over.

This effect is mirrored in Baffa’s Bella Vita. Focused not just on Chris Del Moro or the act of surfing, Baffa expanded the moral of his film to revolve around the Italian culture. He showed us the way Italians live.  How they focus on community. How surfing is a small pastime that further strengthens the collective bond that already unites them. We got to learn the history of surfing’s pervasive influence throughout the country. We met shapers, chefs, coffee growers, and wine makers. It was an adventure that introduced us to the myriad aspects of Italy that go way beyond just the sole perspective of waves. I can’t say definitively that my interest in traveling to Italy was as strong before seeing Bella Vita as it is now, but regardless, the film absolutely 150% influenced me to add it to my bucket list.

In the end, I just want more from our surf filmmakers. I want to see them take courageous steps beyond the safety nets of waves, music, waves, music, waves, credits.  I want to see them utilize a broader perspective to provide us visibility of worlds that strongly interest us as surfers and movie watchers.  Most use surf videos as a means to experience what surfing has to offer when we can’t physically surf. Therefore I feel our filmmakers have a responsibility to entertain us with more than just the same old buffet. And by all means, if there are any other current films that scratch the itch of exactly what I am discussing, please enlighten me. I am definitely open to suggestions.

BELLA VITA FILM from Bella Vita Film on Vimeo.

Sea of Darkness documentary

Sea of Darkness Just Got Leaked Online!

Here's ironic. Never-realeased documentary on surfers/drug running has been stolen, pirated… 

Sea of Darkness, Michael Oblowitz’s documentary on the 70’s Indo surfer/smuggler scene, its release long delayed due to difficulty securing distribution, has finally leaked online.

Its appearance on public torrent trackers this past weekend came as a surprise to those of us who occasionally remember to search for it.

Rumor long held that various copies existed outside Oblowitz’s control, yet in an age where everything is available online if you only know where to look, its absence from the online piracy scene led many to believe such speculation was unfounded.

A surprising response from the person who originally uploaded the documentary confirmed the existence of said bootleg DVDs, stating that the copy uploaded had been passed along to them during a trip to Bali.

A surprising response from the person who originally uploaded the documentary confirmed the existence of said bootleg DVDs, stating that the copy uploaded had been passed along to them during a trip to Bali.

In a far more salacious bit of online leakage, full-frontal nudes of Justin Bieber have also found their way onto my hard drive.  It seems the little pink pucker nugget was snapped cavorting with his trimmed and slightly tumescent mangina swinging in the breeze during a recent trip to Bora Bora.

I won’t be linking to Sea of Darkness, that’d be a real prick move, but if you’d like to see what the Biebs’s dong looks like, you can check it out HERE  

Gabriel Medina Air France
"This might've been the biggest air I've ever done," says Gabriel Medina. Ten? Yeah, it was. | Photo: WSL

Lazarus: Gabriel Medina, Quiksilver Pro, France!

World champ’s elaborate pageantry; title contenders rise to surface…

Far from being dead, and as predicted on these pages, Gabriel Medina has become a modern Lazarus of Bethany.

Want to see what Gabriel can throw into the wind when he feels the judges want elaborate pageantry and not six window-wiper re-entries at three-foot Hossegor? A backside roter so complete even his competitor Owen Wright was compelled to applaud?

Let’s examine.

Now let’s pause amid the drama and ask Gabriel to describe? “I felt really high! This might have been the biggest air I’ve ever done, ” he says.

Julian Wilson cried out for attention, aware that the law of the jungle is all that applies in competition. Kolohe Andino, Jadson Andre, mauled.

Defending Quiksilver Pro France champ Pro John John swung into the quarter finals with this.

And Mick Fanning? Of course he’s there.

QF 1: Julian Wilson (AUS) vs. Italo Ferreira (BRA)
QF 2: Mick Fanning (AUS) vs. Bede Durbidge (AUS)
QF 3: Adriano De Souza (BRA) vs. Owen Wright (AUS)
QF 4: Gabriel Medina (BRA) vs. John John Florence (HAW)

Heat 1: Italo Ferreira (BRA) 16.23 def. Jadson Andre (BRA) 15.07
Heat 2: Bede Durbidge (AUS) 18.30 def. Kolohe Andino (USA) 10.20
Heat 3: Owen Wright (AUS) 18.50 def. Jeremy Flores (FRA) 16.17
Heat 4: John John Florence (HAW) 16.80 def. Matt Wilkinson (AUS) 14.87

Heat 1: Julian Wilson (AUS) 17.37, Jadson Andre (BRA) 12.93, Kolohe Andino (USA) 10.47
Heat 2: Mick Fanning (AUS) 16.67, Bede Durbidge (AUS) 15.43, Italo Ferreira (BRA) 13.73
Heat 3: Adriano De Souza (BRA) 18.50, Jeremy Flores (FRA) 14.00, John John Florence (HAW) 13.37
Heat 4: Gabriel Medina (BRA) 19.83, Matt Wilkinson (AUS) 16.00, Owen Wright (AUS) 15.56

John John Florence
John John Florence is so…versatile! | Photo: WSL

Mystical Ecstasy: Day 2, Quiksilver Pro France

Slater, Reynolds, out, Fanning strong, Bede dials nines…

On paper, there is no way Kelly Slater can beat Kolohe Andino in three-foot, one-hit righthanders. Kelly knows it, he’s been there before. He saw his mortality in the crisp autumn lineups of France and Portugal two years when he was stomped in consecutive events, in similar conditions, by Filipe Toledo (France) and a week later by the wildcard Frederico Morais (currently 54th on the WQS).

