The Curious Disappearance Of Flick Palmateer’s All Nude Surf Film, “Skin Deep”
How a two-stage piece of art three years in the making may never see the light of pixels.
In December, “Skin Deep”, an all-nude surf film starring Flick Palmateer, directed by JJ Jenkins, shot and produced by an A-List cast of videographers and photographers (Dwayne Fetch, Rick Rifici and Chris White), fronted surf media’s digital headlines.
They set a January release date. It got pushed back. And back. And back again.
Three months later, Felicity Palmateer’s highly publicized short, shot over three years in dreamy, warm water locales (See: Fiji, Hawaii and Australia), is yet to see pixels – leaving just a 15-second teaser, a few frame grabs, and online stories in its digital wake.
The art shows/exhibitions scheduled, featuring Flick’s brush strokes, the film and everything attached are now left in planning purgatory.
The original idea, as Flick told us back in December was a two-stage project.
“Stage one is the audio/visual [the short film set to a Rufus du Sol track]. Stage two is a series of imagery that I’ve gone back, painted over and worked on. The medium I usually work in [as an artist] is acrylic paint. We plan on having a few exhibitions in Sydney, the Gold Coast and possibly one in LA although those dates haven’t been set yet.”
Nor will they be, apparently.
After the trailer’s release, an aura of shock, anticipation, and division shook the surf world. In the era of #metoo, it’s easy to get caught up in the projection of the female form; but it’s important to note that nudity and sexuality, while maintaining a symbiotic relationship, are two very separate things. The ESPN Body Issue is a key example of that and has featured many big named surfers (Steph Gilmore, Kelly Slater, Laird Hamilton, Courtney Conlogue, Maya Gaberia and Coco Ho) over the years. “Skin Deep” is a piece of performance art, a sense of freedom and expression — baring it all beyond earth’s last frontier, the ocean.
There will definitely be people who don’t like it. But you can’t win at everything. These days if you make a coffee wrong someone has something to say about it.
This is a bold, respectable endeavor from the West Oz gal who surfed the first all-female event at Jaws. There’s a known backlash and social justice warrior/malicious shaming that will inevitably be involved upon its release. But at the same time, in a growing digital age of Instagram-induced teenage depression, “Skin Deep” was also a way to show young girls and women it’s okay to be comfortable in your own skin.
“This project, in particular, is purely art to me," Flick told us after the release of the trailer. "I wanted to go out there and create this beautiful audio-visual clip, but everyone is going to interpret it differently. If people can look at it and be inspired and empowered and moved, then I’m excited about it. There will definitely be people who don’t like it. But you can’t win at everything. These days if you make a coffee wrong someone has something to say about it. The main thing to me about this is the freedom and the self-expression of living in the moment completely. There are such few things in the world now that you can do where you are purely present."
Only two possible entities could stand in the way of releasing this film. As Flick surfs on the WSL’s QS and the Women’s Big Wave Tour, the WSL is one of them; the other, her marquee sponsor and the source of her consistent paycheck, Billabong.
When they brought “Skin Deep” to the WSL in December—and this may surprise—reports are the WSL loved the concept. We reached out to the WSL who had no insight into why the film hasn't been released. It's worth noting that plenty of their athletes are featured in the ESPN Body Issue (which all released BTS clips that leave little to the imagination), and any culling of the film would be rather hypocritical.
It was Billabong, presumably their PR and Marketing department, that put the final dagger in the heart of "Skin Deep" – or are at the very least still stifling its release.
Let's take a look at how we got here. In a world where the vanity metrics of likes and clicks and engagement rule the world of marketing, the fastest way for exponential growth is to ditch the lycra. It’s a tried and true formula that sees the feeds of many girl-next-door-beach-gals escalate quickly into a more risqué profile when the dopamine hit of engagement/growth usurps all else. And, in reality, a sponsorship is a transaction: a payment for selling an ideal. If one of their talent’s projects diverges from the brand’s ethos, vibe, tone, whatever you want to call it—if it’s cheapening, in the brand’s eyes—that sponsorship will be in jeopardy.
At the same time, if a 26-year-old woman wants to produce a performance art piece featuring her surfing nude, who the fuck are we, or a conservative brand manager, to tell her she can’t?
Gold Coast surfer Ellie-Jean Coffey—whose surfboard’s nose was also once owned by Billabong—felt that burn. As will others whose personal brands veer from their partner’s ideals. A well-produced short film is vastly different than the risqué Instagram of Miss Coffey but, in the end, everyone has a boss.
Though we can’t confirm the specifics—Billabong for comment—we can confirm that you won’t be seeing "Skin Deep" any time soon…