Friday, May 24, 2013

Second Annual San Diego Surf Film Festival Creates Colossal Wave of Stoke Around the Globe

By Andrea Siedsma
Photos by Glen Gorham

In just two years the San Diego Surf Film Festival has generated a colossal wave of stoke around the globe. From Australia to the UK, New England, Fiji and San Diego, SDSFF 2013 featured the finest in international surf cinema at the world famous Bird’s Surf Shed from May 8-12, 2013. The five-day festival, which attracted 1,700 people (up from 1,200 in 2012), also included live art and music, a beach clean-up and alternative surf session, as well as after parties. The SDSFF, the only one of its kind on the West Coast, spotlighted 42 films, 14 bands, and 16 filmmakers. Since 2012, the SDSFF has also raised $5,000 for charities.
This year’s festival far exceeded expectations for Pierce Kavanagh, who, along with his wife Petra, created the SDSFF in 2012.
“We worked tirelessly to set it all up, but the magic that was created in those five days was something special,” said Kavanagh (also known as PMK), an independent filmmaker who originally launched the SDSFF to give his peers a platform to showcase their work.

The SDSFF highlighted an eclectic mix of films and themes, from big wave surfing to New England surf culture, environmental and social responsibility, and beautiful cinematic and poetic shots of soul surfers around the world.

The SDSFF 2013 awards include:

·         Best Feature:  The Heart and the Sea Nathan Oldfield

·         Best Cinematography:  IntentioLoic Wirth

·         Best Short: Of Souls+Water: The Warrior – Skip Armstrong

·         Emerging Filmmakers:   Dylan Ladds and Ryna Scura (New England Blood)

·         Honorable Mention: The Shaper – Jeremy Joyce, Rich Pearn & Rob Lockyear

·         Spirit of the SDSFF: Stokefest Andrew Quinn
“I'm really grateful for my experience with the San Diego Surf Film Festival,” said Australian filmmaker Nathan Oldfield, whose award-wining film The Heart and the Sea explores the joy that lies at the very center  of a surfing life – family, friends and a shared intimacy with the sea. “At all times, I had great communication with the festival organizers. The whole crew involved are really open and genuine, and they are all about supporting and celebrating independent surf films. As an independent filmmaker, events like the SDSFF are really important in terms of helping promote your work. Also, the organizers, judges and audience are all core surfers. So it means a lot to me personally that my film was embraced by such an audience of surf film aficionados.”

Filmmaker Nathan Oldfield
On the other side of the world, in the UK, filmmaker Matt Crocker was equally thrilled that his film The Endless Winter - A Very British Surf Movie made the SDSFF list.
“When we made The Endless Winter we hoped that it could be enjoyed worldwide, particularly in the big surf nations,” Crocker said. “For us to be screened in San Diego, to a room of hard core California surfers is a genuine honor and a massive deal for British surfing.”
Bird Huffman, owner of the Shed, said the festival was a complete success, and was impressed with the quality and variety of films.
“The films were great with a bit more polish on them perhaps than the year before…with a wider variety of artsy influences,” Huffman said. “It’s hard to put a top moment on the list in general, but the Greg Long film and the Q&A after was all time. I’m looking forward to next year already.”

Bird Huffman and Peter Townend Talkin' Story
What began as a venue to carry on the tradition of the “gathering of the tribes” has transformed into one of the most sought-after surf film festivals around the globe. SDSFF 2013 had a total of 75 film submissions from around the world, and another day was even added to the festival so more films could be seen.

