Just Now, Dudeby Andy Davis / 11.12.2009
If you’re in the Mother(less) city tonight, you should head down to Clifton 4th when it gets dark and take in the Wavescape Surf Film Festival’s outdoor screening of The Present. A brilliant, varied and somewhat eccentric surf flick that somehow managed to annoy the shit out of me, and then surprise, inspire and excite me all in one go. Not a bad emotional smorgasbord for a genre of filmmaking many consider as, “porn for surfers”.
So let’s start with the bad. The Present has this goofy narration throughout. A la Bruce Brown in the Endless Summer. “Hi my name is dorky and this is my surf film.” It’s a totally parochial American approach to surf filmmaking, that stretches back to reference high school circa Archie comics and the heydays of the segregated 1950s. And it is deeply, shamefully lame. But the yank surf film auteurs seem to love it and keep referencing it ad nauseum. Me I just think it points to lazy story-telling. And how come surfers all have such pinched voices, like they’re sitting on one of their nads or wearing a speedo two-sizes two small under those loose boardies? So we started out on the wrong foot with this one.
Things got worse before they got better too. The narrator started talking about, “the present”, and it sounded like we were in a yoga class. “The present is like totally wow man and you’re only alive now and feel the sacred energy of the ocean penetrate your base chakra as you ride the wave big Kahuna blah blah!” I mean what the fuck was director Thomas Campbell smoking when he did that. The scary thing is probably nothing. That’s just how a lot of Californian surfers are these days. All I can gather is that the West Coast of the good ol’ USA is suffering from a crippling post-hippie greenwashed and tie-dyed bout of earnestness. Thank Neptune the surfing footage was so awesome it made you knyp so hard in your poephol that I blanked out the Dan Malloy narration as he waxed lyrical about some esoteric shit his Pilates instructor or Yvon Chouinard’s PA whispered to him while he was picking up his recycled rubber and organic wool Patagonia wetsuits. The wave is a long perfect indonesian right, and it’s nice and big and proper flawless overhead conditions and old Dan, despite gargling all kinds of new-age cliches over the footage, is surfing like a demi-god. Just getting the longest deepest barrels imaginable. Stop to wipe away saliva.
There’s a staged scene with a precocious and totally bog-washable Californian longboarder called Alex Knost and some old shaper dude talking about going to Africa with Billabong’s mermaid naaing, hippy, free-surfer Dave Rastovich. There’s a fair amount of time before they get there that’ll allow you to make a move on your cherry, sneak off to the water’s edge and puff that spliff or go for a pee before they finally arrive in West Africa. However when they get there you want to be watching because Dave Rastovich rips some flawless empty African waves apart and you’ll be thumbing your beard and renewing your passport in no time. Oh in between that there was a scene with Dane Reynolds punting airs in California. Which is pretty ordinary.
Then Reynolds and Machado do a lame That 70s Show style sports commentary thing while people ride surfboards as dracula in a coffin and as a handy-man on a ladder. This is a good scene to be stoned for – and it’s pretty impressive depending on how good your gear is. Soon after there’s a whole series on guys surfing Alaia’s or something rudimentary like that. Basically just thin chunks of wood that have no resistance so they fly when locked into the sweet spot of a curling wave. But you actually need to be a pro to surf them properly. I can’t wait to see the Alaia fad catch on at Llandudno or New Pier… And you think SUP’s are a problem.
Anyhoo. By this stage you’ll be so amped up and stoked out by the glorious big screen footage of endless crystal waves unfolding in their perfection, ridden by the world’s most talented surfers that the monologous and erstwhile Californian new age cliche’s won’t be able to penetrate and you’ll float out of there like a spoilt 13 year old grom on his first Mentawais trip.
And did I mention that The Wavescape Surf Film Festival open air screening at Clifton 4th is 100% MAHALA? Thought not.