For more than 50 years, the celebration of surf cinema has created a swell of hoots and shakas in theaters around the world. This gathering of the tribes made its debut in 1953 when Bud Browne introduced “Hawaiian Surfing Movie,” the first commercial surf film that was shown anywhere. John Severson and Bruce Brown followed suit by creating the standard style of modern surf films, complete with slapstick comedy routines. Add Jim Freeman, Walt Phillips, Greg MacGillivray, Hal Jepsen, Bill Delaney, Greg Weaver, Spyder Wills, and Steve Soderberg (to name a few), and you have a dynamic collection of surf films that have taken us on a saltwater journey around the globe and back.
Today’s surf filmmakers are tenfold, and the progression of technology and surfing has made the sport that much more exciting to capture on film. Many of these independent filmmakers, however, have a difficult time promoting their films and spreading the stoke. That’s why La Jolla, California, native and bodysurfer Pierce Kavanagh, and his wife Petra, created the San Diego Surf Film Festival three years ago.
Since then, the SDSFF has also become an important platform for independent filmmakers. The Kavanaghs have really carved a niche in this space and have created one of the most diverse surf film festivals in the world, combining art, film, music and culture. In fact, the San Diego Surf Film Festival is the largest of its kind in the United States and one of the biggest in the world.