“She's the first woman to cross over into surfing celebrityhood and achieve a dominance that made the pig dudes shut up and take notice."
Six years ago, Chas Smith was commissioned by clothing giant Roxy to create a documentary on the four-time world champ Lisa Andersen, the gal whose surfing made most male shredders look they were using orthopaedic aids.
It wasn’t an easy ride for the Cardiff-based writer and director, trawling through hours of ex-boyfriend Dave Parmenter’s videos of the pair, mowing through editors, navigating the conflicting approaches of his v Roxy’s, deadlines that existed in only an ephemeral form, Smith getting his nourishment almost entirely from soft drinks, and a budget that quickly evaporated as Smith spent American dollars as if it were Italian lire.
The result, “Trouble”, surprised the hell out of me, the story of a wounded bird that didn’t know where to beat its wings, an immutable sadness masked by vivacity.
“She’s the first woman to cross over into surfing celebrityhood and achieve a dominance that made the pig dudes shut up and take notice,” wrote Outside magazine in 1996.
As Chas tells it,
“She lived on the beach and in her car before being taken in by an abusive local surfboard shaper. She was, in fact, often abused in relationships, running away time and again when things got too bad. Or when she felt trapped. Or when the system threw up barriers.
“In the water, she was something else entirely, raging and fighting and surfing like a gorgeous disaster but could never quite put it all together, competitively, until career suicide presented itself in the form of an unexpected pregnancy. Over objections and common sense, she decided to have the child and in so doing magically broke through and achieved her dream of becoming a champ.
“Trouble follows Lisa on her all too human journey. Surf is a beautiful backdrop but the real story is the epic poem of her life. It is the struggles, abuse, pain and joy. It is the story of a modern, self-made American woman.”
To watch, it used to cost five bucks to rent. Now, free!
What fun, boys.