Justin Gane Holds the Longest Line
A quarter-century after Justin Gane released 'Pulse' as a full-rail counter to America's above the lip trickery, he's followed it up with rePULSE. Unlike the original, rePULSE covers many generations of Australian surfers, yet it also holds true in one very fundamental aspect: a fixation on power surfing.
Gane chats to Swellnet about the long road from Pulse to its sequel.
Swellnet: Well, first of all, when did the idea for rePULSE come about?
Justin: It had been in the back of my mind for a while. It had been 17 years since I produced a surf film, so I was kind of just waiting for the right time, but I was also wondering if I'd ever make another surf film again, to tell you the truth.
You mean because of difficulties with the internet and such?
Even before the ‘net came along. Back in the late-90s, the cover mounts [movies mounted to the front of surf magazines, created by companies and distributed for free] killed all us independent filmmakers. It buried us. All of a sudden, it went from people paying $30 or $40 for a film, to expecting them for nothing.
As an independent, you couldn't give things away for nothing, so that was the end of all of our careers - there were a bunch of us. I think I'd done about eleven films at that point. I gave it away and went to work in V8 Supercars and got paid for doing work.
In 2020, as soon as the virus hit, I kind of went, ‘right, this is the time to do it’. I just thought that this was going to be a long-term thing, and this virus wasn't going to come and go, and I wanted something to do.
Yet you’d already started releasing snippets of old footage on Instagram and getting a good response. Did that feed into your thinking at all?
A hundred percent. Margo and Neal Purchase Jr had been trying to get me on Instagram for years, and I just wasn't interested in the surf industry or anything to do with it. And then I got that [Pulse Surf] going, and it sparked up really fast.
It surprised me. It kind of went up to 10,000 followers pretty quick, and it's become a hub for pro surfers to talk to each other and talk about the footage that was on there.
I said to my wife, if it hits 10,000 I'll think about making a surf film, and 10,000 came and went…
So rePULSE was born…
Yeah, I just got a good response and it’s all kind of grown from there. A part of me really wanted to make a new film because I didn't know any of the new generation. I'd been missing for 17 years, and all the crew in Pulse had also been missing. I don't think any of these younger guys really know much about the previous generations, whereas I found that our generation idolised the generation before us.
You wanted to bring it all together?
Yeah. Growing up, you could see who we idolised in the way that we surfed. I think things have been washed out, especially through Instagram and that, there's been this wash out of style. And, I don't know, I just wanted to bring it all back, and for me, I like seeing the young guys forming an appreciation for power surfing, because they feel a lot of pressure to throw lots of airs. I want to be able to film it, and then promote them surfing powerfully.
That’s always been your thing, yeah? The holy grail of rail and whatnot?
I've always based everything around power surfing and rail surfing. Even back in the 90s, I kind of steered people away from doing too many airs, mainly because I was a big fan of Tom Carroll, Occy, and Luke Egan, all those power surfers were my favourite surfers. I always based my surfing around that, and the feedback I’m getting now is that people are pleasantly surprised to not see airs. They’re happy to see more power surfing and see us riding those longer nose slippers we were riding back in the 90s too.
It's funny looking at it now, isn't it? So much nose out front there...
I know, people say it looks bad, but I just think it looks different. Those boards were a hell of a lot harder to ride than what we're riding now.
Back in the 90s, Australia certainly had the numbers on the pro tour, but America had the trophies and that was all due to Slater. There was a lot of energy coming out of the US but it was above the lip, and it was flicking around.
Yet of the two styles: airs and gouges, the latter doesn’t appear as dated. You’ve posted old clips, and man, they could have been done just last week, not last century.
Yeah, totally. I think that traditional style of surfing never ages.
It's funny that you've stuck with it, so now you have footage that's still relevant despite being twenty years old. When you picked up the camera again for rePULSE, did you tell the guys what you were looking for?
100%. The world is sick of airs, that's the feedback I get.
I don't have to tell the older guys what I’m looking for, they know how I feel about that kind of stuff. But the younger guys, I said, “You can go out and waste a lot of the wave and try to spin a big air, but at the end of the day I'm only going to use one or two airs in your whole section. But if you do a good rail turn, it's going to get used.”
Most of ‘em concentrated on ticking all the boxes, you know, a big floater, a gouging cutback, full roundhouse, building a big, strong section. Lots of variety because, like anything, you eat your favourite meal day in, day out, you end up hating it.
In '96 when Pulse came out, you were covering the rail game, while Taylor Steele and co covered the airs. These days, you've got guys who can bring them both together: full face carves, and big, technical airs.
Oh, it's amazing. All the young guys are amazing power surfers. John John's doing stuff that probably no-one's ever done. He's doing it with the most power ever and at twice the speed.
OK, who's really impressing you out of the new crop these days?
Oh, geez, the new crop. Kyuss King, he finishes out the section, he's a very complete surfer, he can do everything backhand and forehand. Micah Margieson has really taken over where his dad left off...oh, not really but…
Why not? Why do you say that..?
Well Margo is still ripping too.
Ha. Dad’s not done yet.
Micah’s just got an incredible power-based style. He’s really good, he's got an incredible section. Dakoda Walters is amazing. He's got that real air game, but for a light fella he's super powerful. He can really put it on the rail. Really technical.
