Twelve-year-old boy becomes figure of ridicule after inglorious appearance in surf film…
Confession time. I have a shitty surfing style.
When I get to my feet my stance is stiff and knock-kneed, my legs locked into a survival stoop. And then I’ve got these crazy, cocked arms that shoot off on right angles like a scarecrow.
On the wave I look less like a wounded gull than a drunken pigeon, wings akimbo.
I gyrate through turns like an ‘80s Brazillian Quey warrior.
Like Elaine Bennis dancing. Like, whatever.
A hot mess.
I can picture what I want to be doing on a wave and know how to get there, but I just don’t have the skill or coordination to put it all together. Imagine trying to play a symphony through clock radio speakers.
Right tune, wrong instrument etc.
It’s ok though. I’ve learned to live with it.
I’ll never be a pro, or even necessarily good at surfing, despite the fact I’ve dedicated the better part of my life to it.
We all compromise our dreams at some point.
But a recent screening of Inherent Bummer’s Surf Film did, to borrow a phrase from Derek Hynd, open up my past like a masochist.
Have you seen?
The movie itself is red hot. Vivid, energetic. A thousand new faces to process. A fantastic pastiche of contemporary surf culture.
For me, it recalled a certain brand of underground vids that would circulate through the scene back in the day. VHS tapes, usually pirated, shot by local filmers and featuring the current crew of regional rippers, underground lords, up and coming groms.
These were gritty, low-production value jobs. But they held a cultural currency that even the most cashed-up corporates could never hope to copy.
If you featured in one of these, you were like a god in your local crew.
This is what Ferré has recreated. I tips my hat to him.
But it’s also where my childhood trauma comes in.
Y’see, I was in one once. I was twelve years old. I still remember my grommy mate excitedly telling me I’d scored a wave on the latest cut. At a novelty reef that rarely breaks, no less.
Massive core points in itself.
I was expecting it to be that turn I’m pretty sure I’d let the tail slide on, or some heaving pit I’d somehow not realised I was in.
Check it out, grommy mate had said with a wry smile. You’ll be stoked.
Finally after a couple of weeks searching and wrangling I got my hands on a copy.
This is it, I thought as I slid it into the tape player.
Time to hit the big time. I fast forwarded straight to the spot I’d been told. Watched through the first few waves. Not me, not me, not me. Finally I found a figure that looked familiar paddling into a set.
Blonde mop. Spindly frame. Me.
But as I took off, a name popped up on the screen
Wiggles? Who the fuck is that? I read it again.
I watched on, horrified, as I dropped down the face. And wiggled. I wiggled like a drunken pigeon. My wings flapped as if I’d just copped a slug in the ribcage. I somehow forced a slight change of angle that could maybe be described as a bottom turn. I wiggled some more. Pushed out another turn, this one even more subdued, but one that in my mind had been a vulgar display of power, a violent shower of buckets to the heavens.
A turn that was, in fact, just a wiggle.
Then I caught a rail and fell off.
And that was it.
One wave. No barrels. No turns. Just wiggles.
I stood there, remote in hand, dumfounded. My entire surfing life, everything I’d built towards at that point, squashed into five seconds of comic relief for the local surfing community.
All that was missing was a fucking slide whistle.
Motherfucking Wiggles. The name I’ll never forget.
So yeah, fuck you, Ferré.
But anyway, it’s still a good film.
I had a chat about it, and Pentacoastal, and surfing representation in Hollywood, and my top five surf movies of all time, and a whole heap of other bullshit, with Tyler from Swellseason Surf over in New York.
And please, do share some of your childhood surf trauma too.
Tell me I wasn’t the only one.