The Surf Film Archive

Stu Nettle picture
Stu Nettle (stunet)
Swellnet Dispatch

In 2009, Jolyon Hoff was sourcing footage for his fim ‘Searching for Michael Peterson’ and found himself in Dick Hoole’s garage among piles of old film reels, many of them unseen by anyone except Dick himself.

“At the time I remember thinking, ‘Holy shit, there must be some gold in there,’” says Jolyon about how the seed for his latest project was planted.

Jolyon then spent many years thinking about it, however it wasn’t till COVID brought the nation to a standstill that he had the time to act on it. Thus he’s created The Surf Film Archive, a repository of film footage scanned into digital format. The archive’s goal is ‘to find, scan and restore as much footage as possible’ from surfing filmmakers.

Early days at Racetrack, Uluwatu, shot by Dick Hoole

Film has a shelf life before it degrades, as do the images recorded on it, so the archive is both a race and a rescue mission to find all the footage before it decays and is lost forever. They’re starting with all the 16mm footage first before moving onto other formats.

Though it began by searching for footage of one particular surfer, the significance of the archive expanded the more footage that was found. For one, much of the footage didn’t make the final cut, the waves may not have been perfect or completely in focus, but they were landscapes that have changed significantly over time.

“We’ve got this shot of Lennox Head when it was just a little hamlet,” says Jolyon with barely contained excitement, “There's this old railway crossing you had to go over, and the old wooden fence that used to be at Lennox Point.”

Surfers were spearpoint travellers, so along with the NSW north coast the archive has period footage from other early outposts such as Bali, Jeffreys Bay, and Hawaii, presenting them as a time capsule from the past.

The drive to Honolua Bay from Bob Evans' 'The Way We Like It'

However, Jolyon sees the footage as containing something even more profound than physical change. “Surfing in Australia up until the late-seventies, early-eighties, was really ambitious,” explains Jolyon. “It had a lot of ambition: environmentalism, alternative lifestyles, not working for the man, sustainable living.”

In the decades since, surfing has changed a great deal. To underscore the point, a few hours after Jolyon and I spoke, ‘Ultimate Surfer’, a reality show for preening surfers with fashionable hair and tattoos, premiered on network television in America.

“The project is an opportunity to revisit some of those early ideals, “says Jolyon. “Not all of them deserve a place in the modern world - we can leave the sexism and drugs for instance - but it’s worth remembering what’s at the core of surfing.”

Peter Drouyn in Hawaii from Bob Evans' 'The Way We Like It'

And finally, there’s the surfing itself. “There's a clip of Wayne Lynch in '68, just surfing unreal for 1968,” says Jolyon. “I’ve come to this project from a social, historical, even cultural point of view, but most surfers, they just love the sea.”

Jolyon has teamed up with Elements, a production house in Byron Bay, resurrecting the film by way of a 4K digital scanner, though the work isn’t cheap. To that end he’s seeking some corporate sponsorship - a coalition of brands - and he’s happy to say that some have been receptive to the idea.

Once the coalition is set in place, Jolyon will reach out to the public by way of a crowdfunding campaign to make up the shortfall. Stay tuned for those details, and click on The Surf Film Archive to become a member and watch what’s already been scanned.

Comments

Nick Bone's picture
Nick Bone's picture
Nick Bone Wednesday, 25 Aug 2021 at 1:35pm

Sick.

P.s how you pronounce his first name?

jolyon.hoff's picture
jolyon.hoff's picture
jolyon.hoff Wednesday, 25 Aug 2021 at 4:04pm

Think Julian with an 'O'!

sunhil's picture
sunhil's picture
sunhil Wednesday, 25 Aug 2021 at 4:14pm

If you look at old footage you see that the boards, vehicles, fashion, landscapes and hair styles change but the wave continues to hit the coast with comforting familiarity.

jolyon.hoff's picture
jolyon.hoff's picture
jolyon.hoff Wednesday, 25 Aug 2021 at 5:35pm

Spot on. Maybe that's why the ocean puts it all perspective.

freeride76's picture
freeride76's picture
freeride76 Wednesday, 25 Aug 2021 at 4:15pm

“Surfing in Australia up until the late-seventies, early-eighties, was really ambitious,” explains Jolyon. “It had a lot of ambition: environmentalism, alternative lifestyles, not working for the man, sustainable living.”

