Single Fin: Yellow
Directed by Jason Baffa
90 minutes bonus features (including director commentary)
I really liked the concept of Single Fin: Yellow. Man (Tyler Hatzikian) builds a surfboard, then ships it off to a friend with a simple note stating: enjoy it. Friend then ships it to another friend, and so it goes. Over the course of the film the board heads to Australia, Hawaii, and Japan to name a few destinations.
Yellow was shaped by Tyler Hatzikian to be a vintage noserider, something that you wouldn’t normally find on shop racks. The dimensions were taken from a board that his father had shaped and it speaks of earlier generations, and a time when surfing was more about the journey and friendships than sponsorship and contests. The board itself sets the tone for the whole film as a quest for the true sprit of surfing that has been largely lost through years of commercialization.
Each surfer describes their own surfing journey, their take on longboarding, the spirit that drives them to surf, and their experience with “yellow.” The common thread of the yellow longboard was the starting point for each of their perspectives.
Don’t be scared off by the fact that this film might be classified as a longboarding movie. In fact, it’s more about the sport of surfing than longboarding by itself. The film explores the way that all types of surfers take on the challenge of a vintage board-something they might not otherwise ride.
Singlefin: Yellow is shot entirely on 16mm, which of course makes it beautiful. The cinematography is excellent and varied. We follow the board through the shaping room, past airports, and in the waves. It’s clear there was a lot of thought put into the visual look of the film. I loved the shot of David Kineshita carrying the longboard through crowded Tokyo streets-what an excellent contrast.
The idea is fresh and original-a good thing in a market saturated with copycat punk rock music montages. Despite the originality and insight that each rider gives on their own take of the surfing spirit, the pace of the film is a little draggy. I found myself getting a bit restless as the surfers waxed philosophical. At some point it gets a bit maudlin to hear all the soulful talk.
The most different perspective on surfing that I thought the film portrayed was by the Japanese surfer David Kineshita. He was very direct and to the point. I also liked Beau’s section. I was quite happy to see Daize Shayne’s section, but I thought it was too short, especially considering the lack of female representation in mainstream surf films. Her perspective, however, was quite refreshing and it helped the “all inclusive” feel of the film.
The director’s commentary in the bonus features is worth the price of the film alone. It’s extremely insightful and opens a window to the film that increases appreciation tenfold. Filmmaker Jason Baffa has some great things to say about the making of the film, surf film art in general, and trivia tidbits about the surfers and locations.
Overall Singlefin: Yellow is definitely worth a watch. It didn’t quite strike me as the “be all and end all” of surf films that many other people think it is, and I’d be lying if I said it did. However, the unique and refreshing take on the genre lift it above most of the fare that’s being churned out. Make sure to check this one out.