Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Riders to the Sea

This clever, funny, surf short from Ireland, Riders to the Sea, is written and directed by Orla Welsh. I saw it as part of the Ocean Film Festival touring Australia a couple of weeks ago.

Clever and funny, huh. I like when women are presented as more than surfing damsels in distress, and this woman most certainly is all over this situation. I also like when women are presented as having a sexuality that isn't passive or disinterested. And hers certainly isn't. Well, until she notices the empty waves. It think it was my favourite film from the festival and it was certainly the most original. Thanks, Orla Welsh!

A quick search about the name of the film reveals that it is the same as a famous Irish play from 1904. From the related Wikipedia page:
A one-act tragedy, the play is set in the Aran Islands, and like all of Synge's plays it is noted for capturing the poetic dialogue of rural Ireland. The very simple plot is based not on the traditional conflict of human wills but on the hopeless struggle of a people against the impersonal but relentless cruelty of the sea.
I wish I could know more about whether these names are connected or not and why. The surfing is done by Irish surfer, Easkey Britton, who is pretty cool. I'll post more about her soon...

Monday, April 07, 2014

Crossing the Tasman

I have often written about how much of a sub-topical, warm water lover I am. About how last year I bought my first ever steamer (a 3/2), which I only needed to wear a handful of times. About how I have rarely had call to venture, let alone surf, further south than Sydney. This was never about gloating, this was about being honest about how and where I surf. This was done so I could be judged accordingly. But things are about to change, friends. Things are about to get frosty.

Because I am moving to New Zealand.

I am moving to a place of cold water, black sand, short-board dominated, lefts. I am moving to a place where the sun sets into the sea! I am moving to a place where a short-legged spring suit is not going to get me through the winter. Dang, where a 3/2 isn't going to get me through the winter!

But in a way I'm kind of stoked because it's a good test. I know lots of people who have given up surfing when they have moved to colder climates. Really! And while that is fair enough, I don't want to be that person. So I'm taking it as a personal challenge to get out of bed and get into the water even thought nothing about that sounds reasonable, rational or sensible. But I really do love catching waves, so I will.

And so I was inspired by Toddy's post over on The Endless Bummer the other day about surfing in winter.
You easily psych yourself up to surf. You've got your six mil winter suit with those five mil gloves and those seven mil booties, you're practically praying for snow. The romantic ideal of being that guy just propels you into full on frigid surf froth. Especially when you're heading out from your cozy home in your cozy car, your suit quickly becoming a sweaty hot box as you hustle to the water's edge.
It's the water's edge that kills you.
You look out, feeling the proximity of that churning, ice-cream headache, face-stinging paddle and realize you've made a terrible miscalculation. But you blunder on, the pure shame forcing you forth into the nettle-like abyss of sub-40˚ water. After the sputtering lobster claw flailing torture, you heap yourself upon your board just that side of the lineup as that second ring of cold water hell focuses uncomfortably into view.
Or, I should say, out of it. This moment you realize just how hobbled you are in that coffin-like hood, peripheral vision blacked out completely. This is when you realize just how important hearing is to your whole wave catching mojo.
These foundational, guttural limitations dawn on you in such nauseating succession, you're sure you'll paddle in after your first take over the falls. It's all too much.Then a wave chooses you, dropping you in, and that bizarre, one of a kind insta-joy relief sets in.
You breathe, laugh a little. You were right all along.
Until you gotta get outta that suit. 
Winter in NY means even more  rubber and enthusiasm for surfing than it will mean for me in NZ. I mean a 6 mil wetsuit is just beyond my comprehension and there is no snow to the place I am headed. But Toddy's stoke gives me comfort and even something to look forward to in my own cold water sessions.

Video via The Endless Bummer as well:

Friday, April 04, 2014

Clara Bow rhymes with 'paipo'

So I just stumbled upon this image of Clara Bow over at The Sunset Sessions tumblr, and it made me pretty happy. Surfing and cowgirls combined? Come on!

So obviously I got obsessed with this, and although I didn't find out much specific information about this image, I did find a few others that are clearly form the same shoot. 

This one above is my favourite.She looks so happy. 

Also, here is a bonus 1929 artwork of Clara Bow surfing, by Enoch Bolles.

Happy Friday!

Friday, March 21, 2014

Molto Vivace

If I could choose one song to explain my life right now, it would be this - the second movement of Beethoven's very famous and recognisable Symphony No. 9 in D Minor, which is played molto vivace (very lively). From about 9:40, shit gets so real and so, so awesome.

According to the Wikipedia site about this piece:
Normally, scherzi are written in triple time. Beethoven wrote this piece in triple time, but it is punctuated in a way that, when coupled with the speed of the metre, makes it sound as though it is in quadruple time.
Yep. Sounds about right...

I highly recommend you play this some time today, and play it loud. And, if you know me at all, laugh.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Titanic waves (Pun!)