I like that. Never thought of it terms of ambition before, but it's a cool way to look at it.

jolyon.hoff's picture
jolyon.hoff's picture
jolyon.hoff Thursday, 26 Aug 2021 at 8:20am

Or were they just anti-materialistic hedonists?, like my cynical old friend says! haha

dandandan's picture
dandandan's picture
dandandan Wednesday, 25 Aug 2021 at 4:21pm

Almost hurts to think about how golden that era of surfing was. What a dream.

freeride76's picture
freeride76's picture
freeride76 Wednesday, 25 Aug 2021 at 4:23pm

10 bucks a week rent for a farmhouse around here in the mid 70's.
milk included.

crg's picture
crg's picture
crg Wednesday, 25 Aug 2021 at 4:51pm

A strong argument for the phrase...”The good old days”

servant's picture
servant's picture
servant Wednesday, 25 Aug 2021 at 7:09pm

Good onya Jolyon and more power to you.
I started (board surfing) in 1973 and am very keen to see any of this 'old' stuff,
"my cuppa tea". Searching for MP is one of my favourite surf flicks. Thank you.
I'd love to chip in when the crowd funding comes out.
God bless you

jolyon.hoff's picture
jolyon.hoff's picture
jolyon.hoff Thursday, 26 Aug 2021 at 8:08am

Thanks so much. Really appreciate it.

tango's picture
tango's picture
tango Wednesday, 25 Aug 2021 at 7:24pm

Wow, what a great idea, Jolyon. 10 points.

I'm not sure it was all beer and skittles back then, though. I just watched the footage of Bells from '72, and I'll bet it was farking freezing with 5-star wetty rash. I haven't seen the old drop-in board flick for a long time, either, that's one thing I'm glad hasn't survived the test of time. And it's nice now that the foreshore and veg isn't trashed like it was back then. Though I'm outright jealous of the crowd factor.

As the saying goes, the good old days are now.

And you've just cruelled my productivity for the next week, you bastard.

jolyon.hoff's picture
jolyon.hoff's picture
jolyon.hoff Thursday, 26 Aug 2021 at 8:10am

"And you've just cruelled my productivity for the next week, you bastard."

It's my absolute pleasure tango!

And I agree, the good old days are now. There's a beautiful quote by Albe in Sean Doherty's new book about this. I'll dig it up.

jolyon.hoff's picture
jolyon.hoff's picture
jolyon.hoff Thursday, 26 Aug 2021 at 9:32am

From the forward in Sean Doherty's book Summer Daze

“I keep saying to people who say you should’ve been here 5 years ago, or 10, or 20... I go, ‘Sorry but for me it’s just as good, if not better.’ Everything gets better if that’s how you see life. It’s a state of mind. I mean the journey isn’t the journey, it’s the one inside. And surfing makes you aware of that.”
– Albe Falzon

tango's picture
tango's picture
tango Friday, 27 Aug 2021 at 8:54am

Thanks Jolyon, that's a great quote, a great attitude to adopt. It's always easy to focus on the external when, really, it's all about how we choose to interpret and respond to things ourselves which set the tone for life. cheers

Roker's picture
Roker's picture
Roker Friday, 27 Aug 2021 at 12:26pm

Gil: “Adriana, if you stay here though, and this becomes your present then pretty soon you'll start imagining another time was really your... You know, was really the golden time. Yeah, that's what the present is. It's a little unsatisfying because life's a little unsatisfying.”

Midnight In Paris.

Like this movie a lot and it immediately came to mind.

batfink's picture
batfink's picture
batfink Saturday, 28 Aug 2021 at 9:49am

Cool quote, Roker. May have to watch it. Agree with the sentiment totally.

Blowin's picture
Blowin's picture
Blowin Saturday, 28 Aug 2021 at 10:17am

Good movie. It sent me on a Woody Allen binge.

