London Surf Film Festival



View of the Thames from Riverside Studios

The London Surf Film Festival is almost upon us again, running this year from 11th to 14th October at Riverside Studios. Details of the line-up and tickets info at surf.

Here is my review of last years inaugural event for A1 Surf. And why not?

London Surf Film Festival – Friday 14th October 2011

If I’m honest, I was a little perturbed when I initially heard about the first ever London Surf Film Festival. Could Surf culture be promoted from such land-locked confines? Indeed, would anybody turn up?  I needn’t have worried.

We arrived to the offer of a free glass of beer from Jeremiah Weed Brews which set the tone for the relaxed laid-back atmosphere of the night. Riverside Studios is a terrific venue for this event – no ocean, but a river… a decent selection of wines, good food and great service. It was a sold-out, packed out event, but the atmosphere was chilled and relaxed, with personal intros to the films from the organizers, and rounds of applause for the attendant Shorty filmmakers.

And so to the films: put the bit between your teeth now, but Kai Neville’s Lost Atlas left me cold. Endless shots of tricks are not for me.  But it’s modern, and I hear it’s extremely good if you’re into progressive stuff, so give it a go if you are. There’s lots of it.

Dark Fall from Alex DePhillipo had an interesting premise, following a gang of dedicated New Jersey surfers who suffer the freezing and disturbingly brown waves of their home break for the love of surf. A supposed relief trip to Tahiti is initially flat and frustrating, but Teahupo’o soon delivers. The endless roll-call of names is annoying but in the end, the love wins out.

But the star of the night, predictably perhaps, had to be Stoked and Broke. With little more than some pram-wheels, bamboo, and a knowledge of square lashing, Director Cyrus Sutton and equally endearing side-kick Ryan Burch take to the road to follow the surfari dream with no money but a lot of charm. Surfing highlights include Cyrus’s hand-plane sessions, Ryan’s polystyrene, er, float, and some great waves at Blacks Beach. Yes, it’s funny, and life-enhancing too, as the not-so-hapless duo blag, hustle and busk their way south; but there is a serious issue here too: about getting the balance right between freedom and security. Oh, and if you’re in Cali, eat at the La Jollo Cheese shop. Don’t ask questions, just do it…

Downsides? On this night, anyway, the strongest representation of women was a repeated shot of a shore-bound beauty in a pink Billabong bikini – but a lovely Tahitian man in Dark Fall shyly reminded us that according to legend the first to surf Teahupo’o was a woman.

I would like to have seen more of the distinctive flavour of British surfing; some Mickey Smith would have been good.  But this is where the Shorties came in, on this night ably represented by Tim Davies’ Rubber Tracksuit, Steven Clarey’s 12 months in 5 minutes and Nicky Woodhouse’s Fluid Juice; but my personal favourite of the festival (the fabulous ‘Wreckers’ notwithstanding) would have to be Shayne House’s H2R.  And on the Sunday there was the World Premiere screening of Through the Whisky Barrel, by Scottish filmmaker Allyn Harper, so there is the promise of more home-grown films to come.

I loved the vibe at the first ever London Surf Film Festival, but feared that, given its location, it might be too corporate and distanced from the real thing. There I said it. This was not true on the night, let’s keep it that way.

Thanks again to A1Surf for the tickets!