“The SDSFF 2013 line-up was the finest in surf cinema and we praise the independent filmmakers for all of their incredible work,” Kavanagh said. “The SDSFF has an incredible spirit to it and I’m proud to be a part of it. This was my SDSFF Saturday, for example: I woke up early and headed down to a packed morning Beach CleanUp and Stokefest. About 50 people were already there scouring the shoreline and beyond for any signs of trash to collect. I have to tell you, this has to be one of my favorite sights in the world. This alone, made my day. But wait, there’s more. I headed back to Bird’s Surf Shed for a full day of amazing films and about a dozen director  Q&As. The final film set included Sine Qua Non: The Psychology of Big Wave Surfing with Greg Long, and was followed by a 40-minute spellbinding Q&A with Long. Put it this way, when things get gnarly in the lineup this summer my mantra will be, ‘What would Greg Long do?’ As if this wasn’t enough, we all walked down the street to the Griffin, the SDSFF music venue, to listen to Tom Curren. Yep, Tom Curren. If this is all a dream, please don’t wake me.”

Arianna Photopoulos, who was part of a 12-member East Coast contingency that traveled to San Diego for the SDSFF, is also still reverberating with stoke.  She said the propelling energy that drove her New England surf family westward to attend SDSFF began with filmmaker friends Dylan Ladds and Ryan Scura (New England Blood).
“As a surf artist, photographer and current film student, the festival offered a spectacular opportunity to stoke that passion organically with countless like-minded people,” said Photopoulos. “Viewing so many talented and inspired films was a truly phenomenal experience. One high point was when Dylan and Ryan introduced their film New England Blood. We watched like the passionate New England surfers we are, frothing with a sense of pride in their work.

“The kinetic assembly of ocean-minded filmmakers, surf craftsmen, artists, musicians, and simply stoked individuals is only a fraction of the attraction,” she added about SDSFF. “The venue is incentive enough. Bird's Surf Shed is easily one of the most essential collections of surf history under one roof. Each board placed in the rafters expresses a crucial importance in relation to the development and success of wave riding over the years. The family of surf-savvy characters staffing the shed, namely Bird himself, could not have been more gracious and cultured hosts. Driving this train of kindled enthusiasm was another amazing crew: Pierce and Petra Kavanagh, the quintessential stoke ambassadors, as well as others who made the event a reality. All were welcomed with hoots and shakas in abundance. The festival would not have been possible without these sensational people. We are all absolutely grateful to have met and vibed with them and so many other radical humans. I am still filled to the brim with stoke and love of San Diego. I cannot wait to come back.”
New England Stoke! From L to R, Adam Fraser, Michael Emery and filmmaker Dylan Ladds. Photo courtesy of Adam Fraser

Also along for the New England stoke-packed adventure was Adam Fraser.
“We all feel like we're a part of this amazing global surf community, and SDSFF gave us all an opportunity to keep in touch with people in that community outside of our neck of the woods, to meet creative people, see the fruits of their labor, and revel in their stoke,”  Fraser said. “The SDSFF was definitely about so much more than the films. Meeting Matt Beard and the other artists and shapers and watching them make works of art right in front of us was fantastic.”
Both Dylan Ladds and Ryan Scura were stoked to have such an overwhelming New England presence to support their film during SDSFF.
“It's really cool that we've been involved with the festival since its start last year, and it's just getting better and better,” Scura said. “Bird's Shed is the perfect venue for this amazing collection of films. All filmmakers need to show their work, and festivals are often the best opportunities to do so. Having a surf-specific film festival in one of the biggest surf cultures (San Diego) in the world is fantastic for independent surf filmmakers. We are able to show our films to a large audience and get immediate feedback, which is extremely useful to us. It's also a great way to meet other filmmakers and make connections.”

Better book those tickets for next year: Kavanagh and his crew are already planning SDSFF 2014, which, he said will blow even more minds.  “Petra and I are honored and astonished at the overwhelming response from our local surf community and the global surf family as well. Without their support none of this would be possible and we look forward to our return next May."

For more information about the San Diego Surf Film Festival, visit
The SDSFF 2013 video below by Dan Foote at Verb TV says it all:

Hoots & Shakas!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013



Elisa has been really busy so it was nice to meet up over breakfast, relax and chat for a few hours about her film AWAY, film festivals, Rockaway, the new Green Day documentary and almost everything in between.  AWAY has been receiving amazing reviews from the international film festival circuit and I couldn't wait to find out more about this unique film.
So Elisa brought her husband, George, I brought my camera and that burrito didn't stand a chance.

