"Every woman or anyone has insecurities, so going through the whole process was almost cathartic in a way. Just going out and surfing with total freedom. It was just me and my connection with the ocean." Photo by Fetch Films
All That Glitters Is BOLD: The Felicity Palmateer Interview
In celebration of female form, art and the occasional 40-foot wave.
Surfing, in essence, is an escape removed from wifi and direct messages, double taps and thumb scrolls. It’s a chance to be, or attempt to be, unbound and in tune with an explicable, sensational force. Over the past three years, Felicity “Flick” Palmateer has gone on a quest to take this freedom to a higher tier, to be completely shed of (almost) all materials and bring nothing but sun-kissed skin and a heavy glassed single fin to untouched lineups and unblemished sands (and document it all).
The result will premiere online at the end of next week. It’s a four-minute, highly anticipated short called Skin Deep, and from what we’ve seen, it shimmers in bold. It’s a statement piece of “performance art” as Flick, who's long been apt in the medium of holding a feather-tipped brush to canvas, would call it.
Miss Palmateer is a swiss army knife. She can melt a wave’s face like red-hot steel into ice and surfs without a normal sense of fear. She’s part of the women’s Big Wave Tour, but she recently missed out on the Jaws event – where in 2017 she both finished third and suffered an over the falls pounding that had her pulling both oxygen tanks – due to an injured back and prolonged ACL issues. She’s a model. An artist. Has had a small hand in Billabong women’s clothing design and possesses a brand of self-assurance that’d make a chest pumping man cry. She's sweet, in a sexy, yet intimidating way, that only a woman who’d release a four-minute nude surf exhibition/film and then throw herself over the ledge at Jaws could be.
In the spirit of her and filmmaker/journalist JJ Jenkins upcoming project, we reached out to dive into the finer things that make the 26-year-old from West Oz tick.
"The main thing to me about this is the freedom and the self-expression of living in the moment completely."
Stab: So, tell us a bit about your new short, Skin Deep, how did it all come about?
Felicity: Three years ago, I had this idea… I mean, obviously it’s been done before, people have surfed nude. There are images. But not to this extent. I told JJ and he was like, “Yeah, I really like this idea,” so we put together a team of filmmakers who’d be both good for the job and who I’d be comfortable doing something like this around.
Was it something where you were like, You know what, I’m just going to strip down and surf and thought, Well this feels and looks pretty cool. Let’s keep doing this?
Not exactly. [Laughs] I’m also an artist. This isn’t my first artistic debut. There are a few stages to this project. Stage one is the audio/visual clip. The medium I usually work is acrylic paint. So, stage two of this is a series of imagery that I’ve gone back and painted over and worked on. We plan on having a few exhibitions in Sydney and the Gold Coast and possibly LA where we will show the film and the artwork, although those dates haven’t been set yet.
Four minutes filmed over three years, what took so long?
[Laughs] It was just finding the time to get everyone together. Five of us worked on the project: myself, JJ, Dwayne [Fetch] – who’s shot a bunch of Hollywood films – Rick [Rifici] and Chris [White]. It was hard to get all our of schedules together and go on a surf trip. Also, finding surf with no one out is tricky. It shines a light on how small the world is. It’s really hard to find a beach without footsteps.
How was surfing naked? I’ve been in Hawaii for only three days and my ribs are already sore from surfing without a wetsuit. Was it at all awkward and uncomfortable?
There was definitely a lot less drag! [Laughs] But to be honest, it felt really good. I mean, every woman or anyone has insecurities, so going through the whole process was almost cathartic in a way. Just going out and surfing with total freedom. It was just me and my connection with the ocean. I felt totally comfortable doing it. Our whole team was guys except me, but they’re so professional I never really thought about it.
I feel empowered after doing it, for sure.
"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."
Does body image play into the success of this short and how do you think it’ll be received by the sometimes unkind folks of the internet?
This project, in particular, is purely art to me. 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.
Is a takeaway from this piece being comfortable in your own skin?
Yeah, definitely. But 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.
This combines my biggest passions, which are surfing and art, together. That, and just having a positive experience in a beautiful place.
We noticed that you weren’t in the Jaws event this year, what’s keeping you out of competition?
I’ve got a lower back sprain. I’ve had it for the last two months. That injury has kept me from being able to train the way I would want to to prepare for Jaws. And, if I’m not training right, then I don’t feel right mentally, and you don’t want to be paddling into a 40-foot wave with any hint of hesitation. I’m going to do the QS next year and the Big Wave World Tour, I want to make sure I give my body the opportunity to recover properly. I figured I’d put my body first and think logically, not emotionally.
I watched it online and saw that it was pretty rugged and raw and wild that morning.
Was last year at Jaws your first time out there?
[Laughs] Yeah, the first time I surfed it was in a heat. I had a really good experience. I was actually an alternate and got called up at the last minute because one of the girls got injured. And I was like, All right, this is the best opportunity ever. If I ever want to try to surf Jaws, there's safety there. I'd already had a little bit of experience with bigger waves. And I was like, I've got to take this opportunity. Anyway, I went over and I ended up getting third. I was just coming off an injury as well. My first surf back in like two months was Jaws.
I ended up going over the falls on a big one. I was thinking, This is not the position I want to be in right now. I got absolutely beat up. It was the first wave in the set and I got the next two on the head. I snapped my board and was carrying a knee injury. I pulled both inflation chords on my vest. It was scary. But all and all it was a good experience.
Has surfing big waves become a bit of a pursuit for you?
Yeah. It’s always been a passion of mine. I’ve always done well in contests when there has been a bit more swell and power. I think that’s just due to growing up in Western Australia. I love having that feeling of power behind me. I’ve always loved having a go. My dad taught me to surf, and he taught me to have no fear and just go.
"I figured I’d put my body first and think logically, not emotionally."
Where does your creativity and art stem from?
My dad. He’s a ceramist and is definitely my biggest inspiration. My mom also studied fashion designed, so when I was growing up I was just encouraged to do art. I was doing it before I was surfing. My dad just had an exhibition called "Confluence" where he showed a bunch of really big ceramic pieces. JJ and I flew back to Western Australia for that. It was amazing. He sold all his pieces.
I actually recently showed him Skin Deep. I was pretty nervous, like, Oh, crap, what’s my dad going to think. But he’s super open-minded. He was like, You know what? That’s really beautiful. He was there for me and is super supportive.
As far as your art goes, what do you want to do with it? Is there any goal?
Right now I’m sticking to the fine art thing. But, I’ve done a couple collaborations with Billabong in the past. At the moment, I’m really enjoying the performance art piece. It’s been awesome to see Skin Deep come together. I’m looking forward to showing it and exhibiting the project.
I'm looking forward to just the fine art component and exhibiting that around Australia, and then in Los Angeles.
Watch the teaser below!