Stoke, Sheep and Inward Struggles at the London Surf Film Festival (LSFF) 2015.
Missed out on the films? Need to know the state of modern celluloid surfing? Well fear no more, for here is a somewhat overly detailed recount of the cold-water cinema extravaganza.
I arrive, casually late by one effortless minute (+ 1 LSFF point). I am tangled in my headphones and am standing in the wrong queue (- 1). When I eventually find the right one, I get given a lanyard (always a lovely thing to receive) and I follow a mass of checked shirts to Screen 1.
I search for the optimum seat. I realise I am wearing checked shorts and imagine everyone whispering one of us, one of us. Sartorially, I have done well (+1). I opt for the first empty row I can find: at the end by the aisle, strategically positioned for bar purposes, and inconveniently positioned for anyone who wants to get through (- 1).
Fine Company begins. It’s a soothing compilation of impeccable waves, jolly friends and supreme longboarding, all set to a predictable-but-pleasant soundtrack. In a moment of deep reflection, I notice there is something indefinably correct about the cohesion of electric blue lights in the cinema stairs and the chalybeous (+ 1) ocean on the screen.
Fine Company inspires severe ride-envy in all
Fine Company, one of ‘The Shorties’ (films from Britain and Ireland under 5 mins), is a perfectly gentle and captivating appetiser that inspires severe ride-envy in all. There are sporadic whoops from the crowd – forget about the A road outside and we could all be sitting on a dune, watching it live.
Generic but endearing surfy men get up on stage a fiddle with a ‘stoke machine’. Despite initial post-film blues, our collective stoke is registering fairly high – this is good to hear. Applause is happening for the team involved in Fine Company; Mike Lay stands up behind me to receive it. I experience a surge of journalistic fervour and I hand him a note asking for an interview afterwards (+1). I include a tick box answer sheet for consent, he ticks YES and the future is assured!
Faroes: The Outpost Vol 2 begins. It is beautifully shot. There are men with beanies, men with beards, men with 6mm of neoprene and one particular man with the most satisfyingly stereotypical appearance; people are actually laughing every time his mug comes on screen. We’re all such a group of checked-flannel-buddies, having a giggle, clapping our friends, whooping at pixels. We are a salty oasis in the fumigated metropolis of London!
The surfing in Faroes is edible and the landscape looks fictional
The surfing in Faroes is edible and the landscape looks fictional. Those are both compliments, by the way. Then there’s a weird bit where a local flames some sheep heads and the surfers/characters have a moment of realisation that life here is about survival, not about enjoying yourself or being on holiday all the time. A tiny cliché alarm goes off in my head. How many times in their lives do these people have to get lost, just so that they can find themselves again?
I speculate briefly about injected spiritualism in order to validate the otherwise misconceived mindlessness of pursuing waves, and then I drink some complimentary flavoured water. It tastes like a fizzy bakewell tart (+ 1).
Freezing is now showing. It is hilarious. These men are the antitheses of the Classic Hunk – they’re self-mocking and they’re not even taking the swell seriously. J’aime le concept.
Sean Collins: The Ripple Effect feels like the kind of video you might beg to be shown in a geography class. It carries a photosensitive epilepsy warning and is stylistically compiled with lots of dynamic cutting and a male presenter voiceover explaining the origins of modern-day swell forecasting. My eyeballs begin to ache with the barrage of images, but it is nonetheless interesting and informative and I find out all about Sean and his dad.
The first batch of showings is now over and my entire row get up to leave. I am a solitary island of obstruction, some people say a pitying thank you as they squeeze past my flattened self (- 1).
I will spare you the details of what I did not do during the interval.
Taking Shape is on. Quick summary: a few friends, a guitar and some more sheep (apparently a key cold-water surf film feature) get involved in board shaping next to a recording studio and a bracing Scottish break. Short and sweet, like a child or a drumstick lolly.
They go in search of waves, but are met with a pancake ocean and resort to freeride snowboarding instead
Bear Island has started. Three brothers from Norway, a few ear plugs and stretchers, a few dreads, 450kg of sporting equipment. Their genes are insane. The film has the longest running time of the evening, and the brothers have the longest trip. They go in search of waves, but are met with a pancake ocean and resort to freeride snowboarding instead. They abseil down to isolated beaches and clear up the plastic, then they eat some seal blubber and spit it back out again.
There are sibling disputes, pregnant girlfriends at home who want them back, and shortages of food. The entire cinema is breathing with them, and when the swell finally arrives we all cheer and watch them rip on punchy little peelers. Then they get really cold and naked and some existential dread sets in when they realise the snow is melting and time is passing. Emotional engagement = high.
The end. Floodgates open and the mass spills forth. I hunt down Mike, we do mini introductions, it turns out we almost know each other (+ 1). We agree about feeling pathetic after watching the extreme Norwegian bros conquer Svalbard and we also agree about Truro College. We talk exclusively in clichés about the longboarding experience (laid-back, easy, riding with the wave etc) and then someone decides to have their birthday party pretty much on top of us (- 1).
His filming friends arrive, and I ask one of them What Did You Think Of The Surf Film Festival? He replies ‘Is that my beer?’
He agrees it is a travesty but holds optimistic hope for the future
Mike then reasonably asks me for a pertinent interview question, so I say Where The Flip [Editor’s correction] Where All The Women? We watched 6 films totalling 5 hours, and 3 seconds – THREE SECONDS – were of a girl. He agrees it is a travesty but holds optimistic hope for the future: ‘The industry is changing’.
His friend’s opinion: A series of expletives in support of the opinion that females are often misrepresented due to marketing strategies. I say: ‘Please swear less, I can’t quote you otherwise.’ Then I address the entire surfing industry and say ‘Next time, more girls shredding please.’
A final tally of my social-aptitude score reveals I finish Friday night of the London Surf Film Festival 2015 with a dazzling +3 LSFF points, and can sleep happily tonight. There’s more on next weekend, I say go check it out. Just don’t forget to wear plaid, sit back and soak up the beautiful act of bringing the sea to the city.
London Surf Film Festival 2015 is sponsored by Reef and organised by writing collective We Are The Fold. The event runs on Friday and Saturday nights in various venues until 24th October. More information is available on the website here: www.londonsurffilmfestival.com