"What started as a thesis project ended with a much deeper understanding of Rockaway Beach," explains Elisa about the project that has actually consumed that last two years of her life.  Elisa has a background that includes design and art direction so when she chose to direct her first film, some people had a few concerns including her department heads and husband, George.  He stated, "Of course I backed her from the start but secretly thought it was going to be disastrous."  After Elisa shot for 3 months he finally got to see the footage and admitted, "Maybe this will work...actually, you got something here!"

AWAY spotlights women, a previously unseen portion of the strange and unique Rockaway Beach scene.  "I was inspired by how difficult surfing in New York and wanted to know more about these women who were out there." Trust me, these women are classic and I have watched AWAY numerous times to make sure I didn't miss anything.

I asked Elisa the standard, "what's next?" question and the response I got from the two of them was a bolt of creativity.  George told me he had asked after she had completed the film, "So do you want to go back into the real world?"
"Great, let's create a studio."
And I love them for this, more people to need to add a little risk to their lives.  So please check out and support independence.
I apologize for the condensed version of this epic conversation but I will return with a follow-up after we meet in Rockaway fro fish tacos.

SUNDAY, MAY 12TH (SET 8) 1:00-3:00PM
*Great White Shark expert Q&A
RICKY WHITLOCK: L-1, T-12- Timothy A. Ryan
AWAY- Elisa Bates
MUCH BETTER NOW- Simon Griesser and Philip Cornarella
*Filmmaker Q&A
* Food and beverages provided

Monday, May 6, 2013

Filmmaking and Fish Guts: A Conversation with Sustainability Advocate Courtney Hayes

Courtney Hayes with her sustainable shred stick shaped by Michael Emery

By Andrea Siedsma
In her youth, Courtney Hayes spent a lot of time on the waterfront in Gloucester, Mass., America’s oldest fishing port. It is in this city on Massachusetts’ North Shore where Courtney grew her sea legs, so-to-speak, as the daughter of a fisherman.

Courtney, now an award-winning documentary producer and director (PBS, History Channel and Discovery Channel), is still inspired by the sea and the people who use it to create commerce and recreation. In 2010, she launched, a global community of more than 11,000 surfers and sea lovers dedicated to promoting ocean-friendly businesses and marine conservation efforts.
Last year, Courtney made the journey to San Diego to volunteer for the first ever San Diego Surf Film Festival. She loved it so much that she is coming back this year. The SDSFF is honored to have such a talented and impressive sea sister as a member of our tribe.

Below, Courtney talks about her film career, sustainability and her New England roots.

Age: 48

Hobbies: Surfing, SUPing, handplaning, sailing, and snorkeling.

What Fuels Me: The ocean, adventure, laughter, friendship, and salty people who have crazy ideas.

Favorite Quote: “Surf something!”

Growing up in Gloucester: Gloucester, Mass. was a magical place to grow up. As the daughter of a tuna fisherman, I spent a lot of time on the water. One of my first memories is being out on my father’s boat, racing alongside a giant school of blue fin tuna. Of course, those sort of peaceful moments were often punctuated by my dad screaming, “We’re hooked uuuup!”

Courtney practicing her moves on an early upcycled shortboard. Circa 1977

Sea Connection: My first job was “chum girl” on my dad’s tuna boat. Picture “Wicked Tuna,” but with an 8-year-old girl as second mate. I spent a good chunk of my formative years covered in fish guts!  In the summer, we were always in the ocean – swimming, sailing, and fishing. I started surfing six years ago and moved back to Gloucester recently. I love being in the ocean now more than ever.

New England Core: Winter surfing in New England is like nothing else. My favorite memories include surfing during a mid-January blizzard. Unlike some of the really hard core guys, I can only handle 38-degree water a few times a winter. The water finally got up to 47 last week and you’d think it was the Caribbean – one kid was out in a 3/2 suit sans hood, gloves and booties. New England surfers are classic!

