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Reviews, Surf, Surf Reviews

Film Review: Under The Sun

November 29, 2013

To review Under the Sun as a surf film wouldnt give the movie its due credit. The film by the young director of Stoked & Broke and Riding Waves needs to be viewed as a documentary that enlightens and informs. In Suttons film he discusses the contrast between Australias Gold Coast and Byron Bay. Under the Sun continues to illuminate Sutton as an artist but more importantly we see Sutton growing as a filmmaker who asks his viewers to rethink the conventional ideals of the surfing community.

Juxtaposing Australias Gold Coast and Byron Bay, Sutton creates a wide crevasse with the contrasting images of Competition Surfer and Soul Surfer poised on each divided precipice. First Sutton gives a detailed history and emergence of each group: the greedy commercial industry sprouting from Gold Coast competition surfing and the bongo-drumming hippie pushing organic marmalade from the Byron Bay. Although I use these generalizations and stereotypes, Sutton does a great job of remaining passive and nonjudgmental. These two surfer types are then taken through their evolution into the 21st century. Gold Coast competition surfing grows into a cold and mechanical shit show in which the surfing industry sees an opportunity on which to fully capitalize. And then, surprisingly, Sutton shows the Soul Surfer for his/her true self. A point is made that Soul Surfers cannot live or surf without the aid of sponsors and all the free boards and accessories that arrive at their La Jolla bungalow free of charge. I think this is a truth we tend to disregard due to the free-spirited persona of the Soul Surfer, which we envy. Sutton illustrates soul surfing as something attained by money and commercialism ? the very evil for which the Gold Coast competitive surfer is so harshly judged. So what is Cyrus saying? What wisdom is this film trying to impart?

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I believe Under the Sun is a film of middle grounds. Even though surf competitions have devolved into events as vapid as Keeping Up With The Kardashians, they still maintain some importance. In the film we hear that surfing competitions are places where young kids can focus their energy and learn social interaction and friendly competition (to say life is void of competition would be foolish). These are valuable skills for the young surfer, and the sport (depending if you ascribe to the idea) keeps the youngsters out of trouble. Also, as is stated throughout the film, surfing competitions allowed surfing to become visible to the outside world and therefore disseminate. Right now next to Lake Erie there is a group of friends shivering around a campfire, drinking seasonal beer, and recapping their days session ? to me that is a pretty awesome thing. Stoke is meant to be shared and competition surfing did exactly that. And, even though the Soul Surfer jet sets around the world on someone elses dime and poses nonchalantly, yet consciously, in a dangling palm branch for a photo-op, surfing is still the better because the soul surfer acts as evidence that a greedless, nature-oriented life of surfing is possible. It is a job just like anything else.

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There is no need to demonize these two groups, which is why Suttons passivity is so important. Even though Sutton lightly brushes on environmentalism and population growth I believe Under the Suns true goal is to reveal the whole reality of both the competition surfer and the soul surfer. We tend to lump judgments into categories of right or wrong, black or white but there is a mammoth grey which is inherent in everything. The waves we ride are not concrete and rigid – why should our perceptions of our fellow surfers be? The surfing community has learned and will continue to learn a great deal from both of these groups. Commercialism and shitI dont knowġHippism? Beardism? Machado-ism? Either way we are all surfers under the sun.

Reviews, Surf, Surf Reviews

Film Review: Singlefin Yellow

August 23, 2013

Every surfboard has a story. I bought my first surfboard for $10 from a teenager on my block who my friends and I thought was the second coming of Kelly Slater, but more than likely he was a punk kid who dealt shit weed to middle schoolers. Anyway, the board was twelve inches thick, every neon color the 80s SoCal trend could conjure and sank even before it got into the water, but I cherished the thing. I rode it every weekend. Around thirteen or fourteen years old, I pestered my mom into buying me a new 5’8” …Lost and I never looked back.

After watching Singlefin Yellow by Jason Baffa I began to wonder who owned that $10 board before my gnarly neighbor. Secondly, what became of it after it was so quickly discarded? Is it in pieces scattered amongst garbage in a landfill or is it propped up in the “used” section of Dockside Surf Shop (my favorite surf shop growing up) awaiting another novice? Though I will never be able to answer these questions about my old friend, watching Baffa’s 2005 film allows me some closure by seeing the life of a Tyler made 9’6” yellow single fin as it passes beneath the feet of six surfers and then into the wild.

