Review: On the Edge of a Dream

Stu Nettle
The Depth Test

When I think of shapers, I always admire those who have a singular vision, who experiment with design, achieve a breakthrough, and that feature becomes their creative signature; the idea that guides much of their later output. If you want examples then think of Cole and concaves, Webber and rocker, Rae and flextails, Mackie and sidecut fish.

Switching from foam to film, yet staying within the surfing world, the same creative signature can be seen across much of Andrew Kidman’s output. All of his films consider surfing as a quasi-spiritual venture, but the very best of his work - think Glass Love and Lost in the Ether - place surfboard shapers at the centre of our universe. They’re the maypoles around which we all dance.

That concept is Kidman’s signature, and On the Edge of a Dream continues the tradition.

But before I continue, a point of order must be raised. On the Edge of a Dream isn’t a solo work, Kidman shares equal billing with Ellis Ericson. Apparently the collaboration began a few years ago when Ericson came around to Kidman’s house excited about a design. Fortunately for both of them, Kidman documented the exchange as it was their first step onto a new path.

That ‘path’ is the edge design. A largely overlooked feature that reduces drag by placing a narrow planing area on the bottom of a surfboard that runs an inch or so inside of the real rail. Aside from George Greenough and a few Santa Barbara acolytes, no-one has really explored the edge design. It’s fresh territory. Perfect for curious shapers and filmmakers.

By my reckoning this is the first film George Greenough has starred in since Nat Young's History of Australian Surfing way back in 1984, and it's a hell of a coup for Kidman and Ericson to have the design laureate sharing his knowledge and providing counsel. If you've seen the cover of On the Edge of a Dream and wondered about its significance, it's because of George's penchant for sitting in a warm bath and thinking. That's when all his good ideas arrive.

George Greenough and a late-60s edge board

The first interview with Ericson is crucial because this is a film that covers territory. To use an overused term, it’s a journey. From curious greenhorns wondering if there’s any merit in the design, to excitable dillatentes, and onwards to craftsmen, each incorporating the edge into their favoured board design through a process of trial and error. There are no instructions to follow, save the odd bit of feedback from George, it’s all blue sky thinking.

Kidman and Ericson create a design baseline by putting the edge on boards they know. Like the old Terry Fitzgerald maxim: “Keep nine things constant, make one variable.” It’s the simplest way of discerning what the edge is doing. And viewers shouldn’t be put off by the gentle single fin glide of Ellis in the promo clip. Once he starts making his multi-fin edge designs, Ericson comes on like a bastard mix of Cheyne Horan and Shane Herring: a low-slung stance on a perpetual motion machine.

As their knowledge bank builds their boards get more complex. They each shaped many test boards so clearly a lot of work went into the film, and by that I mean grunt work, shaping work.

Ericson and a few of the edge boards he shaped (Kidman)

Considering the physical effort it’s worth noting the strategy Kidman and Ericson employed for the project. That being, radio silence. They told no-one of their intentions lest their idea got hijacked.

A year or so ago I asked Kidman what he’d been working on. “Aw, nothing much,” he replied evasively. “Bit of shaping, bit of music”. Around about the same time Ericson wiped clean his social media presence. Meanwhile, as the internet hummed ever onwards, the sneaky bastards logged off, tuned in, and turned on with George. They put out no teasers or trailers, nothing that might steal their thunder. They told no-one until the curtain rose.

But the big reveal wasn’t just a movie, it was a book too. “It’s like a car manual,” is how Kidman unflatteringly described the accompanying 100 page book. “If you want to know why things work then you refer to the manual.” That being so, it’s the only car manual that opens with a poem. A poem!

At this point we need to tick off the various ways Kidman and Ericson approach their subject:

  • Film
  • Poetry
  • Interviews
  • Essays
  • Still photos
  • Music
  • Sculpture - the boards of course!

It’s an impressive array of skills, is it not? They’ve both shown amazing focus for what some people may consider a marginal feature in the broad sweep of surfboard design. However, while watching the film for the third or fourth time I realised that On the Edge of a Dream isn’t strictly about Greenough’s edge design. Oh, it is in one sense, for the last five years he was the maypole around which Kidman and Ericson danced, but there’s another way to view it.