‘Reel’ Inspirations: My documentary filmmaking career began at Frontline/PBS in 1991. In 2000, I started working on an independent film about the New English fishery called “A Fish Story” - a tale of two women who lead their communities in a battle for control of the ocean. I’ve always loved the adventure that comes along with the job; every new film feels like a free pass to a world filled with amazing people and places.

Courtney blowing paulownia dust off her hand shaped Wegener Paipo at a Grain Surfboard Workshop in 2012.

Ceto Surf: A few years ago, I got really interested in new media and the power of collective action and I wanted to do something to connect surfers and promote ocean health. Ceto seeks to foster a healthy ocean and a more sustainable surf industry by making it fun and easy to share information about ocean friendly innovators, artists and activists.
SDSFF Connection: I met Pierce and Petra Kavanagh in 2011 after seeing their great film “Manufacturing Stoke” at Grain Surfboards in Maine. A close friend from high school lives in La Jolla and I’ve been lucky enough to travel to San Diego many times in recent years. I volunteered at the 2012 SDSFF because I love the idea of the global surf community coming together – what a blast!!

What’s Next: San Diego Surf Film Fest 2013!!… And ask me about Fiji 2014 next week

Check out

Friday, May 3, 2013


RIVER RUN is a favorite among the SDSFF screening panelists.  A festival darling, if you will.  SDSFF's (newest and yet unconfirmed field reporter) Ken McKnight gets to the bottom of what is nothing less than a revolutionary surf film.

"River Run" Q & A With Dirk Brandts

This year the 2013 San Diego Surf Film Festival will highlight over 35 long and short-form surf-themed international films. One of the selected shorts, “River Run,” has a mat theme to it and comes from the creative mind of Santa Barbara local Dirk Brandts. Dirk is a very experienced mat rider and filmmaker. Recently Dirk was asked by Ken McKnight to tell us a little about the film:

Q – Congratulations Dirk on your film “River Run” being accepted into the SDSFF for 2013! How does it feel?

Dirk – Thanks! It's terrific on several counts. The San Diego Surf Film Festival has really gained inertia this year, and so has my own film producing. So I was very grateful that they accepted this piece, and it feels good to have that traction and to connect with an audience.

Q – Can you tell us what “River Run” is about?

Dirk – Well, it's short and sweet and simple on its face--a man rides his surf mat down a river to the sea while a boy watches. But I hope that the simplicity invites the viewer to invest some sentiment of their own into it, and find additional resonance.

Q – How did you come up with this concept?

Dirk – I've camped near that particular river and made that ride myself scores of times since my college days in the mid-70s. It always struck me as a cinematically interesting prospect, and eventually I just got around to filming it. I had more story in mind when I shot it, but the editing process revealed that I sort of over-thought things--I tend to do that--and so it eventually got distilled down to a clear essence.

Q – Where was the filming done and why did you choose that location?

Dirk – I grew up in Santa Barbara and my family had some property up in Santa Cruz, where I went to college for a spell, so I toggled back and forth a lot and got to know the coast pretty well as young surfer. The location is very susceptible to weather, highly unpredictable, and a bit remote, but there's a period in the spring when conditions usually come together.

Q – How long have you been working on this project?

Dirk – Truth be told I've made versions of this film a couple of times already with older technology. Some people think it's a film that I'll just keep making over and over again in different iterations for the rest of my life, which doesn't sound too bad to me actually! But shooting this particular piece spanned two seasons, from 2010 to 2012. A lot of time for an 8-minute blip!

Q – What was involved in putting the production together?

