Bending Colours - An Independent Review

Stu Nettle picture
Stu Nettle (stunet)
The Depth Test

"I'm pretty nervous actually. I'm worried if people will like my surfing or not." So said Jordy Smith before last night's Australian premiere of his film, Bending Colours.

Jordy didn't say that to me. No, I was too nervous to talk to him, that quote was relayed via a friend with far more front than I. And yet I delighted upon hearing it. We were making Jordy nervous? Such moments make me smile, not for delighting in Jordy's anguish but realising that the young South African, one of the greatest surfers on the planet, still seeks affirmation from us, the hoi polloi.

There's a lesson here; all the exaltation, the extravagant sponsor endorsements, the travel, and the talent, ultimately mean nothing. They are a shimmering chimera and underneath lies an ordinary human with ordinary frailties. Somewhere a Buddhist monk smiled knowingly and my estimation of Jordy Smith, the person, rose a few notches.

My estimation of Jordy Smith, the surfer, is already set and Bending Colours simply solidified it further. He's the most powerful and progressive surfer on the planet, and I include Dane Reynolds in that assessment. Jordy approaches the lip like Usain Bolt approaching a pommel horse. The array of moves above the lip make naming grabs seem a futile exercise. Who gives a fuck if it's indy, slob or lien when they're tweaked and varied every which way, and besides, the most impressive thing ain't where he lays his digits but the sheer speed, height and power.

Yeah, power. Watching Bending Colours I got to thinking that Jordy Smith simply couldn't give a fuck about board design. Doesn't need to. Plenty of surfers reduce board design down to sixteenths of an inch and other micro measurements but Jordy's power makes such minutiae utterly ridiculous. By brute force and ignorance the bloke puts a board anywhere on the wave he wants dictating the terms to craft and surface.

Years ago Mark Occhilupo said he "doesn't get into the nitty gritty" of board design and yet Occy laid down some of the heaviest tracks in history. At the time it was impossible to believe anyone could go harder. By dint of genes and talent Jordy does and he does so with speed and flow. A few passages of the Phantom slow-mo camera are a revelation, the nose-to-tail commitment startling.

Before the film began a nervous Jordy stood on stage with MC Ronnie Blakey and fronted a few audience questions. On the genesis of the film he said Kai Nevile approached him with a sketch of the film's storyline. Seems the development of the story stagnated on the back of that napkin 'cos there ain't no tale to be found. Jordy surfs in Cape Town, Kai films Jordy surfing and some local landscape. Jordy surfs Durban, Kai films Jordy surfing and some local landscape. Spin the globe and repeat the formula.

Of course it's got the Neville flourishes and good on Kai for creating his own style but it ain't anything more profound than the garnish on a pina colada. A full colour palette, access to cutting edge technology and stunning imagery add up to nought if there's no idea behind them. Art for arts sake is bollocks, just another shimmering chimera. You wouldn't question it if there wasn't pretense to do so but Neville, through all his recent works, is angling at...something.

Afterward the crowd was urged by MC Ronnie Blakey to hit a local bar for the after party. Myself, Forecaster Craig, Soundman Sam, and the Sheepdog did just that only to find the 'party' rocking to a crew of ten men and a DJ. Even Jordy didn't turn up. Perhaps his nerves got the better of him? He needn't have worried, the surfing was rock solid, a matter agreed upon by our small party as we worked our way through the $5000 bar tab.


helmet-not-hose's picture
helmet-not-hose's picture
helmet-not-hose Wednesday, 14 Nov 2012 at 4:57pm

We were there but brushed the afterparty. Sounds like we shouldve gone although I wouldve been dusty this morning. Great film.

the-roller's picture
the-roller's picture
the-roller Thursday, 15 Nov 2012 at 3:47am

Great film. Excellent soundtrack.