Film, Interviews, Surf, Surf Interviews

Elisa Bates: Women + Waves + NYC

June 1, 2012

About a month ago, my friend Quash shared a Vimeo link on Facebook that caught my attention. I watched the trailer above, and made contact with it’s creator…Elisa Bates. Elisa is an artist, based out of Brooklyn…with an itch for surfing Rockaway Beach.

Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Pelham, New York, which is a suburban town in Westchester County about 30 minutes north of mid-town Manhattan.

When did you start surfing?
Truth be told, I’ve been “starting” to surf for the past several years but am still very much a beginner. My husband, who’s been surfing his whole life, has tried to teach me here and there and what I learned is that while he’s a really good surfer, he may not be the best teacher (he agrees). However, I did take a proper surf lesson in Montauk, NY last summer, which was a game changer for me. I finally felt what it’s like to be in control of the board, I stood a few times and now I’m looking forward to getting back in the water.

Your current project is AWAY…can you tell us a bit about it?
It’s a short documentary film that looks at the subculture lifestyle of New York City surfing through the lens of three women who surf at Rockaway Beach, Queens. In the past few years, there has been somewhat of an explosion in the popularity of surfing in NYC. What caught my attention and what drove the idea behind the film was how many more women there were surfing and excelling in this male-dominated sport at Rockaway Beach, an unexpected, moderately difficult, inconsistent break inside NYC. As a female living in NYC, married to someone who’s been surfing at Rockaway since the mid 90’s, I understand the level of commitment necessary to be a serious NYC surfer and also the difficulty and frustration. There were a few documentaries and lots of press coverage that focus on the men who surf there, but I couldn’t find much about local NYC female surfers. I think what I’ve ended up with is a film that takes a personal look at these three women who collectively represent an archetype of what it is to be a female NYC surfer. These women are amazing.

How do you know the 3 women featured in the film?
I didn’t know the women at all before making the film. One of them, Katrina, is actually an old friend of my husband’s who he recently re-connected with and found out she surfed at Rockaway. The other two, Mary and Jee Mee, I found through talking to people within the Rockaway community. I have to mention that everyone who I encountered during the whole process of making this film was so very kind, helpful, and accommodating. I can’t say enough great things about the Rockaway community as a whole.

When did you first get involved with film?
I come from a graphic design and art direction background, spending the bulk of my professional life working in the music and entertainment industry. This project is my first film.

Where do you draw your inspiration from?
Everywhere, really. Road trips, people on the subway, abstract art, the beach, the mountains, certain pieces in my wardrobe, airports, music, old books, good and bad typography, pop culture, my dog, blenders, campy films, my husband, tequila. From anywhere in my consciousness. I draw inspiration from living.

What’s on your playlist right now?
Lately, I’ve really been into a lot of 70’s and (early 80’s) rock like The Rolling Stones, The New York Dolls, The Who, The Clash, The Pretenders. And also, I’ll add in some Von Bondies, Queens of the Stone Age, Gories, Pixies, Morning After Girls, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club.

How many belly rubs has your dog received today?
So far today, he has received at least 15 or 16 belly rubs. Plus lots of compliments.

What’s on the menu for 2012?
Hopefully, a sort of design/film/motion bouillabaisse of work served in between some travel to new and old places. And also, I’ll be working on perfecting my riding technique…well, um after I learn to catch the waves.

You can stay updated on AWAY, at the film’s official website. Elisa also has some great work up on her Vimeo page.

– Shawn

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1 Comment

  • Reply Jasmine June 1, 2012 at 6:17 pm

    I can’t wait to see this film!

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