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

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