A tag line for Re-Pulse might be a slight reworking of the Who's “The Kids Are Alright” to “The Old Boys Are Alright”.
Another subtitle which fits the film; Ganey shoves his thermometer deep up the date of Australian surfing and finds the patient in rude health.
Re-Pulse is chock-full of old boys ripping the bag out of it, and to be completely honest, it's a pretty joyful experience to see someone other than Kelly Slater surfing at a high level on the wrong side of 40.
Going back to the historical point source, Pulse was an attempt to rebalance the global ledger as the American New School led by Kelly Slater conquered all, compelling surf scribe Derek Hynd to write a scathing article lambasting Australian surfing titled “We're flops now”.
Australian surfing, according to the popular consensus, was in the toilet, getting crapped on by the New American giants. That didn't sit too well with some. Me included.
The pushback started with Andrew Kidman's Litmus, which rejected the whole concept of paper thin boards and glossy commercialism. Ganey's Pulse was more high performance, a middle finger of Australian Power Surfing shoved in the face of shopping mall style American surfing culture and loosey-goosey tail slides.
Around this time I interviewed Gane, and wrote a story called “The New Country Movement” which located the fightback of Australian surfing in the country areas. Heavy hitters like Trent Munro, Neal Purchase Jnr and Margo were all coming out of the bush. Or at least not the cities, which was another factor setting Aussie surfing apart from the heavily urbanised American push. That gave it a rawness and a “raaarrrrghhhh!” factor, translating into the quintessential Australian surfing characteristic. Big turns.
Pulse stood out from the pack for its depictions of big turns in an age of tail slides, and Re-Pulse likewise repeats the dose in the Age Of Aerials.
The new film pulls a fair chunk of the orginal Pulse crew back on the screen and the old boys are still sending chunks to the sky. Not just the old boys but their progeny. A key theme of the movie is showing the linkages between generations, some of if genetic, with fathers and sons blowing up simultaneously. More and more, and for a variety of reasons, some cultural, some economic, Australian surfing has become dynastic. The Fathers and Mothers who shred begat the next generation of rippers. Ethan Ewing is a prime example. His late Mother Helen was a surfing champion who passed on some deep lineage to her son.
The Old Boys, to be fair, have a slight advantage in the power surfing department. Archimedes’ Principal states the upwards buoyancy force is equal to the weight of the water displaced. And when the force applying surfer has a slightly more generous verandah over the toyshop, there's a whole lot more water displaced through the turns, if you get my drift. Even allowing for the inevitable athletic diminishment of middle age the skills are still sublime.
Two of the OG's stand out for me, as they did in Pulse. My favourite ever sequence in a surf movie is Margo and Neal Purchase Jnr at a 6-8ft North Coast breakwall wedge. The incredible speed, power and leverage these two big men extracted on bigger boards in the juice on offer still holds up today. It's a stunning counter-factual to the Slater Era surfing of the time, it holds up better, and in fact, creates a clear historical judgement that in the Final Analysis, it was power surfing that triumphed through the ages over slidey turns.
Both surfers are still in fine form in Re-Pulse. The boards are bigger, the turns a little less crisp. But the lines are still brutally elegant.
I saw a fair bit of the Margo show live last winter. It took a minute for the penny to drop. Chatting to a friendly bearded fella in the line-up, I thought, gee that looks like a 50 year old version of Margo. It took one set wave, demolished with huge power carves to realise the Margo impersonator was the real deal.
If the old boys still stand out for a certain uniqueness of style and line, it does seem harder for the younger crew to make the same impression. Power surfing is as much physiological as it is technical, and with the younger crew lacking beef there's only so much water that can be displaced.
Of the young crew Harley Waters stood out for me, with technical backside surfing. As did Jai Glinderman, with classic style.
More impressive were the next age bracket up. Mitch Parkinson has the full package of the modern surfer. Turns, tubes, airs. A creative style that makes almost any wave look good. The mechanics of the surf industry/sponno system are opaque to me, I confess. How can a guy like Mitch P be pounding nails, when others of lesser talent are making a living from going surfing?
Of course some who are sponsored probably deserve to ride that gravy train, inasmuch as anyone deserves to get paid to go surfing. The evolution of Creed McTaggart is enjoyable to watch. He wields some big blades in Re-Pulse, a 7'8” Dalhberg which draws a unique line. This type of board had seemingly gone extinct as the pros squeeze smaller and smaller boards into big waves.
Morgan Ciblic was another high point in the film. His segment emphasizes, without answering, one of the great mysteries of modern Pro Surfing. How does a guy go from a reject at club level and QS nobody to a Top 5 surfer and Title contender in one year? Who knows. Morgs himself seems blissfully unaware, but he's now laid a template for a new generation of unknown Aussies who have made the Tour.
It was the unknowns, the no-name rippers who I enjoyed watching the most in Re-Pulse. You can see a guy on a magic board like Frank Murphy, taking it up a notch.
There will be some criticism of the film. Some will find it too long. It goes on for close to an hour and a half. I enjoyed it in bite size chunks. And went back to the sequences I enjoyed the most for a second helping.
There are women surfing in the film, but not many. Dimity Stoyle stands out. It's arguable that in 2021 there should have been more women on the shred being shown as part of the Australian surfing experience.
These are abstract criticisms for me. The point of Re-Pulse is to show Generations of Australian surfing showing up and blowing up. Hanging on the beach in between sessions, cruising in the shade of the pandanus palms of a North Coast Point. So much has changed in the last 25 years, but at its essence, nothing has changed. Whether you're a pro or a chippy, whether you've had your time in the sun or are chasing the dream it's still sitting there on a plate. A Moveable Feast that Ganey has done us all a favour by documenting and making available for our entertainment.
Long may he run.