It's a truth universally acknowledged that I'm easily excited, but nonetheless, finding ocean waves on other planets is still pretty cool. I read this story over at I Fucking Love Science:
Saturn’s largest moon, Titan, looks a lot like Earth, except in deepfreeze. It’s got a nitrogen atmosphere, along with lakes and seas, channels sculpted by rivers, and even mudflats and rain clouds. The moon is so much like our planet that it’s a frequent setting for sci-fi...
But while Titan appears so earthlike in so many ways, it's still a very alien place. The moon’s lakes and seas are not made of H2O -- at minus 290 degrees Fahrenheit, Titan’s surface is way too cold for liquid water. Researchers believe their water is actually a mixture of hard-to-freeze hydrocarbons like methane. And Titan’s lakes are eerily smooth: where are the waves? After all, "We know there is wind on Titan," says Alex Hayes of Cornell University. "The moon's magnificent sand dunes [prove] it." 
Now, after years of searching for some telltale ripples, researchers say they may have detected waves in two of Titan’s lakes. If confirmed, this would be the first discovery of ocean waves beyond Earth...
One little hitch... they might only be a few centimetres high. Or bubbles rising to the surface. Or an iceberg. But they reckon they're waves! Imagine this view from the surfbreak!

For some pretty excited descriptions of Titan ("When it comes to Saturn’s largest moon, the question is not ‘what’s cool about Titan?’, it’s what’s *not* cool about it."), check this link out.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Thinking, feeling, change

I just thoroughly enjoyed this:
In a time when irrationality seems to rule both politics and culture, has reasoned thinking finally lost its power? Watch as psychologist Steven Pinker is gradually, brilliantly persuaded by philosopher Rebecca Newberger Goldstein that reason is actually the key driver of human moral progress, even if its effect sometimes takes generations to unfold.

Although, despite it all, I'm still a massive champion of compassion, empathy and love, especially when coupled with reasoned thinking.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Out in the Lineup: A review

So last Friday night I went and saw Out in theLineup, which was showing as part of the Byron Bay Film FestivalOut in the Lineup is that film about gay and lesbian surfers that you have been hearing about for a while now, and which I have been really looking forward to seeing. 

‘Out in the Lineup’ uncovers a culture that has strayed from its foundation of freedom of spirit, open-mindedness and connection to nature. David [Wakefield] and Thomas [Castets] learn about the dominance of male rituals in surf culture and the way this has marginalised minorities. They also hear about the pivotal role sponsors and media play in maintaining out-dated stereotypes. On ground level they hear stories of fear, isolation and self-doubt, but they are also inspired by tales of hope, self-empowerment and transformation.
Beyond simply exposing this taboo issue, this film seeks to affect change. It aims to confront the surf industry and the wider surfing community, creating awareness, provoking discussion and challenging stereotypes. Through this, ‘Out in the Lineup’, seeks to pave the way for a younger generation of surfers, creating a culture in which they can connect with each other and be themselves.
I have keenly followed the whole process of fundraising and promotion for this film, and have been particularly stoked with the way that sections of the surf media seemed to be getting behind it, and the issues that sit at its core. While surfing culture likes to portray itself as welcoming and accepting and a sport for everyone, in reality this often does not extend as far as we all like to think. Case in point is the hesitation so many gay and lesbian people feel in coming out to their surfing friends and community, and in being able to talk about what it’s like to be homosexual in a heterosexist culture. 

This was certainly the experience of ex-state champion surfer, David Wakefield, the film’s protagonist. According to the film’s website, “David’s greatest fear was that he would be found out and rejected by his family, friends and the surfing community that had become his life.”
Sadly, David’s fears were not unfounded. Even today, many gay surfers are in a similar predicament. Some have witnessed ‘poofter bashing’ in the surfing community, some have been bullied in the line-up and others have been rejected by family and friends. In the most tragic cases, some have even taken their own lives as a result of non-acceptance. In professional surfing, several gay athletes have been told that their sexuality is incompatible with the expectations of their sponsors. As a result, many have lived in secrecy and some have walked away from competition.
Of course, homophobia is not just in media, or in industry, but extends to the everyday lineups around Australia and the world, where being gay is located as unacceptable in a range of ways. One strong of how this works is through the continuing use of words like ‘gay’, ‘fag’, ‘homo’, ‘poofter’, ‘leso’, to describe pulling back on a wave, saying something emotional, showing softness and care for your mates, or, in the case of women, being too strong. If being a homo is so insulting, why would anyone come out? By challenging straight ideas about what it’s like to be homosexual in the surf, the film illustrates how the ‘problem’ of homosexuality in surfing is cultural in a range of ways. That is, that being gay or lesbian or bisexual in surfing is not okay, and that surfers who aren’t straight face a raft of challenges and exclusions – implicit and explicit – that straight surfers don’t. Cori Schumacher has written a few pieces about why Gay Surf Narratives Matter, over on her blog, Clare Sullivan just wrote an interesting reflection on Why Women's Surfing is in the Deep End, and Clif Evers has written about homophobia in surfing culture in his essay, Queer Waves. It’s worth checking out as they both go into much more detail about it than I do in this review.