Dirk – I wanted to keep it compact and efficient, because there was quite a bit of hiking involved. It was basically a couple of light camping trips with surf gear and a camcorder. Besides watching the weather to gauge water levels in the river and the potential for surf, I just needed a few dedicated souls to back me up. Ken Mcknight was the key figure -- a guy who never lost his stoke and upbeat attitude despite countless long hours in the cold, cold water -- while John Landreth, Steve Senese, Maria McCall, and Decker helped me wrangle the gear. The shooting was straightforward in an almost documentary style, although we sometimes did 2 or 3 takes. I was pleased that very few people are visible in the movie, despite shooting openly in public places surrounded by onlookers. And finally, I edited on a Mac with Adobe Premiere Pro CS6, with valuable input from Paul Gross.

Q – Why did you choose a mat as a vehicle to go down the river instead of say a surfboard?

Dirk – I'm in love with surfmats, what can I say? We've ridden hard boards at times, and bodyboards, but mats just hit the spot. Surfmats are fun, they're easy, and they're challenging, all at the same time. I realize that mats aren't for everyone, but those of us who have the fever are kind of giddy about them. The first trip up there with Ken was really fun, because it was the first time we met one another in person. We chattered non-stop about every nuance of mat riding for a couple of days straight! And that's part of what I like about surf mats -- they seem to energize a playful, fun-loving element in people, even crusty old seamen like us.

Q – The young man in the film is your son Decker, correct? How did he like being part of the film and did he understand the overall concept before and during the filming?

Dirk – Yeah, my son Decker… he completely understood the process because he was in an earlier version, and he works with me on movies all the time. I don't exactly force it on him, but I've always made sure that daddy's work is visible and and available to him, and he's welcome to participate in it. So he understands the rhythms of the work schedule, and the necessary coverage as we shoot a scene and so forth. He's a very natural actor, with a great sense of timing. I love working with him.

Q – The film score is pretty dreamy? Where did it come from?

Dirk – I graduated from Santa Barbara High School in 1972, with a talented group of kids during a charmed period of time. It seemed like everyone had some special gift. So my friend Jeff Bruner became an award-winning music composer for films and television and commercials and so forth. I called him for some advice about working with a musician, and he went well beyond advice and generously provided an actual soundtrack to me, something that he had produced a while back but which had never gotten used. I tried several other pieces of music with the film, but this was absolutely the best choice. It really adds a lot of dramatic power to the visuals, and makes it extraordinary.

Q – What do you hope viewers will get out of “River Run?”

Dirk – I decided many decades ago that surfing would not be a means to an end for me. In my life, it's a form of play, and that's an end in its own right. There's a kind of innocence in that value, and I hope that viewers will see it in "River Run" and in other work that I'm producing.

Q – What’s next for Dirk Brandts, besides riding your mat? Any more film ideas brewing about?

Lots of film production--both personal projects and commercial jobs for Pantopia/Mission Cinema. Right now we're deep into a stop-motion animated music video for a fine singer/songwriter named David Poe--animation is laborious, but the result is so beautiful. I'd be really pleased to continue growing in this direction.


Info on the San Diego Surf Film Festival is here!

2:00-4:00pm: (SET 4)
ALASKA SESSIONS- Frederick Dickerson and Matthew McNeil
RIVER RUN- Dirk Brandts
*Filmmaker Q&A
*Food and beverages provided
Location: Bird's Surf Shed

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Kelly Kingston Shares The Stoke With Youths

By Andrea Siedsma

From the landlocked town of Garland, Texas to the warm, clear waters of Hawaii and eventually Florida, Kelly Kingston not only discovered surfing’s stoke but also decided to pass it on to kids who really need it. The result – South Florida-based Share the Stoke Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to donating surfboards to kids and teenagers around the globe in an effort to keep them off the street and in the water.
The SDSFF supports Share the Stoke Foundation’s goal to change the world one surfboard at a time. That’s why we selected the foundation as one of our three nonprofit recipients for the second year in a row. Below, Kelly talks about how sports and surfing have fueled her life’s mission and how she keeps forging ahead.
Share the Stoke Foundation spreads the surfing aloha to kids around the globe.