PCS PeterPan's picture
PCS PeterPan's picture
PCS PeterPan Thursday, 26 Aug 2021 at 12:42am

Great idea Jolyon . I have a mate who has some (lots of) good 16 mm film , unedited he collected over
decades including Dane K , Lopez , Rabbit etc when they were in Syd freesurfing around 1980 .
Epic road trips up north , south and various places I shouldn't mention all included .

Some of the footage from late 60's makes you realise how much we've over exposed our little pastime , and how sadly those days at prime surf spots will never be uncrowded ever again .

jolyon.hoff's picture
jolyon.hoff's picture
jolyon.hoff Thursday, 26 Aug 2021 at 8:16am

Hey Peter, if your friend wants to get the footage scanned please ask him to get in touch jolyon (at) lightsoundartfilm.com. We love it!

greebs's picture
greebs's picture
greebs Thursday, 26 Aug 2021 at 1:10am

Great idea Jolyon! To me there's something more tangible about that earlier era of surfing - it feels so much more honest, more "real" as a pursuit than where's its been the last couple of decades - and good 'ol sometimes grainy film with dodgy composition suits that to a T.

The digital era has given us lots of incredible footage and images but it's all too perfect, too accessible, and to be honest one clip of 15' Chopes now looks like the last and the one before that. Same goes for all the other hell waves, perfect points, etc etc. And its not just because I'm old and easily jaded.. well, not totally.

Whereas... we'd pour over photos in Tracks etc for hours or weeks on end back in the day, analysing every wave or board or whatever, or the location, over beers and ermmm... anyway I digress. If nothing else I'm really looking forward to the many stills that come out of this project.. E.g. the 3 that accompany this article are fantastic! All the best!

jolyon.hoff's picture
jolyon.hoff's picture
jolyon.hoff Thursday, 26 Aug 2021 at 8:13am

Thanks greebs. There was something special about that time, but there's special stuff now too. We've just gotta go looking I guess.

I have find that Albe Falzon quote. It's one of those that only he can say, something about "the journey isn't the journey. It's the one within". I'll find it and post it. J

jolyon.hoff's picture
jolyon.hoff's picture
jolyon.hoff Thursday, 26 Aug 2021 at 9:32am

Here it is. From the forward in Sean Doherty's book Summer Daze

“I keep saying to people who say you should’ve been here 5 years ago, or 10, or 20... I go, ‘Sorry but for me it’s just as good, if not better.’ Everything gets better if that’s how you see life. It’s a state of mind. I mean the journey isn’t the journey, it’s the one inside. And surfing makes you aware of that.”
– Albe Falzon

yvdreh's picture
yvdreh's picture
yvdreh Thursday, 26 Aug 2021 at 6:17am

Sick project!

jolyon.hoff's picture
jolyon.hoff's picture
jolyon.hoff Thursday, 26 Aug 2021 at 8:14am

Yeeeeew!

freeride76's picture
freeride76's picture
freeride76 Thursday, 26 Aug 2021 at 8:29am

how amazing is that shot of Drouyn in Hawaii.

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet Friday, 27 Aug 2021 at 7:15am

Such a good image.

udo's picture
udo's picture
udo Thursday, 26 Aug 2021 at 10:02am

This is so Faaarken Good

Roker's picture
Roker's picture
Roker Thursday, 26 Aug 2021 at 4:17pm

How pumped! Good listen.

bluediamond's picture
bluediamond's picture
bluediamond Thursday, 26 Aug 2021 at 7:53pm

This is awesome to see. Stoked to see this old footage getting saved.
It's hard to put in perspective now, because modern surfing is only under a century old, but can you imagine in 1000 years (assuming humans are around then) how this era will be looked back on? We lived and are living through the frontier years of modern surfing and all it's giant characters. Having this film as more documentation is a huge part of that. Thanks to Joylon for reconnecting a huge link to surfings history.

jolyon.hoff's picture
jolyon.hoff's picture
jolyon.hoff Friday, 27 Aug 2021 at 10:08am

Thanks bluediamond. Absolutely. It's our history, let's look after it!

sean killen's picture
sean killen's picture
sean killen Thursday, 26 Aug 2021 at 8:41pm

