Sunday, April 14, 2013


Mark Richards, Michael Peterson, Peter Townend, Ian Cairns. Photo: Thor Sverson

One of the coolest parts of a surf film festival is talking to the filmmakers and understanding why they did what they did the way that they did it. Film making is a dynamic art and lots of moving pieces come together to make the final product shine. One filmmaker who has caught a lot of eyeballs and earholes is Glenn Blight, the writer and director of Sons of Beaches '72--a most excellent film with nothing short of an all-star cast. 

Read on as Glenn breaks down some of the details that went into making SOB '72...

What, historically speaking, is the most important part of this film?

For me, it was just getting the film made. It's been quite a journey! Over the course of time it took to make Sons Of Beaches, I wouldn't say there was necessarily one pivotal moment or part historically. It's a combination of things--it's a combination of surfing equipment evolving and changing, the introduction of a rankings system, cultural movement and generational change within the world. Lots of things happening to make it all happen. Specifically, the longboard era of the 60's was over and the shortboard revolution of the 70's was here.

After interviewing the pros from the 70's, the message was pretty clear: they wanted to become pro surfers and they wanted to get paid to go surfing. 

All of that stuff coming together signaled a new era in surfing.

Given that surfing never had a professional surfing circuit before this, how did the San Diego contest go? What is your most vivid memory of that first contest?

Well, that event in '72 was the last amateur world title event and there was not another one after that. The San Diego contest itself was a shmozzel--the surf was a joke, the final was held in knee-high surf but thousands of people came from everywhere so the San Diego Travel Lodge turned into the Woodstock of world surfing and by all accounts, mayhem and chaos reigned supreme.

More importantly, it was the first time shortboards had been used at a world title event. Before that, it was all longboards.

It took surfing years to recover after that event and party at the San Diego Travel Lodge. The fall out from SD was much more positive so many people had turned up to watch surfing. Unfortunately there were no waves but what Peter Townend, Rabbit, MP, Claw, Mark Richards, Larry Bertlemann, Shaun Tomson, Ian Cairns and those sort of guys had seen was the future of surfing. So a rickety pro circuit started to come together and in 1976, PT was crowned the first world champ. Here we are today with Joel Parkinson also on that amazing list of names.

What was the most challenging part of making this film?

There have been lots of hurdles, but I would say nailing surfers down for interviews. Surfers from the 70's are mystos. They're like ghosts that walk. Here one minute, over there the next, then gone. Vanished. Getting some of the tribe to pass on the story would have to be the toughest thing.

The development of surf technology plays a large role throughout the movie. What were surfers riding those days that was considered revolutionary? Why was it revolutionary?

Well, it was the cutdown era in the late 60's. They would cut down old longboards, turn them around and shape them into a shortboard. Then they would glass them and go surf. San Diego got to see the fruit of that era with the first shortboard World Titles in '72.

What was the hardest part about capturing the transition between amateurism to professionalism in tour surfing? 

I was very lucky. There have been some incredible filmmakers and photographers who have documented this era in their chosen field so I have had the luxury of being able to color in my story with the help of the bower bird PT and his renowned collection. Guys like Aussie filmmaker Steve Core and the legendary Hal Jepsen. I just feel blessed being able to breathe some new life into their fabulous work. The hardest thing for me was deciding what to cut out because it's all gold in my eyes.

Was there anyone who dissented from the move to a professional circuit? If so, is that in the movie and how is that portrayed?

Oh course there is always a flipside to anything and the flipside to pro was soul. In 1972, in Australia, the Soul vs Sellout saga played out. Nat and Dick Van and all that crew moved to the country looking for a simpler life, living on a farm or in tree house, etc. Alby Falzon's groundbreaking film "Morning of the Earth" was released so there was a huge push into country soul here in Australia. While on the other hand, the new crew had other ideas and wanted to go pro.

For a few surfers like Andy Mac, Wayne Lynch and a few others, they were amazing surfers and had been very competitive in the early part of their careers in the Aussie titles and other amateur comps here in Oz. I think Wayne Lynch won five Junior Aussie Championships, Andy won a couple, but being competitive professionally, I think those guys' hearts weren't in it.

So yeah, a few people dissented from the move to pro for whatever reason. We brush over it in the film. It was more prevalent in the SOB art and film exhibition and it will rise more as a subject in the next filmic installment of SOB.

Artwork: Leigh Fabian

-Reid Levin

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