Writer, Surfer

The Inertia

Proximity by Taylor Steele is premiering around the globe at the moment. I haven’t seen it yet, but I believe it’s going to be the best surf film ever made. I’m so excited that I’m considering trying to get to Swansea, Wales (on a weeknight) for my closest screening. It’s only 531 miles away according to Google Maps.

Why am I so desperate? Well, for a kickoff, Proximity will feature the best cast ever assembled for a surf movie. Have you seen the Avengers movies? It’s a bit like that, but with surfers.

You want star quality and high performance? It has Kelly Slater and John Florence. You want heavy water hellmen? Take Albee Layer and Shane Dorian. A dash of style, perhaps? Rob Machado and Craig Anderson should satiate. And what about soul? Stephanie Gilmore and Dave Rastovich are there for you.

Honestly, I don’t believe you could put together a better cast for a surf movie right now, maybe ever.

The surfers have been paired up for each section in a genius cross-generational blend of talent. The pairings are so perfect they might as well have been created by an algorithm. Would you ever have imagined pairing Steph with Rasta? No, me neither. But can you imagine anything better than watching them surf a perfect right point together?

And how about John and Kelly? Despite being on the CT together and living next door on the North Shore, they had never done a trip together before Proximity. It’s fascinating to see their dynamic outside of competition. In the teaser John stands on a beach with Kelly as the sun goes down.

“Do you still get nervous?” John asks, casually.

“In contests? Sometimes.” Kelly replies.

How could you not want more of this? I want to know more about what John wants to know about Kelly! I want to know what Kelly wants to glean from John! I want to see the greatest competitive surfer of the past twenty years interact with the greatest for the next twenty! In what other sport could that happen? Can you imagine LeBron James and Michael Jordan, both in their prime, going on a trip together just to play one-on-one? Or hustling their way round pick-up games? It would be incredible.

And get this. On their trip, John and Kelly played a literal game of chess, during which they were filmed and mic’d. All the minutiae of communication is captured, verbal and non-verbal. I would pay to watch that sequence alone.

In terms of cast, it’s also worth noting that Stephanie Gilmore will be the first woman to appear in a Taylor Steele movie, and potentially the first to appear in a project with this sort of budget. There is no one more fitting than 6-time world champ. She has a style and grace that is universally admired, regardless of gender.

Taylor Steele has produced some of the most iconic surf movies ever. From groundbreaking 90s films like Momentum and Campaign, through stunningly beautiful surf-docs like Sipping Jetstreams and Castles in the Sky, to original, eclectic projects such as This Time Tomorrow, Innersection and The Drifter.

I would watch Proximity just because it had Taylor Steele’s name attached, but the project will break new ground in surf filmmaking.

Steele has consistently proven that he’s not scared to evolve his art. He was the first to bring Virtual Reality and 360 degree video to the surf landscape (remember getting on board with CJ in Tahiti?), and he has filmed four segments using VR for Proximity. A teaser for the first of these has just been released, allowing viewers to hop in a jeep with Rasta and Steph in Baja before sharing a wave with them.

If you follow technology trends then you’ll realize that in the coming years VR could have the greatest influence on our culture since the advent of the internet. Taylor Steele is ahead of the curve in bringing VR to surf movies.

As if 360-degree images weren’t enough, Proximity promises to capture the sounds of the surf experience. Even dialogue between the surfers in the line-up has been recorded using waterproof mics. This has definitely never been done before and will contribute to a truly immersive viewing experience.

But don’t let the use of cutting edge technology fool you into thinking that Proximity is just another big budget production designed to attack consumers by stealth. The apparent lack of branding in the movie is refreshing. Proximity isn’t supported by a major surf brand. You’re not going to have logos forced in your face, and you’re not going to see the same images rehashed in endless ad campaigns. As far as I can tell the surfers were all required to wear black, unbranded wetsuits and boardshorts.

To my knowledge, Proximity isn’t about moving product. It’s about pairing up the best surfers of their respective generations and ilk; it’s about telling stories; and it’s about making a beautiful, game-changing surf movie. I can certainly buy into that.



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