The Endless Winter is a new British surf film, directed by Matt Crocker and James Dean, which I had the pleasure of catching at The Duke of York’s Picturehouse.
To be honest, I was enjoying myself before the film even started. I showed up to this free screening and was given a free bag, free drink and a free muffin, then shown to a cinema seat made for a princess! It was big, red and furry (good, downy fur, not the kind of fur that accumulates through sticky ickyness). Needless to say I was chuffed. It’s these kind of events that make you feel a little less sick knowing that you recently spent ten pounds going to see The Amazing Spiderman, or even worse, that film where Gwyneth Paltrow infects the whole world after eating a bat or something. I even had the choice to sit on the balcony, but my chair was too comfy to abandon.
The Endless Winter’s title plays on the old 1966 surf film, The Endless Summer, a classic (but dated) movie mostly remembered for its clashing red and pink retro posters, rather than the film itself. Instead of searching the globe for perfect waves with a greedy helping of sunshine, The Endless Winter follows two enthusiastic young Newquay surfers, Mark ‘Egor’ Harris and Mitch Corbett, around our British coast, exploring the waves and their transformations from place to place and in the changing seasons. The film demonstrates surfers’ great appreciation for British waves and the colder months (and thicker wetsuits). The surf duo begin in Cornwall, surfing Newquay, Sennon and Porthleven, with some entertaining history lessons thrown in and some chat with the locals, then make their way up to Thurso, Scotland, zig-zagging from south east to mid west to Wales, to north east, to the tip top, whilst really getting into the spirit and digging up the past glory of Brit surfing.
I worked in a surf shop this passed year and in the winter we did a lot of standing around watching the store’s DVD’s, reels upon reels of California waves, Hawaiian waves, Australian etc etc, so it’s refreshing to see a surf film that stays close to home – refreshing as diving face first into a British winter sea. Harris and Corbett are entertaining as the leads. They don’t always look comfortable in front of the camera, but the fact that these guys aren’t polished presenters and doing something out of their comfort zone is part of their charm. It is just enjoyable to watch them enjoy themselves as they race up the country with a couple of boards on their roof. The highpoint of the film for me was watching the boys surf for a mile down the river Severn Bore, the longest wave in Britain. This section includes racing the tide at full speed down the country roads, sliding down mud slides on their arses, and surfing the river in pitch black, having to rely on their memories so as not to be thwacked by low tree branches.
We get to meet some interesting characters, real sixties and seventies surfers, including a guy who worked his whole life at Bilbo, the original surf brand. There’s a lot of old archive footage which transports you back to a simpler time, usually within a sepia and pastel haze, when these guys would just hang out on the beach, surf and grow their hair. When you watch this kind of nostalgic footage you forget about some of the dodgy political rubbish that was happening at the time (and probably how easy you’ve got it now) and just wish you could dive into the cinema screen and frolic on the beach with these surf bums. The stories become more impressive as they journey north, up to Scotland, with talk of surfing in woolly jumpers and chaffing suits, surfing in the snow and enduring hyperthermia just for the love of the sport. Kids these days, they don’t know how good they got it in their ultra thick and super stretchy neoprene.
Surfing used to be a cult sport, precious to a select few, but looking around the cinema I could see how it has evolved into something that anyone can try or even just enjoy watching. The film makers themselves aren’t surfers, they just take pleasure observing the sport and exploring it’s long history. Personally, I’ve seen the girls in those retro movies, donning perfect hair and pointy breasts, laying back on their towels, watching on like good surf groupies and I’m glad that’s no longer expected of my sex. I guess if we’re talking equal rights, women should probably get fifty percent of the waves, not the pretty, feminine waves either, the big, chunky barrels! The Endless Winter doesn’t forget to pay tribute to the ladies who carved the way, at the risk of alienating themselves from their friends and family. Now surfing is open to any sex, age, local and non-local. Some might say that surfings’ growing popularity is the downfall of the sport’s bohemian spirit, but when something catches on, that’s the way it goes.
Anyway, this film demonstrates that the spirit is still there, in the ocean, lodged between the swarms of people, the mishmash of pro and beginner, tourist and local, on their feet and on their belly, all mixed together in the surf sea soup.