Pentacoastal review #2: “This is how you create a narrative! This is exactly where the sport should be!”

Make art, and see what happens. If you don’t have a plan you can never fail.

Vans’ latest film Pentacoastal is a war cry for the contemporary surf fan.

It shows us surfing at the vanguard of the modern performance spectrum, pushed even further forward by the sure-handed direction of an in-form auteur. Pentacoastal is blistering, exhilarating.

It captures attention like a well placed punch on the nose – blam! – and forces our gaze back to what’s most important.


This is how you create a narrative. This is exactly where the sport should be.

A rare delight. And all for free.

Have you seen it yet?

There’s a whole lot to like.

The reinvention of Wade Goodall, who’s as close to a central figure in the film as we see. Wade’s had a narrative arc that would match any character from The Wire. The pop-shuvit funboy of the early naughts is still there, but with a style and presence that’s rounded out into something much more substantial.

His surfing is next level. That foamball wrestle and bounce at P-Pass needs to be watched again, and again.

Harry Bryant, the fizzling quokka with a Marzo-esque level of command in some damn heavy situations. I was lucky enough to be out during a few of the Indo sessions featured in Pentacoastal and he was by far the standout in real time. It shows through in the film.

A supporting cast that expose no weak links.


Even though the locales are mostly well known, the waves are shot in a new light. Literally. Muted hues and tonal fades are in the edit throughout. The aesthetic is distinct, but never overpowers. The washed-out drone soundtrack evokes that unsettling power of desert Australia and the Indian/Southern oceans chillingly. It had me putting on some Earth and settling into a doom haze as soon as I finished watching.

Pentacoastal captures the dystopian mood of 2020, but in a way that will remain relevant long after the last Chinese cough subsides.

At thirty mins it’s the perfect release time.

You gotta love the Vans model, too. Keep loose rein over a large team of talent. Allow them the creative freedom to do their own thing. Pull them together every now and then for a major project, and place it under the guidance of the likes of Goodall and Shane Fletcher with full creative control.

Make art, and see what happens. If you don’t have a plan you can never fail.

For that reason, nothing in Pentacoastal feels contrived, or marketed. It’s a statement in and of itself that surfing is at its best when it’s organic, powerful, and unencumbered.

This is how you create a narrative. This is exactly where the sport should be.

Perhaps the ultimate compliment I can give?

I’ve already watched it twice.

Pentacoastal movie review: “Like a drunken sleep on the beach after a melodious sacred concert!”

A filmmaker reviews Vans' latest full-length movie…

We all know the state of surf cinema: the industry’s in decline, there’s no budget, instagram ruined everything, attention spans are too short, blah blah blah.

All of this was on my mind as I queued up the livestream for the premiere of Wade Goodall and Shane Fletcher’s ​Pentacoastal​. As the opening notes of the metronomic score thumbed I immediately felt like I was in good hands.

Opening credits in surf films are rarely good. Taylor Steele might be public enemy number one, but even​ View From A Blue Moon​ spends what feels like an eternity introducing its cast over painfully repetitive, if beautiful, underwater cinematography.

Goodall and Fletcher gracefully side-step this pitfall with a wonderful montage of hand-drawn, mixed medium animations. These strange creations, over 1700 hand drawn images according to Goodall, vibrate and morph with small imperfections from frame to frame.

Amid these little slice-of-life moments featuring random passersby, each cast member is brought into the narrative in his own animated sequence. (On a side note, does Vans have the most likeable team in surfing? A Goodall, a Graves, two Gudangs, a Bryant, a Fletcher, a Florence and a fucking Reynolds? And Kyuss King is there, too.)

The true genius of the introduction is the employment of the age old adage: show, don’t tell.

Nothing kills my boner faster than half assed B-roll over a surfer’s narration of what their home is like, or why they love surfing, or why their team is “like a family” (ironically this is basically Passion Pop,​ Goodall’s early 2000’s Billabong flick).

