If you were offered a slot to show any film you want, on the big screen, in Dolby sound, to 200 like-minded souls, what would you choose? Curating a night of cult surf cinema, this was my dilemma. Only there was no dilemma. The choice was simple. There was only one possible film. Andrew Kidman’s “Litmus.” It changed everything. It changed me, and it changed surfing. I started calling people and emailing friends, asking them for their thoughts on the movie. I wanted to pull together a story about why Litmus is so important, peppered with quotes. Only what came back weren’t sound-bites; instead I received odes to a film that was more than a movie. They sent love letters about an old friend, a work of art, a tome, a manifesto, a guiding star. I couldn’t edit them – they summed up the film too perfectly.
So here, Tyler Breuer – NY surfing’s cultural guru, SMASH Fest founder and a man with an encyclopedic knowledge of surf movies and a huge stoke for waveriding – talks about the Litmus effect.
“I can remember when I first read about the film, it was in an article in Surfing magazine. My mate Mike and I were imagining what this film would be like. It sounded like something we had been craving for some time. During that time period, many of the surf films had become cheap, low quality, loud music and all about getting pumped up before a surf. We enjoyed those, but we had just begun to discover films like Morning of the Earth and Five Summer Stories. Films that had an artistic flare and were more thought out and crafted. When we read that Litmus was a throwback to those films, we began to imagine where and what the film would look like.
It was when the internet was in its infancy and there were no web clips or trailers. Just an article and your imagination. My family ran a surf shop, and I was about 17 at the time. I had been given the responsibility to order surf videos. I had developed this flirtatious phone relationship with a girl by the name of Heather at The Action Sports Network. Around the late spring of 1997, I was in the middle of flirting with Heather on the phone at the store, discussing some of the new titles they had just gotten in. She was reading off the list, and there it was: Litmus. It was in between Tim Bonython’s latest release BIO (Bring it on) and (I think) a Chris Klopf film. I asked her to stop. “What?” I said. “You have Litmus?” She sounded a little scared when I burst out with excitement. I immediately ordered copies for my shop.
The next week took forever. I went to school and would come home and ask if the package of VHS’s had arrived. It took forever. I got it just before my school graduation. I remember the orange plastic VHS casing it came in. The sketched out image of Derek Hynd doing a high line soul arch on his Skip Frye. When I got home, I popped it into the VHS and was blown away. The music, the cinematography, the interviews from wise surfers such as Wayne Lynch and Derek Hynd, it all had a profound effect on me and my outlook on surfing. The next day we had a graduation party at my house. My friend Mike arrived and gave me a hug and then slapped a copy of Litmus in my hand. He had bought a copy as well for me. It was epic! I told him I just got a copy too. We laughed and ducked out of the party to go watch it again. That VHS got some major usage. For years, maybe even decades later, Mike, my brother and I would quote the film. “Such a melancholy pursuit,” we’d say. “It’s the awesome foursome! Me, my dad, Occy and Curren,” or “surfing’s not young anymore,” and “It’s on! It’s those two. They are the greatest ever!”
The film would have a profound effect on me because it inspired me to travel alone to Ireland the following year. That is where I made some lifelong friends and got one of my first tastes of adventure and camaraderie with surfers from all over the world. It truly shaped my destiny and set me off on a different direction. If Litmus was never made, I think my life would be completely different. I may never have traveled to many of the places in the film and have been exposed to some of the ideas and people who had major influences on me.
My awareness of other boards, and equipment, had grown exponentially. The DH segment and his quiver gave friends and I something to aspire to. It created a new ethos for me. My idea of a great surfer was no longer who could tail slide or bust an air the best. It was someone who could ride and master other boards and ride those boards the way they were meant to be ridden. Curren in the Search films may have opened our minds a crack, but Litmus and DH busted the floodgates open. My curiosity of other shapes and designs would give another dimension to my surfing, Thanks to Litmus, I feel like I’m a much more complete surfer today. I can surf a thruster performance board or a nice single fin equally well, and appreciate the unique qualities of each board I ride.
Andrew and his film transformed my life. His vision is unique and original. The whole surf industry owes Kidman a great deal. Without his insight and curiosity, we would all still be riding potato chip boards and may have lost our reverence for the past and the generations that came before us. It’s very fitting and deserving that he is being celebrated in this manor. Although, he would probably call it all BS and downplay it all.”
London Surf/Film Festival presents a special night of cult surf cinema Tuesday 22nd July bringing Litmus to the big screen accompanied by the world Premiere of the Ripple Effect, presented on the night by award winning Director Peter Hamblin. For tickets and info click HERE.