Friday, March 29, 2013

A Deeper Length of View

Tonight I saw Jack McCoy's highly anticipated surfing film, A Deeper Shade of Blue, his 25th film. Like the last surfing film to hit theaters nationwide, Chasing Mavericks, it had both high notes and low notes and ultimately could have been a lot better (read my review of Chasing Mavericks here). 

Let's get some things straight: Jack is a legend in surfing and surf film making. I love surfing. You'd think then that a documentary about surfing by a surf film legend would appeal to surfers. For parts of the film these planets aligned and it was wonderful. Unfortunately, the biggest drawback of the film was that it seemed completely devoid of any editing that could have made the movie flow. 

At least 45 minutes of A Deeper Shade of Blue should have been left on the cutting room floor. There is a a LOT of superfluous material that would be mildly interesting on a bonus DVD disc. For starters, the first 15-20 minutes is a panel discussion between McCoy and some of the movie's subjects with lots of rambling on about the inspiration behind the film and how it came together. I'm no film expert but I'm not aware of the practice of starting a film by talking about the film. Suddenly, Manoa Drollet, a Tahitian surfer, joins the panel and when he starts talking about something interesting, namely managing/surviving a wipeout at Teahupoo, he gets cut off and the segment abruptly ends. 

The premise of the movie, as I understand it, is to highlight a handful of surfers around the world who make surfing special in their own special way. They all use different surf craft but they're all super stoked on surfing and therefore make defining surfing impossible. These portions of the film are terrific. I loved watching and learning about incredible surfers like Jamie O'Brien, Chad and Trace Marshall, Derek Hynd, and Terry Chung. But it's WAY too long before we get to the first subject. This is unfortunate because these are stars of the film. Let's get to know these guys and see what they do! 

Unfortunately, these segments are broken up by an evolutionary history of surfing and board design. If you want to make a movie about surf history, fine. Surfboard evolution? Fine. But to combine these, assuming a lowest common denominator with your audience and interspersing it with segments of Manoa Drollet at Teahupoo and Marty Paradisis at Shipstern's Bluff and Terry Chung foil boarding in Kauai makes for a jumbled mess. Where was the editor?! The history segments weren't helped by the fact that the writing and narration were in a style that left me wondering if I was at the Polynesian Cultural Center and not a theater filled with surfers who already know this stuff. As the saying goes, "know your audience."

That said, the historical footage of Barry Kanaiaupuni, Wayne Lynch, and George Greenough among others were all great. Before tonight I had mostly seen only still photos of these legends which obviously doesn't come close to capturing their brilliance. A Deeper Shade of Blue really hits its stride when we get to Jack's underwater cinematography. It's both gorgeous and innovative but we don't get enough of it. It's not until after the closing credits do we see some of his best underwater footage that's further highlighted by a great new song from Paul McCartney called Blue Sway. Why leave this phenomenal stuff for the very, VERY end, when several people have already left the theater? And this wasn't even the end of the movie! McCoy goes back to his informal panel discussion and we hear these guys drone on and on about nothing in particular. I literally couldn't stand it any longer and had to leave, exhausted by the two-plus hours of disorganization. Again, where was the editor?!

Let's end on a high note. As a father to two girls, I loved the women's segment. Like McCoy's underwater footage, the women's segment was beautiful and aspiring. I found it fascinating to hear how much of an impact Kathy Kohner, aka Gidget had on Stephanie Gilmore, one of the world's best female surfers. Her revere for Gidget contrasts sharply with the broader surfing community as most surfers equate Gidget with the death knell for the golden age of surfing by bring the masses to our coasts, shores and waves.

In closing, I'd like to have this movie for my collection however a remote with functioning fast forward button will be absolutely critical as this movie was about twice as long as it should have been. 

Until next time, may your waves be head high and glassy.

Monday, March 18, 2013

The Allure of the Not-So-Secret Spot

I get to surf once a week, usually a Saturday or Sunday, the same two days most of humanity comes out to surf. To make matters worse, humanity seems to converge on the same few spots and this makes for a really crowded, frustrating experience. If I want to sit in a sea of humanity and get really frustrated on a day off, I can do that at the DMV or the mall. I never look forward to going to those places. Why would it be any different on a surfboard? I want to look forward to going surfing. 

It's because of this that I find myself going to spots humanity doesn't care to surf. They aren't secret spots by any means. They're just off the beaten track. You can't check them from the highway. There are no webcams showing you the conditions. They're more fickle and therefore less popular. They aren't spots you go to be seen, to be noticed, to be cool. Instead these are the spots you go to be alone with your thoughts. You go to get in the water and wash off all the crap that accumulates in your life while on land. Sure, the waves may be smaller, mushier or close out more often. The beach may be harder to get to and the lull between sets may be longer once you get there. But these spots are also less crowded. You can let waves go by. You can try new moves. Work on fundamentals. Be a kook. You can do all of these things at a crowded spot but humanity will notice. Humanity will drop in on you, snake you, spray you and all around disrepect you. Not my idea of a good time.

Don't get me wrong. I wish I was more patient or more aggressive. I wish I could sit in the pit, exert my place in the hierarchy, terrorize groms, all the stuff that established locals do. But I'm not so I don't. And I'm okay with that. I'm happier with the peace and quiet I get sitting at an empty break. The thrill of riding a wave seems more pure, more special, more thrilling. And because you don’t have to compete for waves, you can feel that thrill more often. In my book, more waves means more fun.

So don't be a snob. Spend more time searching for a surf spot and less time searching for a parking spot once you get there. There's fun to be had off the beaten track, at a not so secret spot that isn't hard to find. Go!

Until next time, may your waves be head high and glassy.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Kelly Kills it at Kirra

KS has done it again. Yesterday he won the Quik Gold Pro at Kirra on the Gold Coast of Australia. His 52nd ASP event win. He beat Joel Parkinson, last year's ASP world champion, a native Aussie, at his home break, in less than optimal surf (while the final had lots of barrels, the conditions for most of the contest were terrible). In fact, he beat Mick Fanning, another local, to face Parko in the final. Ultimately, he continues to defy the odds. Some things to ponder:
  • He's twice as old as many of his competitors.
  • He doesn't have to prove anything to anyone anymore - he's already the winningest professional surfer and athlete in all of sports.
  • Many/most in the surfing community expected him to announce this would be his last season on tour, making the season nothing more than a farewell tour.
  • He has a family, friends all over the world and a business venture - all things that can and should require more of his time and energy or at least make retiring an easier decision.
  • He held his own in the expression session earlier in the week, a no-holds barred, free surf where the most radical moves are called for. Think lots of aerials with, again, competitors half his age.
  • He advanced to the final in crappy surf despite having the opportunity, resources and practice of surfing flawless waves at the peak of a swell all over the world.

How does he do it? How does he stay motivated? How does he stay healthy? How does he stay inspired? I don't think he uses PEDs (he says he doesn't and doesn't believe they would make anyone surf better). And while I've never seen him bleed, I'm confident he isn't a robot or software program. He is simply amazing. On top of that, he seems very humble and nice and a great ambassador to the sport and lifestyle.

I'm officially pulling for him to win his 12th world title this year and I wish him years more of competitive success and happiness. He is truly an inspiration to me and countless other surfers all over the world. Congratulations Kelly. Go get 'em in '13.

Until next time may your waves be head high and glassy.