Stab Magazine | A bizarre surf cult encounter in the Atlantic: SurFilmFestibal
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A bizarre surf cult encounter in the Atlantic: SurFilmFestibal

Words by Jed Smith The San Sebastian Surfilmfestibal is among the world’s great celebrations of alternate surf culture. It begins this Thursday, June 24, in the majestic beachside suburb of San Sebastian. In the lead-up Stab tracked down the festival’s longtime director, Sancho Rodriguez, a classic Basque wanderer and early 90s Mentawai’s explorer among other things, […]

style // Mar 8, 2016
Words by stab
Reading Time: 4 minutes

Words by Jed Smith

The San Sebastian Surfilmfestibal is among the world’s great celebrations of alternate surf culture. It begins this Thursday, June 24, in the majestic beachside suburb of San Sebastian. In the lead-up Stab tracked down the festival’s longtime director, Sancho Rodriguez, a classic Basque wanderer and early 90s Mentawai’s explorer among other things, for the lowdown on what we can expect…

INset_elohand_mundaka_1Stab: The San Sebastian Surfilmfestibal, what is it Sancho?
Sancho: Man, this is always a weird question. I always say it’s the most bizarre surf culture encounter in the Atlantic. Basically, it is a meeting of different ideas, not in the epicentre of surf culture but on the sides of surf culture, though somehow still in the radius. This year will be no different. We have a Japanese crew who are going to art direct the festival who are coming to present their vision of the world and surfing.
Chile is the guest country so we’re going to have Ramon Navarro, the original surfing star in Chile in the 80s, so that’s kind of special. It’s a country that has big challenges in conservation, they have mind-blowing waves, it’s kind of cold so that kind of protects them. So it’s Punta de Lobos meets Mundaka preservation effort; Basque, Chilean, Japanese and a couple of crazy Aussies.

What compelled you to create the Festibal? I was working for (cult Basque fashion label) Loreak Mendian and I came from working for La Fabrica in Madrid doing photography exhibitions and festivals and other things. Loreak have a different take on surf culture and I started the marketing department and we didn’t have money so connecting the dots with San Sebastian being a cinema city, we began looking at celebrating our favourite obscure titles such as Crystal Voyager, Morning of the Earth and Litmus – which was our favourite surf film. Basically, we wanted to claim those kind of titles over product placement or super high production corporate-surf-sponsored films and to show that in a satellite place like the Basque Country.

Fake_KellyWhat makes San Sebastian such an ideal place to stage an event like this? It definitely has that very urban flair. It’s where the city, that sophistication of higher culture, music culture, that urban vibe, meets the beach. Also, it’s so perfect because we have amazing venues that go from the Aquarium, to the Teatro Principal which is a theatre from the 1920s with state of the art technology. The beach is right there and all the venues are super close and all have a historical weight, so you can definitely interact with the people of the city, which makes weird niches of people which definitely interests us more than only being with surfers. It’s always good to interact with different people with different interests and confront them with surf culture.

One of the highlights is undoubtedly the work of the Japanese artist/surfer collective, JapaNing. What are you expecting from them? We offered them to art direct the image of the festival, or the statement, being what is the skin and what is under. We really like the work of these Japanese artists and somehow they are again out of the regular vision of surfing. They used old world iconography and man, they went far because they don’t even show surfing nearly (in the event teaser). The video is nearly all about snow surfing with Taro Tamai who is an absolute cult guy that started to make amazing boards to surf the powder in Hokkaido. We can expect that very out-of-the-regular axis way of treating surfing with them. I expect them to look at what the situation in Japan is with Fukushima and the spots that surround that dark place, and also to see the light around it.

NIX-NIC-NOOLEY-DVD-insetAnd of course the film lineup, what can we expect from that? Well, the title is Origin and Legacy. We have very few films this year because we have so much other content (art installations etc). One of the main ones is La Primera Ola which is the history of Spanish surfing by Pedro Tembouri, who’s a very special filmmaker and who’s a surfer who basically comes from the film world. He’s very well known for having made the film that got the awards for worst movie, worst screenplay, worst scenario, worst special affects, called Karate a Muerte en Torremolinos, a crazy Z-Series film where Christian surfers save humanity from some really weird half squid, half crab monster. So he’s done this project where he’s digging very deep into the roots of crazy footage and we’re gonna see the time when surfing started in Spain and we were living under a dictatorship and the kind of symbol of surfing and how that was for the youth at the time.
We also have the history of Chilean surfing. I think it’s a perfect year having Chile as the guest country and the project of Ramon Navarro pushing the protection of Punta Dos Lobos and what that stands for, and to see the real original surfer from Chile and find out how they started this craziness with surfing in Chile, very late. In the 80s. Seems pretty crazy. That’s from the Origins. We have Kong Island from Jack Mccoy. We owe so much to Jack for surf culture and having pushed his titles and being a surf culture warrior and with Kong and Chappy Jennings to show where high performance surfing comes from. We’ve got Toby Cregan’s Nic Nix Nooley (featuring Creed McTaggart among others), as the state of the art performance but also very Aussie take on surfing with this crazy trip to the future where surfing is fucked up by pollution and this crazy dystopia. That’s what we got. Origins and legacy. – Jed Smith

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