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Jack McCoy, Wavescape Film Festival

Deeper than Blue

by Samora Chapman / 01.08.2011

The Wavescape Film Festival marks a unique moment on the Durban surf calendar. It’s the one time in the entire year that all the waveriders gather, shrug off their differences and pack into theatres to see the luminaries and the legends dance on the holy waters of world surfing.

The festival opened on Sunday evening on Bay lawns. 2000 waveriders of every denomination huddled in unity against the icy wind, sipping chwala and blazing the mighty herb in defence of a style. All were gathered to see the African premier of Jack McCoy’s A Deeper Shade of Blue. Lauded by critics as the culmination of his life’s work and gathering momentum at various film festivals around the world, the film also sparked a collaboration with former Beatle Paul McCartney.

I found my crew and nestled in, as Jamie O’Brian slipped through a biting tube at Pipe. I missed Jack’s introduction but was filled in by Chris ‘the lion’ Mason of Wavescape. “Jack spoke about his movie being a personal ‘love letter’ to surfing. The culmination of his years of film making (this is his 25th film). He also considers himself a surfing historian and is actively trying to archive surfing footage from past and present.”

I was soon absorbed in the delicious imagery… endless perfect waves, tropical islands and beautiful humans against the backdrop of our very own silky, black ocean.

The film’s narrative weaved loosely around the history of the surfboard, following the surfer and his weapon of choice as it evolved from a plank to a longboard to a shortboard to a hydro-foil and all the way back to a wooden plank once again. Old Jack threw in plenty of Pipe, J-Bay, Chopes, Kelly and Gerry, creating a winning concoction of surfing glory and nostalgia. The silky/smooth narration was a bit James Earl Jones, as it swerved through the annals of time, always reflecting back on the Hawaiian ethos of ‘Aloha’ for its emotional cues.

Our own homegrown hero – Jordy Smith – made a significant appearance, greeted by hoots, whistles and more than one “that’s my boytjie!” Jack painted a picture of Jordy’s rise from the ashes of Babylon, with flickering images of Durban’s dark inner city, drug dealing and some blacks getting there asses whupped at North Beach for trying to steal a granny’s handbag. This was fairly disheartening but communicated the general international perception that it sure is hell living in Africa. Except for J-Bay, of course, our perfect climate, un-paralleled diversity of cultures and our thousands of miles of un-spoilt coastline, which Jordy tears to shreds. Viva Afrika!

Wavescape Film Festival, A Deeper Shade of Blue

After about an hour and a half of male surfing celluloid glory we were treated to a five-minute vignette of females riding waves too.

Then back to real men riding Shipstern’s Bluff and somehow not dying. Some groundbreaking footage of Chopes shot from an underwater jetski, wounded sea-gull Derek Hynde at 10 foot J-Bay, and a feature on ‘green’ surfing featuring Tom Wegener’s return to producing wooden plank boards.

After the film Jack was harangued by the BOS girls for the lack of female representation. Jack’s got that powerful presence that comes with being mighty. He took off his hat and smoothed back his grey hair like a man cornered and said: “well yeah, you know… well you guys had the most crankin’ backing track to your section!” He then proceeded to give a pretty good defence about how he looked at the film Midge, which really heralded the explosion of surf culture across the globe.

He then turned to me as I hovered and said:
“Hey man, what was your favourite part of the film?”
“Who me?” I responded, surprised. I went blank… the film had already blended into a thousand other surf films in the depths of my memory. I searched my mind with a hint of panic.
“The last sequence man… ja that was beautiful. The Hawaiian guy riding swells on the hydro-foil. It’s like a combination of surfing and flying.”

Jack smiled proud. It was a good answer. Famous Durban charger John Whittle, approached Spike and I later in the evening and proclaimed “I am healed”. The spirit of Aloha had prevailed.

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