The very same things that Kidman and Ericson champion: open experimentation, hand shaping, deference to elders, can be applied to any aspect of board design. The important thing is not the design itself, otherwise they would’ve simply made a historical documentary about the edge. What’s important is the process, of getting in the bay and turning ideas into reality, of making things by hand and “catching sparks along the way”.

Greenough and Ericson hotwire a blank in George's yard (Kidman)

The last song in the film is called 'Terminal Velocity', Kidman on guitar with Drew Montgomery stretching the effects pedals and winding up the tension as the instruments break and heel, they solo into parts unknown then return in a thundering three-way riff, the screen flashing images of pumping Lennox, backyard design sessions, surfboards being sanded and glassed, and Ellis ripping hell. If Baddy running the track at Angourie with a freshy seems antiquated, this passage comes on like a modern call to arms.

'On the Edge of a Dream' is available online

Comments

freeride76's picture
freeride76's picture
freeride76 commented Tuesday, 30 Oct 2018 at 12:44pm

great read Stu.

I'll have to save a few pennies to purchase the book/DVD but in the interim, I hope Andrew roadshows it around the east coast.

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet commented Tuesday, 30 Oct 2018 at 12:52pm

He hasn't committed to anything so I'm not sure. They did a trip to SoCal touring it, but I think that was because it synched up with some art shows of Barry McGee who did the illustrations in the film and book.

Also, I think it's a bit easier to take something like that on the road in the States where there's broader interest in surf culture. Helps that there's more people of course, but also by way of generalisation they appear to have a more intimate sense of surf history. 

.cylinders's picture
.cylinders's picture
.cylinders commented Tuesday, 30 Oct 2018 at 1:11pm

I didn't know what it was when I saw it, but MYC Surfboards had a few edge designs on display in the Drifter Uluwatu shop recently. Seems like much in the same way the twin fish is tied to La Jolla, the edge is tied to rural NSW.

Pretty keen to see some footage of the twins and thrusters in action!

surfstarved's picture
surfstarved's picture
surfstarved commented Wednesday, 31 Oct 2018 at 5:54pm

I dunno about that .cylinders. Christine Brailsford (Furrow Surfcraft) and Kirk Putnam have been doing a lot of work on the edge board over in California for some time now too. Perhaps it's another case of synchronicity in board experimentation occurring on opposite sides of the Pacific, kinda like the short board revolution...

Don't let the bastards grind you down

Island Bay's picture
Island Bay's picture
Island Bay commented Tuesday, 30 Oct 2018 at 1:15pm

Stu, you have a way with words.

I have a huge soft spot for AK, but after watching the trailer a while ago thought I might give it a miss. You talked me around to giving it a go instead.

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet commented Tuesday, 30 Oct 2018 at 1:21pm

I don't wanna cause offence...but man, that trailer is very misleading.

Yeah, there are single fin moments, even classic old footy of Ted Spencer and Chris Brock, but once they whack edges onto twins and Thrusters - don't think there's any quads - then the surfing goes up tempo. You could watch it with groms and they wouldn't be yawning.

memlasurf's picture
memlasurf's picture
memlasurf commented Tuesday, 30 Oct 2018 at 2:02pm

Yes echo Island Bay, that promo is a real dud not sure what they were thinking with that one. Looks like cliché NSW north coast hippy surfing. Glad you broadened the appeal.

simba's picture
simba's picture
simba commented Tuesday, 30 Oct 2018 at 4:01pm

Wow bit of nostaglia in that photo of Georges pyramid for me as i helped lay the slab for it back in the late 70s........

Anyway Stu speaking of edge boards hows yours going ,had a run or two on it yet?

simba

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet commented Tuesday, 30 Oct 2018 at 4:04pm

Not finished yet!

Every 20 minutes I check the Free Flight Instagram page, cos that's where Phil posts all the works in progress, but all he's putting up are shots of him fishing for bass.

It's killing me...

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet commented Thursday, 1 Nov 2018 at 2:48pm

One week to go!

simba's picture
simba's picture
simba commented Thursday, 1 Nov 2018 at 3:35pm

That Phils a teaser eh,anyway looks good and certainly a bit different which is what i like about it.So whats the fin set up going to be?

simba

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet commented Thursday, 1 Nov 2018 at 3:36pm

McKee-style quad.

