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!


  1. Great job! I wish I was there. Next year for sure! Congratulations to everyone involved =)

  2. Mahalo! Hope to see you in 2014!!