What are the essential ingredients of a 5 star surf film? Perhaps, for you, they include:
- tropical waves being shredded by tousled blonde groms to a trash-metal punk soundtrack,
- grizzled allround watermen with forearms like railway sleepers being towed into gaping maws at obscure offshore reefs,
- slo-mo duckdiving wahinis in bikinis,
- wispy-bearded, young fogey soul surfers cross-stepping to the nose of leashless single fins,
- earnest singer-songwriters playing acoustic guitars over shots of grass and wildlflowers waving in the breeze, or
- hot chicks in thongs, the sun glancing off their sand-smudged arses?
On Saturday night at the London Surf Film Festival I saw a film which – for me – redefines the notion of a 5 star surf film. On paper, ‘North of the Sun’ should not be a classic. It’s about and by 2 young Norwegian surfers (yes, you read that right) who go to a bay above the Arctic Circle, build a stylish cabin from driftwood and live there for 9 months through the brutal, cold, dark winter surfing the mainly mediocre beachbreak. They survived on free ‘past sell-by date’ packet food, collected over 3 tonnes of rubbish from the beach (mainly plastic) and re-used it or had it taken away by helicopter.
The film has an intriguing story of going offline and upcountry, amazing scenery (some shot by one of the stars from a paraglider), awe-inspiring light (particularly the profile of the 2 surfers in front of the Northern Lights), suspense (will they make it through the winter without killing each other?), anticipation (of the return of the sun after 3 months of darkness), respect (how can they go surfing when they have to thaw their gloves out with boiling water before they go in?) and a natural humour. The surfing isn’t dramatic by normal surf film standards, but that’s not the point of the film – its about the dedication of these two amazing surfers to get maximum time in the water together and how they beat the challenges of the terrain and climate.
The packed audience rightly gave the film and one of its makers, Inge Wegge, a standing ovation. It deserves to win the Festival’s International Features award.
Bring on the Winter.