CLASSIC KONG FROTHING.. absolutely hilarious

jolyon.hoff's picture
jolyon.hoff's picture
jolyon.hoff Friday, 27 Aug 2021 at 10:10am

We love it. It's so honest. And why not!

udo's picture
udo's picture
udo Thursday, 26 Aug 2021 at 8:50pm
udo's picture
udo's picture
udo Friday, 27 Aug 2021 at 6:45am

Herbie Fletcher recalls Towing in Tom Carrol with ski in 1985..?

jolyon.hoff's picture
jolyon.hoff's picture
jolyon.hoff Sunday, 29 Aug 2021 at 8:13am

Could be. I have no idea. Have to let the old legends work it out! :)

radiationrules's picture
radiationrules's picture
radiationrules Friday, 27 Aug 2021 at 9:37am

what an awesome initiative - i wish you well jolyon - joined

jolyon.hoff's picture
jolyon.hoff's picture
jolyon.hoff Friday, 27 Aug 2021 at 10:06am

Thanks so much radiationrules. Looking forward to sharing some more hidden gems with you!

batfink's picture
batfink's picture
batfink Saturday, 28 Aug 2021 at 10:05am

That's hilarious. Udo, you must be some underground King. Great stuff.

Good luck Jolyon.

As for golden days of old, you can still find places to paddle out on your own within a few hours of Sydney. Plenty of golden days to come.

Weatherman's picture
Weatherman's picture
Weatherman Saturday, 28 Aug 2021 at 4:57pm

Thanks for the memories Joylon. I've only watched a few so far, but loving the early Bells clips. I can just remember the old windmill in the gully at Bells, although it disappeared not long after I started surfing there. It is still a magical place.

jolyon.hoff's picture
jolyon.hoff's picture
jolyon.hoff Sunday, 29 Aug 2021 at 8:18am

Thanks Weatherman. From Our Day In The Sun. Such a great film. We are just finishing restoring their next film, A Winter's Tale. Should be up in a week or two. It has some seriously good clips in it!

And I agree about Bells. I went surfing with my 13yo a few months ago. It really hums.

spiggy topes's picture
spiggy topes's picture
spiggy topes Monday, 30 Aug 2021 at 12:20pm

MOTE was the key for my crew and me. Hitting the road to North Coast and south in 72 in our VW bugs and Kombis. We channelled Baddy and Butch, even though our surfing was miles behind. Interestingly, half stand ups, half kneeboarders. The Wedge at Whaley was one of our locals, like Copa and Pelicans, and quite a few are still in Byron and Lennox and Broken 50 years on. We're having a reunion at a favourite, gilded place south of Ulladulla in November. The soft focus of those years is fully tuned in. Jolyon do some eps, before we all keel over. We might see ourselves, in our dreams.

jolyon.hoff's picture
jolyon.hoff's picture
jolyon.hoff Saturday, 11 Sep 2021 at 10:25am

Hang in there Spiggy Topes! You've got years left yet.

Robwilliams's picture
Robwilliams's picture
Robwilliams Tuesday, 31 Aug 2021 at 9:47am

Where did the pure undiluted attitude in surfing go? Are we too comfortable and conforming as surfers now?

Remigogo's picture
Remigogo's picture
Remigogo Friday, 3 Sep 2021 at 10:11pm

I believe that to be a question for the 'Gruen' panel.
Or the 'Raglan surf reporter's '.

jolyon.hoff's picture
jolyon.hoff's picture
jolyon.hoff Saturday, 11 Sep 2021 at 10:28am

Those old days were beautiful, but there was plenty which wasn't so great too. That's the discussion we hope to have by rescanning this footage. What do we want to keep, and what do we want to throw away? Or what was lost, and what was found.

udo's picture
udo's picture
udo Friday, 3 Sep 2021 at 1:10pm

Brutus ...can you help i.d.

Panman's picture
Panman's picture
Panman Saturday, 11 Sep 2021 at 4:10pm

My brother worked for a camera store in Sydney and he managed to get a 8 mm with a water housing .
Took it out south coast pipe must’ve been 72-73 it’s hilarious all the guys are jockeying to get in the shot like trying to make a name or something.
It’s gold . It brings a tear to my eye he’s been gone since81.