Dancing with a Beastby Brendon Bosworth / 31.07.2009
After 10 years that crazy dance with mother nature known as the Red Bull Big Wave Africa, is no longer. After a decade, Red Bull has put the event back on the shelf. In a sense, the genesis of this contest is a script in itself. Back in the nineties Dungeons was still under the radar, with only a handful of local surfers braving the sharky paddle and notoriously shifty peaks. In ’99 a small crew gathered for the baptismal contest, but the surf didn’t come to the party. A lesson that would carry throughout the following years: the ocean will pick the day.
The subsequent years brought highs and lows – international recognition, the presence of big wave officials Grant Washburn, Jamie Sterling, Greg Long, Flea Virotsko, Carlos Burle and others. A few dud years; such is the nature of the waiting game. And of course, 2008, the crown event, featuring hairy waves, heavy beat-downs and the type of surfing that makes your average weekend warrior feel like a toddler in a paddle pool, with Grant ‘Twiggy’ Baker emerging victorious.
“Perfect 10” is a montage of the memories, studiously captured by mullet lensman Neil Wesbter and Fixer Film. It’s up close and personal, capturing the many faces of this enigmatic wave. The surfers who ride the Dungeon always seem to claim that the wave is in fact the star of the show. I beg to differ. Granted, it’s a breathtaking work of nature, the way the deep water reef sculpts those hurtling chunks of cold Atlantic Ocean. But in the film we get interview clips with the real characters: Andy Marr, Ian Armstrong, Simon Lowe, Twiggy Baker, Chris Bertish and co, showing us a bit of what it all means to them. We watch, and feel a little sick in the pit of our stomachs, as Jason Ribbink goes over the falls headfirst. We witness Mark Healey freefalling through the teeth of a trapezoidal beast and feel grateful we’re sitting comfortably in a movie-house chair instead of strapped into some neoprene right beside him.
It’s what makes big wave surfers stand apart: that willingness to take the beating. For me, the highlight is Greg Long’s insane barrel across the inside section, which earned him a perfect 10 last year. It’s a spelunking fest of dire proportions and is played over and over again, so you really can’t miss it. But it truly is that filthy so it probably deserves the re-plays.
The soundtrack has been pulled from the Red Bull music files, so it’s not the thumping montage of South African music it was on previous Big Wave Africa films. Other than that, it’s a tightly stitched history lesson on an event that’s shown the world what Dungeons and the mullets that ride it are capable of.
You can catch Perfect 10 tonight in Durban at the Wavescape Film Festival.