How’s the film edited: Each surfer gets a section? And they're all young surfers I assume..?
No, it's not. There's maybe four generations of surfers in it, and everyone has their own section.
Explain the four generations of surfers?
Well, there's my generation, which is Margo and Neal Purchase Jr, the older boys from Pulse. Then guys like Will Lewis and Jay Phillips, they were another generation on their own, and then you get Shaun Cansdell's generation, like Dan Ross and those guys - they're probably born around 1980 - and then you've got like Morgan Cibilic, Dakoda, Kyuss, Micah, their generation, who are around their twenties.
A real range, eh?
And then you've got guys like Creed McTaggart, too, that are in between. And then there’s even younger ones...like I've got some 14 year olds in there as well, so they're another generation on their own. I just kind of put four generations, but there's probably more than that.
And how many surfers altogether feature in the film?
Oh, geez, I'd have to count them, but I think...I could get back to you on that, but it's around about 40 or 50. There's 24 chapters in the film, so there's 24 people profiled, and then there's a mixed segment.
24 chapters? How long does it go for?
Most surf movies these days, you have 20 or 30 minutes. My ones used to go for 50 or 60 minutes. This one's a 90-minute film.
Reckon surfers will watch it all at once, or as something they can come back to?
I've done a few test screenings on it, as I was kind of worried about the length, because most people's attention span lasts about fifteen seconds these days. Yeah, I was pleasantly surprised. Everyone said that 90 minutes went extremely fast.
Are you expecting surfers to watch it as an amp up film?
Yeah, that’s really what it is - an amp up film. It's the first amp-up film to feature 50-year-old surfers! I imagine after surfers have watched it they’ll just kind of put it on, watch their favourite surfer, and then go for a surf. But there'll be something there for everyone, it won’t matter if you're 60 years of age or 10 years of age, you'll have your favourite one or two surfers that you can just kind of amp up to and then go for a wave.
That said, this movie will demand your concentration, even if you're only watching one section. Rather than scrolling with your fingers and watching five seconds here, ten seconds there, and not really absorbing any of it, I think this movie, especially with the music that I picked, is going to kind of infect you the same way films did for us in the 80s and 90s, where you know every beat and every turn, and which surfer’s coming up next.
I don't think the kids get that, but I think they are going to get it now with this film.
You just mentioned music. What’s on the soundtrack?
Oh, it's an incredible soundtrack. I really wanted to get a 90s vibe to the whole film: there’s no slow-mo, there's no water footage, there's no drone footage, it's just straight up action, run through at full speed. So I wanted music to fit with that, so I kind of went with a bit of a grunge sound, and obviously hard rock. So there's a mixed bag, I've got Australian stuff, and I've got a lot of Greek music in it too.
As in music from Greece?
Greece, as in the country?
Those guys have been ruling the rock scene for the last four or five years. They're writing the best rock music, there's four... let's see, one, two, there's four Greek bands in this one.
Fuck, really? I had no idea.
It's kind of got that cross-up vibe of 90s Seattle grunge and 80s Oz rock. So it's got that kind of surfy, good guitar, and then hard rock mixed into that, so it's kind of like hard rock grunge, with a bit of 80s Aussie garage rock.
Well, it's a good description. It sounds unreal.
Yeah. So there are fifteen bands in the film.
Again, you've really packed it all in. When's it going to be ready for people to purchase, and how can they do that?
It's going to be on Vimeo for a streaming service. I only finished the movie two nights ago. And also, I'm doing a limited-run DVD. I've got lots of people, the older crew especially, asking if I could release it. They want a hard copy, something they can put on the shelf.
I'm going back to old school prices. Those big surf movies out there, you know, the big budgets, team riders, get pushed for free because they're put out by companies as a promotional tool. But with me, I don't care if anyone's got a sticker on their board or not. There's no agenda or anything, so I've gone with me old school price, which will probably shock people at first, but I was selling movies for this price 25 years ago, and this movie's twice as long, so it's a bargain really.
You look back to the 80s when I used to buy films. I would buy Chris Bystrom's films and they were $69.95, and you had to buy them six months in advance, so I'd have to send a money order and he'd go off and film. It was kind of like the original crowd funding, I suppose.
I'm hoping that other independent filmmakers like me can return to making films. I don't want to be the only one out there. I'm hoping some young guys start making films and charging for them, instead of giving films away for free.
It feels like there’s been a backlash against the bite-sized edit. The YouTube vloggers, for instance, are now crafting longer clips, attempting to even tell stories.
Oh yeah, for sure. Hey, you mention the YouTube model, and mate, I was looking at going down that road with Pulse Surf. I started doing that years ago - like fifteen years ago. I've probably got six clips up there that have nine million hits, and I could’ve continued like that. But when I stopped and thought about doing it, I have absolutely no backing, no-one's supported me, no-one's given me a cent, it’s 100% independent.
Then when I looked at going down the YouTube way and releasing this film in 24 parts, I thought to myself, ‘I don't want some drug company or bloody fuel company or whatever advertising on my work'. Because that's the way you make money off corporate companies. I just want to put this out to the world as it is. Hopefully, people that appreciate what I do will pay the money to support me, and then if they do, I'll just keep making good films.
You're fierecely independent, Ganey. I love it.
Well, yeah, no agenda at all. I just want to stoke kids out.