Half of Australia is in lockdown right now, and I needn’t describe the cabin fever that comes with that.
For those of us in and around Sydney, there’s been a decent run of swell since lockdown began, but that all came to an end this week. So, to counteract your inevitable spiral into insanity, I’ve compiled a list of six surf flicks that are free to watch online. Yes, this list is totally subjective, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a surfer who thought these clips weren’t worth watching. Alternatively, if you’re a masochist, you can go and suffer through the Olympic surfing event.
John John Florence – Done
Done is John John before the world titles, before the blown-out knees and before he decided to grow a pube beard on his chin. It is the predecessor to his much-lauded (and oft-loathed) View From A Blue Moon, and in my eyes is the better of the two. Released back in 2013, Done proved that John Florence was not just another precocious kid who would never reach the heights predicted for him. His surfing in the film isn’t as refined as today, but in a way, it’s more enjoyable to watch. It’s less predictable but just as shocking. While Done features sections from Teahupo’o, South Africa, Indo, West Aus, and naturally, Hawaii, it hypes you up to surf any old slop that is available.
Chippa Wilson – No. 4
I should probably mention that there’s no real formula to these choices. Really, they’re just films that are engrained in my memory from the past decade of good surfing—and Chippa Wilson’s No. 4 has stuck in my mind as much as any. After a breakup in 2018, Chippa spent four months in Indonesia. No. 4 is the result. A 12-minute video that parts with the arty customs of the time and opts for unadulterated, no-nonsense surfing. Scenic cutaways are left on the hard drive and are replaced with a hardcore soundtrack reminiscent of mid-2000’s bodyboarding clips. Chippa has released mind-boggling clips since (as well as before) but this one, I believe, is best.
Wade Goodall and co. – Pentacoastal
Wade Goodall and Shane Fletcher worked on Pentacoastal for years along with the majority of the Vans Surf team roster. Largely inspired by cult-ish Australian surf films and the country in general, Pentacoastal blurs the line between a surf clip and a genuine movie. It was also deservingly hailed by many-a-surf-publication as the best surf film of 2020. It features Wade, Harry Bryant, Nathan Fletcher, Dane Reynolds, Dylan Graves, and more surfing pretty much every decent break in Australia, accompanied by matching, hand-drawn animations. Plus, Wade’s closing section at HT’s is as good as surf cinema gets.
Drag Board Co. – Rip II
A few weeks back Drag Board Co’s Vimeo account went kaput. After years of flagrantly breaching music copyright laws, the account was banished, along with all their films. Thankfully, they’re all backed up somewhere on a Dapto-adjacent server and will be reuploaded someday in the near future. In the meantime, however, you’ll need to satiate your dragging addiction with the ripped (pardon the pun) YouTube copies. So far there’s been three Drag full-lengths – RIP I, II, and III. You could watch any one of these to ease your lockdown depression, but I picked the second purely because I remember watching Chippa’s section on repeat and experiencing a strange combination of joy and self-loathing. Joy because of how insane the surfing was, and self-loathing because he’s doing things on a 4-foot 10-inch piece of foam I’ve never once done on my quiver of supposedly ‘high-performance’ boards. Just watch them all.
Craig Anderson – The Quieter You Are The More You Can Hear
The Quieter You Are The More You Can Hear was filmed over 18 months leading up to 2019. It’s a document of some of Craig’s first surfing since peeling the Quiksilver sticker off his board and starting his own brand, Former, with Dane Reynolds. Cut by Kai Neville and shot, predominantly, by Dav Fox, Quieter is the most stunning film on this list. Both Craig and Kai are careful in what they release, and that sort of pedantic attention to detail pays off here. The closing scene of Craig Anderson on a bright yellow single cut to Willie Nelson’s ‘Blue Skies’ is faultless. ‘There’s not much of a platform for what you could call a film anymore,’ Craig told me in an interview for this film’s release in 2019. ‘Most people are just working on their web edits. In saying that, I wouldn’t quite call this a film, nor a web edit — it’s 20 minutes.’ Whatever you want to call it, it will brighten your day.
Dane Reynolds – Chapter 11
‘This footage proves he’s the best talent to ride a surfboard,’ Kelly Slater said after the film’s initial release. ‘The layers of small detail in the turns and combo’s he’s doing signify huge advancements in the average surfer’s life. He’s putting together multiple manoeuvres per wave that most pros don’t have in their bag of tricks.’ Chapter 11 is arguably the only item on this list to qualify as a genuine ‘film’. A biopic about Dane’s time with Quiksilver, competitive surfing, and his time since leaving both, it stands on it stands next to Kelly Slater’s Black and White as one of the truly great pieces of narrative-driven surf films. That aside, the surfing itself is some of Dane’s best, and the editing—all of which done by him—keeps you constantly in the pocket (excuse the lame surf pun). Considering Dane’s surfing influenced a generation of surfers from the late ’00s onwards, it was only fitting he released a film to summarise this time. No other surf flick from the past decade holds a candle to this.