“You surf in New York? Really? Where?”
That’s the perplexed reaction I usually get when I tell my friends in California that I grew up surfing in New York. Little do they know that New York has over 100 miles of pristine ocean beaches from New York City to Montauk, and that’s not counting the New Jersey coast. It’s not as consistent as California or even the Outer Banks, but it can get good. Really good.
Suffice it to say that a very vibrant surf culture has risen and thrived under the radar in New York – but it won’t stay secret much longer.
Hosted at Tribeca Cinemas from September 24 – 26, The New York Surf Film Festival is in its third year, and in this short time has become one of the most diverse and popular surf film showcases in the country. Founded in 2008 by Adam Cannizzaro, Tyler Breuer, Michael Machemer, and Morgan Rae Berk, the festival has been home to the world premieres of several high ticket films, including Taylor Steele’s Castles In the Sky at last year’s event.
This year promises to be even more exciting, with several locally based films as well as international hits . The opener, Shadows of the Same Sun, is a home grown documentary focusing on the roots of surfing in Rockaway Beach, New York. Accessible by subway from the city, Rockaway – also known as the Not So Secret Spot or NS3 – is where Manhattan’s surf community goes to surf. Year round. Yes, New York gets biting cold and icy in the winter, but those dedicated few who endure the frigid temperatures are rewarded with some of the best waves of the year. The cold winters are thankfully balanced with balmy, sunny summers, and the mild fall is host to hurricane season.
Other films of note that are screening at the festival include the much acclaimed God Went Surfing With The Devil, Julian Wilson’s Scratching The Surface, Being Captain Zero, Darkfall, Stoked and Broke, and the first ever theater showing of Taylor Steele’s Momentum. This doesn’t include the numerous short films that are also being shown.
Get some more information on the festival, check out the schedule, and see trailers and synopses of the films over at the New York Surf Film Festival website.
We had the chance to talk to Thomas Brookins, director of Shadows Of The Same Sun, to get a little more information on the festival opener.
What inspired you to make a documentary about Rockaway?
It’s a great human story. I’ve been surfing in Rockaway for many years. I live on the peninsula & have seen a lot of changes over the years. There are three times the amount of surfers now, tons of development, and visitors from all over the world. It’s been quite a ride for people who have been surfing for some time, but now it’s become a bit bastardized and it seems a lot of people only know what they see in the water lately. Inside the community there are some great people. They are close–like family. It’s not just a resort where you come ride the ride & go home. There are generations of surfers living here with great lives, and many you’d look at and never know they even surf. Not to be a wannabe local or anything, but I don’t think people get it. We have such a vast surfing history here, and many of the new transplants and surfers don’t know about it. I’ve heard the great stories some of the local guys tell, and I just thought that it was such an amazing story that someone should try to tell it before it just gets paved over with all the development and crowding. We have a legit surfing history. It’s an age-old culture passed down through the years and it extends through national borders. NYC is no different then the rest of the surfing world. Hopefully people can see this movie and walk away with a new perspective. And to the people who have lived it for generations, I hope they can walk away with a sense of pride. They are legends and should be held in the highest regard. Love ’em or not, without them we may have never had surfing in New York City.
A little over 3 years in production.
Was it tough to stay on the beach and film when the waves were good?[Laughs] It’s the worst! Its a love / hate relationship. You’re looking at all these perfect waves and standing there on a beach for hours waiting to get one usable shot. This movie isn’t about pro surfers, so you have to pick one person out of a super crowded line up as they’re dropping into a wave and hope they’re decent enough to make it or actually ride it well. I’ve burned through hours of footage and had nothing many times. It’s like a needle in a haystack. For Hurricane Bill I shot all morning to get a few good clips. By the time I paddled out, it was only good for maybe thirty minutes before the wind switched and I surfed huge closed out chop till it faded. That, and you really want to body slam everyone running by with a surfboard yelling, “Dude why aren’t you out there?” It gives me a nervous twitch in my eye. It’s really tough to shoot on a good swell.
Did the film evolve much as you were making it?
Yes, I made a surf action movie a while back called Etched In Sections, a basic movie showcasing surfers from NY as well as showing the mood of the seasons. I originally thought I was going to do a more advanced version of Etched. As I surfed and talked to my friends I realized that these people’s fathers, uncles, and grandparents are legends. They are the surfing heroes that paved the road for all of us to surf here, so once I got that in my head it was all she wrote. I started studying the area and asking lots of questions. It wasn’t long before I was trying to convince people to do interviews. I also didn’t have proper training. I never went to film school, so along with just shooting I had to study text books on production as well as do research online to learn how to do everything–from sound recording to using my camera correctly. It taught me how to become what I am today. This movie evolved in more ways than one. You can see my whole career develop in this film. Since then I’ve been involved in shooting commercials and also released a film last week called “Living for 32” at the IFC theaters in Manhattan. So this has been more than just a movie to me. It’s changed the way I look at everything. I think many of my friends can tell you that I have changed since the beginning of this film.
When will we be able to see Shadows Of The Same Sun after the NYSFF?
Hopefully there will be other screenings. I plan to enter it in other festivals if possible as well but I never expected both showings to sell out so fast at the NYSFF. I definitely want to have a showing for the people who couldn’t get tickets. I’ll have the good people at NYSFF.com and NYNJsurf.com know whats up & where there will be local showings. Maybe the Mollusk fellas can help as well. I am still in awe of everything that’s happened. For now, I guess I’ll see you all there!
Although it looks like both screenings of Shadows Of The Same Sun have sold out for the NYSFF, keep your eye on Earthmover Video Production’s website as well as NYNJSurf.com for information on future screenings.