The Flyer: Wherefore Art Thou Story?
A few years back I attended one of Jack McCoy's spoken word shows at Sydney's Museum of Contemporary Art.
The central tenet of Jack's talk was how and why we tell stories, and in the process, Jack evoked primitive man in the caves of southern France using narrative to entertain or inform the tribe; how information was better conveyed within a technique rather than mere discursive playback.
Heady stuff from a surf movie maker, but then you can't argue with Jack’s contribution to the concept: Early pattern recognition of groundswells travelling into tradewinds; Joe Engel chasing pro tour dreams while his mate Thornton sought an Asian paradise; a surfing circus troupe replete in fluoro corduroy travelling the dusty byways of outback Australia; Occy maintaining status off tour, then later Occy as worldbeater; Laird's wave; the yin and yang of Rasta and Andy, and many more stories that informed you about personality, or about board design, or places you wanted to travel to. Stories within stories.
Jack's back catalogue is proof that even something as performance-driven and as reliant on aesthetics as surfing can still tell stories, and conversely that stories are the best vehicle for surfing. When information is delivered via story we remember it, we place it in context for easy recall.
So yeah, you get the gist.
Jack then invited Kai Neville and Craig Anderson onto the stage to talk about their latest work, 'The Quieter You Are The More You Can Hear', and to then screen it. Yet after a two-hour spiel about stories, the film was the antithesis of Jack's hypothesis. For twenty minutes Craig surfed, and it was beautiful and wonderfully shot, but it was the inversion of a story, it was an anti-story: no arc, no journey, just images on a screen displayed without context. The highlight of the film was an underwater tracking shot that followed a fish through a reef cutting, then panned to see the fin of Craig's board pass overhead.
We learned more about the fish than Craig Anderson.
It was pure surf pornography: a stud with nice hair and a biological advantage appears on screen, he does his business in silence, then wipes off and dissappears.
With this considered the premier form by the surfing cognoscenti, I can understand why YouTube surf vlogs get the hits they do. For all the shoddy production and unashamed panhandling, at least viewers come to know the character on screen, sometimes their friends too, their catch cries and mannerisms, and the rhythm of their lives - travel, chase swells, surf a novelty spot etc etc.
I spent a bit of time thinking about the power of stories this week. Firstly because Dion Agius released his latest film, ‘Dark Hollow’. Yet for all the brilliant surfing and cinematography, ‘Dark Hollow’ falls into the anti-narrative camp. We’re told the movie is a vision, and it’s a vision with an incredible soundtrack. Yet it feels like there was more focus on obscure song choice than anything resembling a story. ‘Dark Hollow’ is surf porn with inferred coolness, but it’s surf porn nonetheless.
At the other end of the spectrum is ‘Lost Track Atlantic’, with the second episode released this week. It’s the fifth Lost Track film from Ishka Folkwell and Torren Martyn, and as each one employs a different mode of travel, narrative is baked into their cake. But there’s more to it than that. Ishka with his keen eye for the cinematic scene and a knack for pacing, while Torren has leading man looks, the confidence to talk to camera, and of course, feline grace on a wave. Simple narration, a storyboard plot, and a boatload of swell complement the film.
I also chatted to Dylan Graves this week, and as I mentioned YouTube vloggers earlier I’ll mention Dylan here. As the host of the YouTube series, Weird Waves, Dylan tells other people's stories and they’re always engaging and entertaining. However, the success of Weird Waves isn’t a simple matter of luck or charm, but as Dylan explains, it’s because he’s discovered the technique of telling a story.
Same as in the Paleolithic caves of southern France, same as in the online world of today.
Watch: Lost Track // Atlantic - Episode 2
After that extended intro there's not much more to say, is there? Whatever you take away from the film, whether it inspires you to start planning for post-COVID travel, or gets you nostalgic for those footloose years, every surfer will thrill to Torren's barrel instinct in roping point surf. Read More >
Dylan Graves and the getting of weirdness
"There's a jazz element to novelty waves," says the presenter of the wonderful web series, Weird Waves, while also shedding light on his responsibility as a teller of other people's stories. Read More >
Watch: Dark Hollow
I've given my thoughts up above but don't let that colour yours. 'Dark Hollow' is an extended clip presented as a paean to Dion's home state of Tasmania. Read More >
Singalong with Fernando!
And now for something completely different. Fernando Aguerre, the irrepressible president of the ISA, the man who likes to dress up as a curtain, and who also loves an impromptu singsong when the mood strikes - which it did just recently. Read More >
Watch: Maps of Home // Extended Cut
John John must've had a strict running time for his recent short movie 'Maps of Home'. How else do you explain Kohl Christenson's wave hitting the cutting room floor? Or Koa Rothman's? Jamie Sterling's too. Fortunately they're all here in 4K. Read More >