Out in the Lineup spoke with gay, lesbian and straight surfers from a range of national and ethnic backgrounds as well as from a range of age-brackets. For most of the people interviewed they explained how they thought that there weren’t really any gay people who surfed. For  the surfers interviewed, this made them feel alone: for the straight surfers, it was something they didn’t have to think about. As Barton Lynch pointed out, you think there’s no homosexuality in surfing and then you find out your brother is gay and that it’s been there around you the whole time. 

The film was thoughtful, well-paced, interesting, and featured surfing abilities ranging form world, national and state champions, to less spectacular, but still committed, recreational surfers. The whole film carries a spirit of openness, vulnerability, conversation, inclusivity and encouragement. This film goes further than the usual surf film by asking questions about the culture of surfing, questions about things that many of us take for granted everyday. It delves deep into the culture of surfing – into the culture that shapes and enables and enriches and limits the access that people have to that beautiful thing that we love to do. Pretending that surfing is only about catching waves ignores the complexity of the lineups and surfbreaks that we paddle out into everyday, and denies the ways that so many people are excluded from participating fully and without fear. It also denies the role that straight surfers play in shaping that exclusion, even if we don't mean to. 

And this is where the core of much of the issue is – that many straight people think there is no problem. That many straight people think that there is no homophobia, or that there are really no gay or lesbian people in the surf. But the film reveals that in fact, the gay and lesbian people around you often still feel too uncomfortable about surfing cultural attitudes and assumptions to come out. So despite straight people thinking there is a problem, many gay and lesbian people still hide that part of their identity. 

Can you imagine feeling like this? I can’t. I haven’t had to. And that’s why this is a really important film. It’s important because it talks to people about what their experiences are like and shows that there are heaps of not-straight crew who surf. But it’s just as important in that it talks to the broader surfing community to explain the kinds of challenges that gay and lesbian surfers can face. Of course, this all brings many positive chances to explore new perspectives, new experiences, new relationships, new possibilities as well, and many of the surfers in the film highlight the joy that comes with discovering new things about yourself. Throughout and beyond the difficult periods, there are waves to be caught, art to be made, relationships to be begun and love to be made. But, with the joy, comes the negotiations of how our sexuality can shape the ways we are able to participate in surfing. And all of that is what this film explores.

Websites like gaysurfers.net and films like Out in the Lineup are really important in helping to give these experiences a voice in surfing. For gay and lesbian surfers, they highlight that there are other gay and lesbian surfers around, and for straight surfers, they provide a chance for us to listen, watch and learn, and to try to understand that there are a raft of things going on out in the lineup that we might not notice or understand. And this brings me to something about this film that made me really frustrated.

Usually when a surf film shows in Byron Bay, the local surfing community is out in force, supporting the film, the director, the surfers, and excited by the chance to socialise and watch some surfing on a big screen. But at this film showing, there was none of that crew. None. I knew a couple of people who were there, but the people who turn out in hordes for any film or art exhibition that engages with surfers’ connection to the ocean, to the past, to their cultural heritage, to risk-taking, to travel, to going to a Byron party and taking loads of drugs, none of that crew were there. And what the fuck is up with that? This film won the Best Surf Film award for the festival, but the local surf scene stayed away. 

In their Q&A at the end of the film, Thomas Castets and Ian Thomson explained that they have had little success in getting the straight surfing community to attend showings of the film, which was a story totally in action at the Byron Bay showing as well. And look, maybe everyone is busy with the Quiky pro, or heading up to the Noosa Surf Festival and so are too distracted? I don’t know. But on the other hand, why not make time for it? And as for the visiting surfers, why did none of that crew come down for it? That’s what being part of a community is about – for surfers and for surf-film makers, of which there are plenty on the north coast. To be honest, it’s hard for me to write this because I don’t want to suggest that this community doesn’t care about homophobia and the challenges face by gay and lesbian surfers, because I’m quite sure that they do. But the absence of the people who usually attend surf film events in great numbers was really startling to me. Because the Byron surf community promotes itself as engaged with and accepting of diversity amongst surfers and surfing performances. But promoting ourselves as accepting of diversity is not enough - we need to live that acceptance and engagement across the board. Otherwise, it's empty words.

And don't for a minute think that I’m suggesting this is a Byron thing. Instead, I’m suggesting this is a surfing thing and that this showing is an illustration of the lack of engagement that the surfing community has shown with these issues.

As I left, I wondered - had I done enough to promote Out in the Lineup myself? Had I talked about it enough, mentioned it enough? Could I have put it on Instagram? Would that have made a difference? But I really don’t know if it would have, and that’s the thing that is really bumming me out. So here is my final attempt at promoting this film and at encouraging surfers and surf film-makers to attend and to engage with the issues the film raises and to think about the experiences of some other surfers in the lineup – experiences which you might not have considered before. See Out in theLineup, because it’s really interesting and well-made. See it because there is some really great surfing in it. See it because it might make you think about the ways that your own participation in the lineup has effects that you haven’t considered before - effects that you don’t even intend. See it because liking surfing and surf films is about more than pretty pictures and people, but is about the gritty, grimy, difficult stuff of everyday life and relationships, and, if you ask me, that is pretty fucking cool. 

But most of all, see this film because it’s really, really good.