Friday, October 24, 2014

'Away', by Elisa Bates

I love any film about surfing that is different - that challenge the stereotypes and mainstream representations of what surfing is, what is looks like and who does it. I like these films because they call into question who gets to tell the stories of surfing. For so long, it's been those who are best at it, those for whom surfing is life, rather than part of life, those who are the most self-interested, those who see their place in history as significant, those who are trying to make money from it. This is all fine, but it means that our surfing stories have been mostly high performance, glamorous, spectacular, and let's face it, hyper-masculine. Again, that's cool, but it's given us a pretty limited representation of the majority of surfing experiences.

So when I saw this surf film, Away, come up on my social media feed this morning, I was pretty thrilled.

Away, by Elisa Bates is a short film about three women who surf in New York - Katarina Del Mar, Jee Mee Kim and Mary Leonard. These women talk about their passion and drive for surfing, how they even came to surfing, and how the idea of surfing in a city like New York - to be able to access nature and wildness in a place that is so abundantly human and cultural - is pretty cool. Such stories are so interesting to me. As someone who grew up living next door to a white-sand, warm water beach, being in the ocean seems so fundamental. The only weird thing was that I didn't surf until so much later in my life. My not surfing is almost the negative of their relationships to surfing - it was the culture and the 1980s and 90s craziness that kept me disinterested. Getting to the sea was always easy for me - basically I walked out my back gate and then another 200 metres and I was there.

But, as I've discovered in my own years of city living, getting to the coast when you are constrained by traffic, work commitments, relationships, and distance is a whole other story. I've come to admire and understand the dedication and organisation that goes into making surfing a regular part of your life. And that's in Australia. In this film I see the added complication of icy, snow-filled winter days - negotiating an ice-covered footpath in booties - something I've never had to consider! The image of Jee Mee Kim inching her way across the ice on her feet, and on her bum, will stay with me for some time yet.

These things interrupt the possibility that you could even consider surfing. Like I said, I didn't consider it til so much later in my life because the blokey aggressive culture itself kept me from imagining surfing as a possibility. But for the surfers in this film, there is so much more than that, so that they have ended up committed to surfing is amazing to me. For Katrina Del Mar, after making a fictional film about girl surf gangs, she got interested and came to grow into her name. Jee Mee Kim explains that surfing became so important to her, so frustratingly constant in her mind, that she "went to therapy because of surfing". Mary Leonard, had to put up with her mother trying to guilt her about surfing when she should be with her kids, finally coming to understand that "I get it. Surfing is like your golf", using her previous acceptance of another male-dominated form of time-out to make sense of her daughter's right to independence.

That the key surfers in Away are women seems incidental to this film actually. I mean, it feels like a film about surfers in New York not women surfers in New York. The way a film about male surfers in New York would never be positioned as about male surfers. I hope that makes sense? I'm so often accused of applying a gendered analysis to everything (a fair accusation) that I always want to point out when something goes beyond gender to tell a bigger tale. This tale is about surfing beyond the high gloss, super cool, magazine-worthy images we're so used to seeing, to dig down into what it is we do and love, and what is involved in that at an everyday, mundane level - the drive to the beach, the frustration of learning, the frustration of work, the commitment to family - all of which frames the moments we spend in the sea, catching waves.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Boards for miles! Boards for sale!

So there is a pretty amazing surfboard auction happening over in Western Australia at the moment. There are 111 boards up for sale - you can check out the boards up for auction via this link.

There are some pretty wild creations in there, this one chief amongst them:
OLE Olson Twin Fin

1961. 8’11" X 21 ½". Built in 1961 by Bob, he remembers only making one of these, one of the first ever twin fins. Double glass on fins and black stripes with OLE logo. Fully restored.


Tom Blake Paddle Board

1946. By the Catalina Equipment Company of Los Angeles. Tom Blake was a forerunner of surfing design and is credited with being the first person to put fins on surf boards. A champion athlete he was a fine surfer, swimmer and board paddler, having won many titles at the three pursuits, both in Hawaii and America. 16’ long and of a hollow design with ribs inside.

And this one I'd love to have. It's is one of only two of the 111 boards that are in any way associated with women (the other is one of Layne Beachley's boards):

Joe Larkin Single Stringer

C. 2008. This is a replica of the board that Joe made for Phyllis O’Donnell with which she won the 1964 world titles held at Manly. Signed by both Joe and Phyllis this board is 9’ X 21". It has the classical "D" fin of its era and is a clear board with 4 black pinstripes. Phyllis, by winning this competition became Australia’s first World surfing champion.

Anyway, board lovers... get involved!

Friday, October 17, 2014

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Oh Chanel! You've done it again.

So, it has come to this. And obviously, I can't let such a thing go by without posting it here in all it's contrived, luxury, haute couture, ridiculous glory. Here you have it, Gisele Budchen, supermodel, not riding a not waxed surfboard:

(Note: I cannot find who the surfer - the actual surfer doing surfing - is in this clip. Can you please let me know when you find out! Seems weird they've not said...)