The rear fins will be up against the black lines at the tail.

amb's picture
amb's picture
amb commented Friday, 2 Nov 2018 at 2:17pm

love the color combination

freeride76's picture
freeride76's picture
freeride76 commented Tuesday, 30 Oct 2018 at 4:15pm

hahahahah.....thought I saw him driving past with a van full of fishing rods.

crg's picture
crg's picture
crg commented Tuesday, 30 Oct 2018 at 9:04pm

"If Baddy running the track at Angourie with a freshy seems antiquated, this passage like comes on like a modern call to arms."
Great ending Stu.
Although Baddy may antiquate...he will never get old.

JosephStalin's picture
JosephStalin's picture
JosephStalin commented Tuesday, 30 Oct 2018 at 9:14pm

Fucking hippies

3dfins's picture
3dfins's picture
3dfins commented Wednesday, 31 Oct 2018 at 9:18am

Can't wait to see it, thanks Stu great article.

3DFINS

velocityjohnno's picture
velocityjohnno's picture
velocityjohnno commented Thursday, 1 Nov 2018 at 4:50pm

Stu, how are these edge designs different to the edges of some 80's through 2000s boards, where the edge is sanded at the completion of the lower rail curve (apart from being inboard a bit)?

I surfed those boards quite a bit and they impressed with a very quick rail to rail transition for concaved boards.

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet commented Thursday, 1 Nov 2018 at 5:02pm

A tucked under edge? Yeah, they're very different. It's a little hard to explain, but the edge sits well inside of the rail and, though it can change in depth, they're often half an inch or so deep, fading out near the tail and the nose.

Looking at the middle of the board in profile you see two different rocker lines: the one for the bottom contour (which includes the edge), and the rocker for the rail.

By coincidence, today two edge boards made by an old friend of George Greenough were dropped into the surfshop downstairs. They were the first edge boards I'd held. While the concept is simple, it still takes a bit to get your head around the various curves and edges.

velocityjohnno's picture
velocityjohnno's picture
velocityjohnno commented Thursday, 1 Nov 2018 at 5:23pm

Thanks for the description. I know some auto bodies use an edge to delaminate flow over the roof and sides, separating both. Wonder if anything similar here?

I did mean the tucked under edge, full length of rail design. I enjoyed this in small waves, and somehow caught biggest wave of my life on this type of board when hopelessly undergunned one big Down South day.

spidermonkey's picture
spidermonkey's picture
spidermonkey commented Thursday, 1 Nov 2018 at 7:36pm

Love to see a discussion of the this over on the board design thread. Interesting to see how the inner bottom looks more of a modern outline, while the edge in the boards pictured have a more forward wide point. as an asymmetric could be interesting. You would think it must mess with the clean exit of water off the rail in a turn?

truebluebasher's picture
truebluebasher's picture
truebluebasher commented Friday, 2 Nov 2018 at 1:25pm

(On the Edge of a Dreamtime)..."The Original Pod for Primates"

https://cv.vic.gov.au/stories/aboriginal-culture/meerreeng-an-here-is-my...

tonyjudd's picture
tonyjudd's picture
tonyjudd commented Friday, 2 Nov 2018 at 3:07pm

I don't even own a DVD player any more.
Would love to buy/rent a digital download of this via Vimeo or similar...

tonyjudd's picture
tonyjudd's picture
tonyjudd commented Friday, 2 Nov 2018 at 3:10pm

Ha! I just read your interview with Andrew:
https://www.swellnet.com/news/swellnet-dispatch/2018/11/01/beating-inter...

I guess there isn't going to be a digital download any time soon!

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet commented Friday, 2 Nov 2018 at 3:24pm

Ha! Nah, think not Tony.

And if you need further proof, here's an Instagram post from Kidman today:

https://www.instagram.com/p/Bpp9IdmlsSU/

Last line: "The film will not be released on the internet."

simba's picture
simba's picture
simba commented Friday, 2 Nov 2018 at 8:13pm

So i suppose its no use asking George for an interview about his edge boards....or is it?

simba

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet commented Saturday, 3 Nov 2018 at 9:38am

Always worth asking but I think old George is a bit media shy. He appears in this film but doesn't even talk, and apparently it took him a while to warm to it.

But yeah, if you can ask...