These images feel like Goodall’s POV. Without any explanation or direction he has transported us behind his eyes ​Being John Malkovich-style, depicting a world strange and alien.

Every frame is operating on multiple levels, and while describing it is some real film school bullshit, it makes for a compelling opening that reflects careful thought and attention to detail.

One minute in and we’re out of the intro, wham bam thank you ma’am.

And once this film ramps up, it doesn’t really slow down for the rest of the running time (around thirty minutes). There’s no candid B-roll, no narration, no explanation, just top-notch, progressive surfing complemented by a beautifully consistent, semi-monochromatic color treatment of deep blues and crushed blacks and a soundtrack of feel-it-in-your-chest pounding rock.

They surf that one stretch of the South Coast that is in way too many web edits, but somehow Shane Fletcher manages to make it look fresh and entertaining. They surf that one super-fun-looking-but-probably-pretty-gnarly-in-reality beach with all the A-frames on it (See Parko in ​Trilogy)​.

They have the obligatory Indo part but Dane is there so who cares, gimme all the Dane, gimme my precious! Kyuss King goes wave for wave with Goodall at a shallow right slab in a coming out party reminiscent of Kolohe Andino in ​Lost Atlas.

Harry Bryant surfs with the reckless spontaneity that has recently and deservedly made him so popular.

Goodall closes with a solo section at maxing P-pass, a wave which, no matter how many times I see it, is still jaw dropping. It’s beautifully shot by Fletcher, who much to my relief, doesn’t camp out on the same 200mm lens, but varies his focal length, giving us cropped-in close-ups and wide, pulled0back shots of the break.

I think filmers get obsessed with walking the tightrope of “how tight can I shoot from a boat and still keep it steady and framed up”. Here’s a good rule of thumb: if you are cutting off the top and bottom of a wave, don’t do it more than once.

Show me the wave, show me the lineup, I will likely never see a wave break like this in person, show me the ​mechanics​.

Obviously I really liked this film, but I do have to level a complaint at one element, and frankly the entire surf filmmaking community at large is guilty of this. Sloppy, handheld footage on a film camera is not compelling and needs to die a quick death. Every asshole with a Super 8 camera thinks they can zoom in on a flower or point it up at the trees and it’s god’s gift to filmmaking.

And I get it, shooting film is really fun, but at this point it’s the surf section equivalent to dancing while lip syncing a pop song on TikTok. It’s as lazy as it is boring. Look no further than Jack Johnson, Thomas Campbell, or Joe G for alternate and interesting ways to navigate film.

In any case, bring back full-length films, stop posting all the best clips on insta, cue old man shaking his fist at the collective youth etc.

Go watch the film, it’s free on YouTube, forever, and we are damn lucky to have it.

Listen, shaper Jon Pyzel talks “depraved Screaming Eagles” and more on Dirty Water: “I would sacrifice myself before I sawed through a little girl!”

Enter the castle of John John Florence's lifelong shaper…

Here, today, on Dirty Water is an almost two-hour long conversation with John John Florence’s lifelong shaper, Jon Pyzel.

Some of Jon’s story you might already know: how this diabolically sexy shredder (sponsored by Rip Curl and Hamish Graham surfboards) fled Santa Babs for the North Shore in 1992 and was taken under the wing of master shaper Jeff Bushman before, in 1998, shaping a little blond boy’s first ever custom.

The boy, of course, John John Florence.

In Dirty Water, hear about what it’s like when every major surfboard company in the world is forever circling your marquee rider and how Al Merrick warned his own company to keep their hands off the kid; how Jon lived in a tool shed at Pupukea fed by a single light bulb with an extension cord running into the main house, the surfboard he made that nearly killed Mark Healey, why he ain’t into making flashy expensive surfboards for LA movie execs, the story of how The Ghost was created via a “fucked-up blank” and the depraved name of his foil model, The Screaming Eagle. 

