It was my birthday yesterday.
As a present, but entirely unintentional in the birthday department, I received a little parcel in the mail the day before.
Late last week I'd had an extended conversation with Andrew Kidman about a project I'm doing (no, not a film...yet). We digressed to surfing, as if that was ever far from either of our minds. Surfboards in particular. Andrew used the term 'surfing instrument' in the ramble, and this really made my ears prick up, as indeed that is what they are.
The instrument thing though has this implication beyond tool, and into self expression, feel, range, idiosyncrasy and personality, if indeed the inanimate can have one.
Anyone with any close relationship with an object will tell you it can, be it a car, bike or an obstinate rock. We project feelings and characteristics, but in the intimacy of instrument and player, or rider, that feedback loop is what it's all about.
I'm a thoroughly crap guitarist, can barely play a couple of tunes, but when I pick up a good instrument my clay fingers get a feel of what lies beneath. On a surfboard, with forty years of experience of course my feedback is far more nuanced, rubbish old hack that I am, the feet don't lie and much joy is still to be felt.
Andrew's timely but unintended birthday gift was a copy of his new film, Lost in the Ether. He said it was a film for the surfing purist, something that might be 'lost in the ether' to the non surfer, but not lost to someone with surfing history and a love for the act and the tools of the dance.
Sitting down last night I sat enthralled in a journey beginning with that famous Michael Petersen cutback from forty years ago in Morning of the Earth, and segueing through Michael himself talking very eloquently about design, and those magic days before he slipped away from surfing anywhere but in his mind. The film's thread was one of surfboards, shapers and technique. Great shapers, and good surfers who were not so far into the technical stratosphere that whatever they did lurched into the impossible.
The surfing was all about exploring history and line, with a narrative that explained why the board was so much part of the performance, how feeling counted and helped the surfer find different landscapes on familiar waves.
I loved this film, it has depths to be explored as you watch and hear the how and why of the making of the most personal of instruments. Few if any are played by your whole body, and few instruments have the public exposure surfing has. You can sit quietly in a room playing a guitar, but every right and wrong note played on a board is there for the world to see. Watching Kidman riff on a variety of boards, and hearing his rationale of the performance, both as a shaper and a surfer is something even a non surfer would get as it is not a discourse full of dude speak and populism. It is listening to a passionate man talking about something with love, and anyone can understand that.
This is not a review, but Andrew, well done.
I wish I had your command.
Pic: A screen snap of the book of the film. Go. Buy.