The second annual Carolina Surf film Festival was held this weekend on James Island, near Folly Beach, SC, and the festivities did not disappoint. A steady show of innovative surf film was projected onto a large outdoor screen over two evenings. Food trucks, beer stands, live music, and surf-industry goods and services lined the venue at Brick House Kitchen, providing a fun festival for the Carolina surf tribe. It was a weekend-long party. Having worked out many of the ‘kinks’ from the inaugural Festival in 2014, this year’s festival was, by all accounts, a huge success.
I spoke with Chad Davis, one of the directors of the Carolina Surf Film Festival. Chad is an avid surfer and surfboard collector. This Folly Beach local has lived abroad and in California, working in various jobs within the surf industry. Chad also owns a surf film music company, Triple 9 Music, which sources and legally clears music for action sports films. This dude knows his stuff when it comes to production quality in film, as sees the good, the bad, and the ugly come across his desk on a regular basis. Davis also travels to film festivals across the globe, where his music edits are often in the running for an award or two. But when Chad visited the Florida Surf Film Festival in New Smyrna Beach in 2013, he saw similarities to Folly Beach and the Carolinas in terms of size, culture, and potential support. A collaborative relationship with the Florida founders was forged, and the Carolina Surf Film Festival was born.
Submissions are accepted throughout the year, and the festival’s board members, Chad Davis, Bo Edmonds, and Chuck Gainey, sort through the weeds to find the best quality. “People will send us footage from their surf trip and think it will just be interesting. Filmmaking requires a lot more than just footage. It’s about the way it is put together: transitions, soundtracks, placement, editing. Like the way a song will peak when someone carves off the lip of a wave. We are looking for something that can hold the viewer’s attention.”
One of Saturday’s feature films was the new SUP Movie produced by SUP king, Kai Lenny, and the folks at Naish (Poorboyz Productions). The debate between traditional surfers and SUP surfers is a rather, um, heated one, as many SUP surfers have come to be known as inconsiderate wave hogs on large, dangerous missiles with sticks in the line-up. As a traditional surfer who likes to SUP on flat water and on ocean downwinders, I have experienced oblivious (and dangerous) SUP’ers on waves many times. But the SUP movie shows the graceful, athletic side of SUP surfing, its roots with Laird Davis in Hawaii, and the young crowd of SUP surfers who are growing the sport the right way. Many of the best SUP surfers in the world (most of which are featured in this film) began as traditional surfers, often big wave surfers, and understand the etiquette needed to coexist with surfers. Adding a paddle offers access to huge waves that are impossible to paddle into without a jet ski, as well as the small, mushy waves that are not worth waiting for on a traditional surfboard. For the guys and girls in the SUP movie, SUP surfing is simply one more tool in their water toolkit.
Another groundbreaking film was Girl Go Big, which featured Swiss (yes, Swiss…landlocked) surfer Alena Ehrenbold, one of the world’s first females to successfully attempt the male-dominated sport of big wave tow-in surfing. Tow-in surfing on massive waves (25′ and more) requires an enormous amount of strength and endurance- not to mention breath-holding when these mammoth masses of water land on top of you. This short film follows her journey.
But the top spot went to Strange Rumblings in Shangri La, a thrilling surf flick shot in 16mm film, which tracks three surfers in search of the “Holy Grail of surfing”, the perfect wave, among icebergs, reefs, and everywhere in between. The cinematography was stunning and the surfing blew my mind.
Films were judged by a panel of surfers and filmmakers, and a portion of proceeds went to Surfers Healing, Charleston Waterkeeper, and Charleston Surfrider.