It’s why he wasn’t coming to Europe. The forecast for eight-foot barrels got him as far as France.

“Kelly’s airs are nineties style,” said the commentator Ross Williams in explanation.

And, therefore, in the three-foot, offshore retarded and therefore slowish waves, Kelly had zero chance of winning, not even if he’d squeezed the sex and balls of the head judge and allowed him to spurt sperm on his breasts in a sentimental wank the night before.

But, ah, the mystical ecstasy of Kelly Slater!

Kolohe greets the heat with a straight air, much float time, eight point five.

Kelly finds a tube, as he tends to do, but a (generous) seven points is, clearly, as good as it’s going to get.

Kolohe snatches another score via an air reverse, landing greased.

In response, Kelly moves a couple of hundred metres down the beach, among a gang of kids surfing, to a crummy, backwash-ridden right. And it freaks Kolohe out. Priority is useless.

Kolohe bangs the water, he raises his hands, he makes shapes in the air.

The waves Kelly gets are sub-standard, but he’s inside Kolohe’s head and it’s so…mystical!

Eventually, physics prevail, and Kolohe wins. Afterwards, he fumes: “I asked 10 different people if we could surf the other right. They told me I couldn’t.”

Kelly, who is abnormally sensitive to losing, even when it’s obvious it has to happen, explains his loss with, “I got hurt ribs.”

Watch Kelly Slater nearly construct artificial win out of heat with Kolohe Andino here.

Italo Ferreira was anything but psycho-rigid! Unpredictable! “I thanked God for that last right!” said the good Catholic.

Bede v Ace, nines everywhere. Tenacious fascination!

John John Florence gives more ecstasy than an versatile artificial vagina with radiometric sensor that allows the prediction of ejaculation and the consequent modification of stimulation!

Dane was the most beautiful thing in the contest, but he… lost! Slapped on the head by Owen Wright.

Oh, Mick! His nerves are immobile. Fifteen seconds left and he rides the wave of the heat, a nine, and slings past the French wildcard Max Huscenot.

Watch six hours of surfing compressed into one minute!


Heat 1: Julian Wilson (AUS), Jadson Andre (BRA), Kolohe Andino (USA)

Heat 2: Italo Ferreira (BRA), Bede Durbidge (AUS), Mick Fanning (AUS)

Heat 3: Adriano De Souza (BRA), John John Florence (HAW), Jeremy Flores (FRA)

Heat 4: Gabriel Medina (BRA), Matt Wilkinson (AUS), Owen Wright (AUS)


Heat 1: Julian Wilson (AUS) 11.17 def. Brett Simpson (USA) 10.34

Heat 2: Jadson Andre (BRA) 13.17 def. Nat Young (USA) 12.97

Heat 3: Kolohe Andino (USA) 15.77 def. Kelly Slater (USA) 14.20

Heat 4: Italo Ferreira (BRA) 13.60 def. Keanu Asing (HAW) 13.10

Heat 5: Bede Durbidge (AUS) 18.37 def. Adrian Buchan (AUS) 17.40

Heat 6: Mick Fanning (AUS) 17.83 def. Maxime Huscenot (FRA) 16.04

Heat 7: Adriano de Souza (BRA) 14.17 def. Tomas Hermes (BRA) 12.73

Heat 8: John John Florence (HAW) 16.33 def. Kai Otton (AUS) 15.33

Heat 9: Jeremy Flores (FRA) 10.46 def. Michel Bourez (PYF) 10.14

Heat 10: Gabriel Medina (BRA) 18.70 def. C.J. Hobgood (USA) 14.23

Heat 11: Matt Wilkinson (AUS) 16.00 def. Josh Kerr (AUS) 12.50

Heat 12: Owen Wright (AUS) 14.83 def. Dane Reynolds (USA) 10.97


Sweet sugar: The Inertia describes New York!

The much-loved, if racist, surf website makes poetry!

The Inertia, surf website for the emotionally intuitive,  enjoys flowery prose as much as any twelve-year-old girl. Adjectives dance with adjectives dance with even more adjectives in every post. Surfing’s “definitive online community” has feelings! It has…feelings!

But they outdid even themselves with a recent piece titled New York Surfers Live for These Moments. Maybe if you watch TV, you think New York is a tough place where people bark at each other in brassy accents. Maybe you think New Yorkers get straight to the point. But apparently New Yorkers have feelings too and don’t get straight to the point at all.

I present you the first paragraph:

All summer New York surfers daydream of hurricane season, lust over barreling waves, ocean size, the possibilities of a perfect storm. Surfline is our addiction, hope and despair. This time around we got it all. New Yorkers played hard. No jokes, no foamies. Spikes, walls, free falls, tubes, sweeping currents, dark and stormy horizons. The line up cleared, with only the brave and experienced…

And the last:

On the beach everything is raw, uncontrolled, and spontaneous. The light changes constantly and every wave is different. The surfer is my art form, and the ride is their expression. Photographs are creative conversations. When all the variables line up, we share a perfect fleeting moment. The beauty in the madness. Being out there in the elements, capturing the raw beauty of nature and the surfer’s moment on water is my creative fuel and salty intoxication. Giving back these moments to the surfer and documenting a piece of New York surf history is precious.

Are there tears streaking your cheeks? If not read the middle stuff here!