The thing is that it's just so 'bad rad', so beyond reality that it's hardly worth saying much. It feels like watching an action film - those films like X-Men or Iron Man or Pacific Rim, that are so filled to the brim with sexism, racism, homophobia, false history and incredulousness that I really can't be bothered critiquing them, and thus find myself going back for more. This clip is the same in that it's 'So fashion! Much Chanel! Very surf!' that it becomes a parody of itself.

And Chanel is no newcomer to this. They've been making sporting accessories and using surfing to promote their clothes, scents and aesthetic for some time now (those hyperlinks are all to previous posts of mine on this topic). Vogue has been a part of this too, with Steph Gilmore and Laura Enever willing participants in the pose-y oddness of it.

While Cori Schumacher rightly takes a more critical direction on talking about this, this time I see it as another case of co-opting and using the idea of surfing, the image of surfers and surfer girls to sell stuff.* It's gross, sure, but I'm not sure what to make of it - what it might mean. It's just Baz Luhrmann having another  self-indulgent laugh.

I hope you watch this 'behind the scenes' clip because it really is crazy. It reminds me of the guy I wrote about yesterday. I mean, as much as I love listening to guys tell me who "women" are and what we can do - sorry, who "The Chanel Woman" is and what She can do - at some point, it's just funny. Especially when it's this expensive.

Maybe NZ is having a chilling out effect on me, but in the case of this Chanel clip I just found so silly that I laughed. I mean, look at her face while she's getting massively barrelled:

Haha. Stop worrying about your stupid boyfriend and enjoy the moment, character-played-by-Gisele! After all, you're surfing! Right?

Oh, and P.S.:

Grease - You Are The One That I Want from rodrigo fischer on Vimeo.

*The books I link to by Fiona Capp, Kristin Lawler and Krista Comer are all great and you should check them out!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

"Looks like a chick's board"

Today I went surfing.

The last few weeks have been driving me mental with what I've come to realise are dreaded seasonal winds. They're strong and relentless and filled with rain, and they've been getting in my head and stressing me out. As in, I've a constant headache for the past couple of weeks. Over the weekend, however, they relented and I was back on the beach and back in the sea. Bliss!

So today when I noticed the wind coming up again, I rushed down to get some waves before carrying a longboard became impossible. The waves were solid and long and fun.* Sets were coming through wide and cleaning up the lineup, so my longboard and I sat wide to keep out of the period carnage.

The crew out were chilled and quiet. People say hello and give you a smile or at the very least, a head flick. It was mainly shortboarders of course, but there was one other longboarder and a couple of SUPs out too. One of the SUP guys paddled over to me and, as happens a lot here, commented on my board and we exchanged a few words.

That's a really nice board. Looks fun.

Yeah, thanks. I love it! It goes so well for me.

Looks like it was made for you. 

It was! Gary Burden made it. 

Yeah right. Looks like a chick's board.

At first I thought I'd misheard him, so I checked.

Did you say it looks like a chick's board?

Yes, a chick's board.

I laughed and explained, Well, it was made for me, and I'm a chick, so I guess that's just how things worked out.

Yeah. A chick's board, he said one last time as he paddled off. I kept laughing. I didn't get the feeling that he was trying to be insulting or patronising, but you never know. I mean, maybe he's Regina George in disguise...

Of course, he's a middle-aged white guy on a SUP, so he's a surfing cliche all of his very own.

I'm not exactly sure what makes my board look like a 'chick's board'. It might be the beautiful turquoise blue fabric that's across the nose.

But I can't take much credit for that. The fabric was Gary's and he suggested it would look good. He was stoked on it, actually. Maybe it's that a chick was riding it? Nonetheless, as it turns out, I ride a chicks' board.


*Wind's in it now so don't bother.

Friday, October 10, 2014

'The sea' and 'Blue-green sea with steamer'

I love seeing new perspectives on the sea - ways of imagining the ocean that I've never dreamed of. Noah Sabich presented me with images like this today, when posted this very beautiful and evocative paintings by Emil Nolde (1867-1956) on Facebook. 

The Sea (date unknown)

Blue-green Sea With Steamer (date unknown)
Emil Nolde (7 August 1867 – 13 April 1956) was a German painter and printmaker. He was one of the first Expressionists, a member of Die Brücke, and is considered to be one of the great oil painting and watercolour painters of the 20th century. He is known for his vigorous brushwork and expressive choice of colors. Golden yellows and deep reds appear frequently in his work, giving a luminous quality to otherwise somber tones. His watercolors include vivid, brooding storm-scapes and brilliant florals. Nolde's intense preoccupation with the subject of flowers reflect his continuing interest in the art of Vincent Van Gogh. (Via ArtStack)
(image found via the perpetually stoked and always inspiring, Noah Sabich on FB)