(Available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcast, Stitcher, TuneIn + Alexa, iHeartRadio, Overcast, Pocket Cast, Castro, Castbox, Podcast Addict, Podchaser, Deezer and Listen Notes.)

Share here.

Listen here. 

Or below.

Fatal shark attack in Santa Cruz likely result of “stay-at-home” orders associated with Coronavirus prevention according to wildlife biologist

"Since the beginning of the pandemic, animals worldwide – from bears and bobcats at Yosemite to marine life in Hawaii – have been spotted reclaiming their natural habitats."

Last week, Ben Kelly, a 26-year-old surfer and shaper from Santa Cruz, was hit by a Great White and tragically died from his injuries on the beach. According to the coroner, the shark was likely a “sub-adult in the 10-foot range.”

Shark sightings are not uncommon along this stretch of northern California coast but attacks are rare, though in a recent interview host of Animal Planet’s “Extinct of Alive” and wildlife biologist Forrest Galante suggested there could be a spike as surfers return to the water as “stay-at-home” orders associated with Coronavirus prevention are relaxed.

Per Santa Cruz’s local KRON4 news, Galante said, “…the shark that attacked and killed Kelly probably had not seen a surfer in the area since stay-at-home orders were enacted. With a lack of humans in the water, the shark was most likely comfortable and attacked when its area was disturbed.”

Shark attacks are most often a case of mistaken identity as they hunt for seals, Galante said, adding that the increase in shark sightings is not uncommon since sharks are now hunting in areas previously frequented by humans.

People are urged to exercise extreme cation, especially since many California beaches are reopening or are expected to reopen this week.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, animals worldwide – from bears and bobcats at Yosemite to marine life in Hawaii – have been spotted reclaiming their natural habitats as humans continue to shelter-in-place amid the pandemic.

A memorial fund has been set up for expenses associated with Kelly’s funeral. Donate here.

Photo courtesy Carter Hess Facebook.
Photo courtesy Carter Hess Facebook.

From the Feel-Good Dept: Florida man loses leg while surfing; found two months later by young treasure hunter!

Come on get happy!

I don’t know about you, but I regularly consider treasure hunters on the beach whilst sitting in the lineup. What is the average day’s haul? The most valuable thing the average treasure hunter has ever discovered? Is it cathartic swinging that contraption around? Does it really work? Is there a lifestyle blog associated with treasure hunting? Does it also feature shark attack news? Plus many more questions.

Well, just days ago a thirteen-year-old treasure hunting Florida boy discovered a titanium leg while searching for treasure. He did not have the above set up but was rather scuba diving. And before we consider if the beach treasure hunter burns with jealousy over the scuba treasure hunter let us learn all we can about this heart-warming story from The New York Post.

A Florida man lost his leg while surfing — only to be reunited with his prosthetic weeks later after a boy found it on a treasure hunt.

Carter Hess was surfing the waters of St. Andrews last month when a wave came crashing down on him and knocked off his custom made, $3,000 titanium prosthetic leg.

He tried searching for it the next two days and came up empty, The Panama City News Herald reported.

“I knew immediately it was off of me,” said Hess. “I’ve surfed in much bigger waves and it never came off like that.”

Weeks went by until Sebastian Morris, a 13-year-old from Santa Rosa Beach, found the leg mostly buried in the jetties of a park, roughly 30 feet away, while on a treasure hunt with his father, Bobby, according to the outlet.

“I don’t think I would have ever found it,” Hess said.

The teen started an online campaign to find its owner and Hess’s friends forwarded him a story on the effort.

Hess connected with Sebastian’s family online and they met up to return the leg and let Hess treat them to dinner.

Hess, who lost his leg serving in Afghanistan, is now considering taking up scuba treasure hunting for himself which brings us back around to beach vs. scuba. After spending more time considering, I feel that the beach treasure hunter does, in fact, burn with jealousy over the scuba treasure hunter who not only has better stories, finds better treasure and has a better time but also pulls more action in the tiki bar after the sun is set looking all like this…

Very suave.

Sophisticated and brave.