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Shot in 16mm film, Singlefin Yellow is sincere in its goal to follow the life and journey of a surfboard that was shaped in El Segundo, CA. The film shows a 1960s style yellow single fin longboard as it jet sets across the world and acquires stoke. Each surfer personally, and with warmth, narrates his or her portion of the film giving the entire movie an intimate feel. Singlefin Yellow gives insight to the connection between surfers but more importantly illustrates how surfboards are necessary conduits between riders.

Accepting the chain letter of dings and wax, each surfer in Singlefin Yellow slightly alters the board by surfing a certain break, trimming a certain way, or, like Bonga Perkins, thrashing the poor thing at the North Shore. Passed on, the longboard gives the next rider a sense of authenticity and soul that acts as a tie to the previous riders, the previous countries and the previous waves. None of us can deny that surfing is a sport of emotional connections and that these emotional connections change the feel of our tool – the surfboard. Changing hands over time the aura, for lack of a better word, of these boards shifts in small, minute ways. Singlefin Yellow is a 110-minute snapshot of this process.

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Lastly, I want to stress how much these simple planks of foam and fiberglass are similar to tools with which we create and Singlefin Yellow makes this apparent. Many will liken surfboards to art, but beneath the pretty, glassy exterior they are utensils and objects – tools with which we work. Even the surfing vernacular reflects our subconscious utilitarian perspective of the surfboard: we carve a wave and we trim a wave. Therefore, working with these tools in our salty mitts makes us the craftsman, the artisan working in conjunction with the surfboard. These tools are in our presence the very moment we are in the act of an extremely human process – creation. Later, as workers do, we exchange these tools; pass them amongst ourselves possibly because we need a new tool that will suit our current project. But, undoubtedly, impressions of ourselves remain with our past chisels and then are passed along to a new surfsmith – and this process, my friends, is the art and the beauty.

– Patrick

Pick up your own copy of Singlefin: Yellow

Reviews, Surf, Surf Reviews

Film Review: The Heart & The Sea

February 17, 2013

So when I was 12 my all-time favorite surf flick was …Lost’s What’s Really Goin’ Wrong, a haphazard, wave & alcohol fueled hour of surf punk with an exorbitant amount of “airs.” Not much substance, not much artistry – just surfing. While watching Nathan Oldfield’s The Heart & The Sea, I couldn’t help thinking how polar opposite my old favorite film and Oldfield’s film are. The Heart & The Sea is so saturated with themes of surfing tradition, family, fashion, and community; it views like Citizen Kane compared to the Van Wilder that is What’s Really Goin’ Wrong (don’t get me wrong, I still love that movie.) Oldfield creates a mellow atmospheric vibe reminiscent of Picaresque but with a traditional and family focused rhetoric, a major shift from typical and straightforward surf flicks. TH&TS flows along easily from boogie boarding families to righteous old dudes shaping boards from scrap wood. The film is solid, the surfing is spectacular but most importantly, the themes of tradition and sustainability are thought provoking.

Oldfield focuses heavily on the idea of tradition through the use of alaia boards. Multiple segments of TH&TS are centered on these wooden gems that are so beautifully designed. Though I did notice the lack of actual surfing that was done with these traditional boards. This fact made me ask myself: when does tradition become outdated? Is swimming after a leash-less wooden board tradition or impractical? At a point in TH&TS a surfer describes his experience with the alaia boards while surfing his way across New Zealand: “People are happy to see that you’re doing something different and it seems to be kind of contagious…” He he continues by saying that people are open to new things in the line-up. But I still have to ask: wouldn’t we still want to apply “new” technologies, such as fins or leashes, and then have them evolve into better, more creative and sustainable boards? It is possible that it is a personal preference, a way to make someone feel like they are in touch with a distant, calmer time. I know that i would like to step out of the automobile laden, ill tempered, fast paced and oppressive city into a past of simplicity.

– Patrick

You can pick up your own copy of The Heart & The Sea, here.