Surf's (way) up
Surfing primer offers fresh perspectives on the sport
By Tim Pompey 03/28/2013
A Deeper Shade of Blue
Directed by Jack McCoy
Starring: 100 years’ worth of surfers and their boards
1 hr.30 mins.
Having grown up in Tennessee, there were two things entirely foreign to me as a boy: hockey and surfing. Hockey I could fathom. It’s a game like football or baseball. But surfing was as distant and strange as moonwalking.
It still remains that way for me, but my fascination and admiration have grown for those who have the power to stand on the water and fly like the wind. Honestly, I don’t know how they do it. It’s a supreme gift that has completely bypassed my arms and legs. So I’m content to watch from the shore; and when a surf film pops up, I’m there as well, cheering from my seat.
I understand that surf aficionados may view surf movies the same way some people pride themselves on tasting wine. I’m not that educated; but from my point of view, if you have any interest in the origin of surfing, A Deeper Shade of Blue is worth viewing because it shows how surfing began and how the surfboard has evolved from the wooden planks of the 18th century Hawaiians to today’s sleek hybrid models. In other words, it’s a good surf primer.
Directed by surf film legend Jack McCoy, A Deeper Shade pulls its diverse elements into what I would call a good tight shot and reveals precisely how those cameras get such great angles on surfers as they’re squeezed inside narrow tubes of water. If you want to be as close to a wave as you can get from your chair, this is the film to watch.
Furthermore, A Deeper Shade is unique because it watches surfers from both above and below water. What most people tend to focus on is the wave’s break. McCoy and his photographic crew shoot waves and riders from multiple angles, the most fascinating being underwater shots that look up at surfer and wave. While the wave’s power is on top, the real beauty exists underneath as board and rider cut through. It’s a world tranquil yet vibrant with motion.
McCoy also focuses on the high level of creativity that has affected the development of the board as an instrument of grace and speed. And this leads to perhaps his most insightful observation: Surfers are creative and innovative thinkers who have deliberately separated from their larger culture to become united with the water. They’re as committed to their calling as any priest and perhaps more thoughtful about life and nature.
What’s more, in this film, McCoy explains how surfing is really about individual expression and art. Surfers creatively explore moves the way a dancer might choreograph a piece of music. The wave is the inspiration. The board is the connector. The surfer as an artist seeks to highlight that wave, perhaps give it a unique kind of life.
Maybe surf history isn’t your bag. Maybe you think that a surf movie should mainly be focused on the surfer’s flight. But A Deeper Shade doesn’t feel like a history movie because its history is tied so closely to that flight. Traveling from Hawaii to Malibu to Tahiti to South Africa to Tasmania, it only seems natural that as you follow these surfers, you learn about the minds and bodies behind surfing. It all fits like feet to a board.
And that, according to McCoy, is what surfing is all about. One generation to another, from ancient Hawaiians to young Tasmanians, they all recognize how they’re joined to each other and to the water.
No wonder, being a weighed-down landlubber, that I can’t take my eyes off the screen. Seeing this group of surfers, the most inspiring part of this film is that, just like these superhuman speed demons on boards, when I watch them glide like birds, I really want to fly.
The surf documentary A Deeper Shade of Blue will be showing for one night only, March 28, 7:30 p.m., at the Century 16 Theater in Oxnard.