Surf Film Festival: Art of the Ride

Jul 5, 2017

Shot from the Eddie Aikau Big Wave Invitational Surf Contest at Waimea Bay, February 2016.
Credit Anthony Quintano

The Doris Duke Theatre’s annual Surf Film Festival is underway with choice selections like Nervous Laughter, about an El Nino year at Pe’ahi, Maui’s notorious winter break, and Alternative Surf Craft, about new and unique ways of riding waves.  HRP’s Noe Tanigawa reports on a film about one longboard ‘s travels through waves and lives around the world.   Surf film director, Jason Baffa discusses current directions.

Hawai`i surfers, especially town surfers on O`ahu are used to quite a line up for every wave.
Credit cc commons

The 10th Annual Surf Film Festival screens at the Doris Duke Theatre now through August 2nd.  Jason 

Filmmaker Jason Baffa is known for surf films and photo essays that focus on lifestyle and adventure. Find Baffa's thoughts on surf film genres, how technology has changed the surf film industry, and an appreciation of shapers in the extended interview.
Credit Jason Baffa

Baffa’s Singlefin:  yellow, takes a single board through five lives and locations.  Surprisingly, it’s a surf film with a climax.

Jason Baffa:  At the end, Bonga Perkins takes it out at Pipeline and at this point you’ve kind of grown attached to this surfboard and here he is putting it in harm’s way, and putting himself in harm’s way.  Having that kind of story arc really gives it something a lot of surf films, especially at that time, didn’t have. 

Baffa started filming in late 2001 and says at that time, there were very few older style single fin long boards out in the water.  

Jason Baffa:  Now you see quite a few of them but it was an interesting period in time when the progressive longboard was changing a bit and people were starting to ride this heavier equipment.  Tyler Hatzikian, the shaper  really does beautiful work in that genre of surfboard, I think it was fun to see all these different surfers from different geographic backgrounds, different cultural backgrounds and different stylistic backgrounds on the equipment they ride, all ride this one nod to surfing’s history, as far as the shape.  To me that was the exciting part about making the film, seeing that unfold through the camera and getting to share it through the final film.

Surfer Kelly Slater, shot by Rob Keaton.
Credit cc commons

Jason Baffa:  It’s a really neat time in surfing right now, because people do ride everything and you’ll have kids who rip on short boards and can get on a surfboard like singlefin yellow and walk to the nose and hang ten.. I find that really exciting about surfing that it really depends on what waves you’re riding and what mood you’re in to define what board you want to be on.  Singlefin yellow is a bit of a throwback design,  it’s a very tuned old school board, to put it simply.

Jason Baffa:  Shapers are, to me, some of the most fascinating people around, that’s why I think I’ve spent so much time focusing my work on them. 

You have these people who are part artist, part mad scientist, part mathematician, and yet they have to have great hand eye coordination themselves to create these surf craft.  I find that exciting.  It’s that old line, Buy Local, but there really is something special about surfing a board shaped by a local shaper.

For his film short, Sky Bruno focused on local shapers, Wade and Kerry Tokoro.  They’ve been called the

Filmmaker Sky Bruno whose short, Shape, screens July 6, 2017 at the Doris Duke Theatre.
Credit noe tanigawa

best of the best, working out of their garage in Kahalu‘u for thirty plus years.  Wade is one of the few shapers who personally does product testing on big days at Pipeline.  Bruno says, special projects get very special treatment.

Bruno:  They’ll go out and test the waves on the board together.  The surfer at the moment will be yelling out improvements while they’re surfing like, I didn’t like how it rode like this on the wave, or  when I grab the rails, it was more narrow, or it seems really wobbly, I want it more firm.  They would take it back in the shop and redesign and just perfect it, perfect it.  It’s an amazing process.

Bruno:  It’s more of an art, it’s more craftsmanship.  They’re designers more than shapers.  I thought that was the most interesting aspect of it.