Directed by Taylor Steele Produced by Dustin Humphrey, 2006
If you’re looking for a straightforward surf movie, this isn’t it. If you’re looking for action-packed big wave insanity, this still isn’t it. But if you’re looking for one of the most cinematically captivating color rich films to explores surfing across the globe, as well as locations around those surf destinations, check out “Sipping Jetsreams.”
Taylor Steele and Dustin Humphrey collaborate on a film/ book project with some of the best filming and photography out there. From the film point of view, Taylor Steele has two of the best, and I mean best, photography directors: Todd Heater and Alex Berger. They truly capture the spirit behind the locations.
In my opinion, this film is flawless. Beautiful cinematography plus great editing plus some of the world’s best surfers equal a great film.
Dustin Humphrey’s book is equally amazing and flawless. The quality is great and it’s hefty enough to be a proper coffee table book, but, more importantly, it’s an awesome book. So just make sure someone doesn’t put a cup on the book.
To complete a positive review, “Sipping Jetstreams” is worth keeping in your library for artistic inspiration.
Directed by Thomas Campbell, 2009
“Without further adieu I welcome you to The Present…”
With an introduction like that, it seems like there is something spectacular to come. “The Present” is the third Thomas Campbell film from Woodshed and it doesn’t disappoint. The film follows the same model as Campbell’s previous films, with an emphasis on the artistic infusion of color, music and surfing.
Campbell’s combination of interesting subjects and situations, plus his perfect footage, helps him create a vibe unlike his other films.
This film also starts to expand the boundaries of Campbell’s normal films. From the interview with Joel Tudor to the modern day surfing of Dane Reynolds, there is a growth to his style.
Campbell welcomes new rides. From the traditional log, to the thruster, fish single fin and now the alaia, the boards look more like something to build rather than ride.
“The Present” is a traditional Campbell film that has evolved from skits and longboarding to a more open view of surfing. Although the skits and logging are still around, Campbell has expanded his artistic style.
“Sprout” Directed by Thomas Campbell, 2004
“An exploration into the ridings of water mountains and molehills.”
“Sprout” is the second film by Thomas Campbell and Woodshed. It focuses on all forms of surfing, like short board and surf rafts in the East Indies with Rasta, fish and bonzer riding, and even log riding with the lovely girls.
“Sprout” was my introduction to Campbell’s films and, I admit, the movie remains one of my favorites. It captures a different side of surfing, and also illuminates the small insights of surfers’ activities outside the water. Campbell captures the true lifestyle of a surfer. He shows Tom Wegener’s family and workshop, where he builds all wood paulownia surfboards. He shows Rasta and friends playing Scrabble and drawing on the boat in between sessions. He shows that riding waves is only a fraction of a surfer’s life.
Campbell uses his artistic style perfectly in this film, giving it a fluid movement from beginning to end. The use of 16mm film allows Campbell’s work to have that romantic and artsy feel he is known for. His camera work is captivating. And by using champion body border Mike Stewart to film surfers from the water, he provides a new angle as the camera moves with the wave.
16mm film, water shots filled with motion, and top notch surfing makes “Sprout” a seriously enjoyable film. It takes you off the couch and into the lives of surfers you see on the screen. Plus, I love Tom Wegener’s backyard.
“The Seedling” Directed by Thomas Campbell, 1999
Thomas Campbell’s first surf film under the now Woodshed Label is a fine example of the surf film evolution. “The Seedling” focuses on a small cast of longboarders out of California who travel to Mexico, Hawaii, and even New York for a little east coast action. The true magic, though, is the 16mm film he uses, which gives the film a romantic veil. This is a fresh feeling compared to the high action fast music surf videos of the 90’s.
However, this artsy flair (along with the jazz music) can make a little sleepier than expected, especially if you pop in the DVD late at night. Luckily, the camera work is very well stitched, giving the film a decent flow. Additionally, the small “skits” tossed in, like the painting footage and surf contest between “Fecal Man” and “Star Man,” slow down the flow.
All in all, “The Seedling” sits atop my list as surf films. It’s different, but still captivating. I love the color and look of the 16mm film, as well as the unique editing and music. Campbell has an idealistic approach to surf films, which mixes modern surfing with old school construction, creating a refreshing surf film.
Note: If you are looking for high action shortboarding, try again. This is a logging movie in full trim.
Dir. Jason Muir and Dane Reynolds, 2006
With a gritty feeling and some gritty feeling music, “First Chapter” looks into the progressive surfing of Dane Reynolds. Filled with little clips of Dane outside the water and awkward interviews with Dane talking about his dog or some other random point, this film is seriously entertaining.
The filming is okay and the editing is simple (kinda feels like it was made in Dane’s basement) but “It should at least make you psyched to go surf,” as the back cover explains. I agree. The surfing is high-performance and it gets you ready to shred.
**My tip? Check out the bonus footage “Ghost Stories” and “Kind of Snowboarding.” “Ghost Stories” is just fun and “Kind of Snowboarding” will make you feel a little better when you miss that floater or air and will definitely give you a laugh.
Directed by Taylor Steele, 2009
The film drifts in and out of consciousness, between surfing and Rob’s traveling experiences. The result is a dreamlike feel while Rob is drifting, and a realistic feeling while he is surfing. Unfortunately, this style of storyline takes away from the film as a whole.
The film opens with Rob Machado discussing why he stopped competing as a professional surfer and how he gained a more laidback, and less hectic, view on the sport and life. This “escape from the hectic lifestyle” is highlighted by his escapade through Indo. It’s halfway through his trip that we realize actual surfing is put on the back burner. This story relies heavily on the voyage.
But from a technical standpoint, the cinematography is top notch (Todd Heater is one of the best directors of photography in the sports film industry) and the editing is excellent. Actually, all technical aspects are above par and it’s only the story that seems to be lacking.
My final thoughts: Taylor Steeles’ reincarnation from surf porn to a romantic view of surfing as a sport is a direction that needs to be taken. There should be more films that focus on the true love of riding the waves and less about the athlete and the competition. And to see the kingpin of surf media behind the push shows that surfers themselves are becoming more interesting that just what they do on the water. Surfing is a lifestyle, not just an aquatic adventure.
*One (Back of my Mind) Note: What about his wife and two daughters?” Were they just waiting at home while he was floating through Indo? I’m curious.
Here you will find reviews of Surf Films, Climbing Films, and others, and maybe even a movie from "Hollywood."Got any suggestions send through Twitter, Facebook or the Contact Page.