Background Check: I spent my entire youth playing sports.  I excelled at most sports and especially at golf.  I started competing at about 9 years old.  Golfing allowed me to meet a lot of people, gave me a full ride scholarship to the university of my choice, and ultimately led me to Hawaii to become a golf pro where I found surfing.  Finally, I quit the golf business and spent seven years working at an R& D company in Florida.  I was dabbling with Share the Stoke Foundation (STSF) and the R&D company when I got the nerve to just go for it. A little over a year ago, I quit my R&D job to pursue running the foundation full time. 
Age: 36

Hobbies: Right now, I am into biking and gardening.  We recently planted a bunch of vegetables and fruit trees.  Those include beans, cucumbers, jalapeƱos, bell peppers, tomatoes, squash, papaya, lime, passion fruit avocado and plenty of herbs.

What Fuels Me: Making people laugh and smile.

Favorite Quote: I don't really have a quote that I love, however, there is one song that moves me – 'Amazing Grace.'

 Picking a Passion: The inspiration for Share the Stoke Foundation came from the times I felt hopeless growing up, which, to me, is the worst feeling in the world.   I felt like I was always searching for something in life.  Finally when I was 23 I moved to Maui and started body surfing.  I was hooked; I fell madly in love with it.  Surfing gave me hope and that sense of belonging, and when I surfed I felt more alive than ever.  I want to share it with kids so that maybe they too can get positive things from it.  Maybe surfing can help them like it did me.

Kelly Kingston is living her dream and sharing it with our world's youth.

Inspirations: My biggest accomplishment for Share the Stoke Foundation is when one of our interns excels at something.  We have several high school interns who work closely with us.  Recently, they competed in a triathlon.  We were there the whole way supporting them and cheering for them.  That is what STSF is all about – having kids become leaders and role models and doing positive things.  Sometimes I just laugh at them because I think back to when I was 16 years old like these kids and I was definitely not volunteering for a non-profit and training for a triathlon.  I was into mischief.  These kids are an inspiration to me.  I am so proud of them.

Funding Passion: The hardest part for sure is finding the funding to keep Share the Stoke Foundation going.  Getting equipment and product donated has come pretty easy so far and we have been so blessed.  We are always looking for individuals and businesses to partner with to make a bigger impact.

The Drive:  Surfing is my passion.  I believe I am here to give it to others.  It sounds kind of weird, but I feel like I have been chosen to do this work.  Every time I am on a trip I have a new experience and get so excited and giddy and think, ‘How did I get here?’ This usually happens when I am surfing with the kids.  Their smiles usually tell it all!
Kelly Kingston creating her own stoke! Photo: Modern Day Pirate Photography and Video
Global Journey: We have been so lucky to have met some of the most amazing individuals and to have traveled to some of the coolest places around the world, including Nicaragua, Colombia, Jamaica, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Indonesia, Panama and many different places in the United States.

SDSFF Connection: I met the SDSFF’s Pierce and Petra Kavanagh about three years ago at a Miami Surfrider event where they were showing their film ‘Manufacturing Stoke.’  It was the first movie about surfing I had seen of its kind.  Many times you see the films of kids shredding apart lips and doing 360s.  I was stoked that their film had such a different aspect to it.  I loved it.  Last year, when I heard they were the brains behind the San Diego Surf Film Festival I had to come.  I long for a surf community and appreciate how diverse Southern California’s community is.  When I was just starting to surf I watched tons of surf films, learning and visualizing doing the turns that the surfers in the films would do.  It helped me so much to see how the really good surfers would do turns and cut backs.  Needless to say, when I was at the SDSFF last year I was immersed in film after film of the sport I love.  I was in heaven!  Everyone involved with the film fest has been so amazing to Share The Stoke Foundation.  We are so fortunate to have folks like you helping us raise funds to support us in keeping kids off the street and in the water surfing.
Kelly Kingston, center, is one of our heroes! Hoots & Shakas!