The best of the London Surf Film Festival – but where are the women surfers?

This year’s London Surf Film Festival showcases the sport in all its extremes, from big waves and beach dudes to riders braving the Arctic winter – but where are the women surfers?

Originally published by The Guardian Monday 8 October 2012 11.42 BST

Surf films tend to fall into two camps: either pro riders surfing the world’s biggest waves to a banging soundtrack – all rippling muscles and towering walls of aquamarine water, or whimsical journeys that look and feel more like music videos – focused less on skill and strength and more on the lifestyle with a heady, hippy vibe heavy on salty sexiness.

But the effect of both types of film is similar – and powerful: instant lifestyle envy. After watching some of the trailers for the London Surf Film Festival, I was wondering whether 41 was too old to become a surf bum – despite only ever sitting on a board once.

But there is more to the festival than exotic beaches and hot dudes in wetsuits. There is a documentary, Boardroom, profiling the pioneering board shapers of the 1950s and 1960s; North of the Sun is the antithesis of lifestyle films set on tropical beaches; it follows two cold-water surfers who braved freezing temperatures and 23-hour darkness when they set up camp on an Arctic island off the coast of Norway for nine months; Otelo Burning is a feature-length movie based on the true story of township children in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, who discover the joy of surfing.

Whether you are an avid surfer or merely looking for a distraction as winter looms … the second annual London Surf Festival is worth checking out.

My only criticism is the lack of women. Of the 12 trailers I watched, none of them featured women – apart from a mention of “gals” accompanying their blokes through the wilds of Indonesia in the film Tracking. What’s going on? With growing numbers of female surfers taking to the waves, there’s no excuse for a festival of surfing to be almost entirely male. Although in their defence, the organisers Chris Nelson and Demi Taylor, both surfers and authors of several books about surfing, point out that several of the films have female directors, including feature film Otelo Burning, directed by Sara Belcher.

North of the Sun

Inge Wegge and Jørn Ranum pack their surfboards for a nine-month cold, dark, winter “staycation” on a remote, Arctic island off the coast of northern Norway.

El Mar Mi Alma

Dave Homcy’s ode to Chile, with beautiful footage of the landscape, ocean and surfing from Dave Rastovitch, Ramon Navarro, Joel Parkinson and Chris Del Moro.

Surfing and sharks

On South Africa’s Wild Coast, between Durban and Jeffreys Bay (also known as J-bay), peak swell season coincides with the sardine run that draws sharks right beneath the waves the surfers ride.

Otelo Burning

This feature tells the story of township kids who discover the joy of surfing, set against the political backdrop of South Africa in the late 80s and early 90s when Nelson Mandela was released from prison.

Boardroom: Legends of Surfboard Shaping

UK premiere of this multi-award-winning documentary on the evolution of the surfboard and early board shapers from California and Hawaii.

The London Surf Film Festival ( runs 11-14 October at the Riverside Studios, Hammersmith, London. Tickets are available now from the Riverside Studios Box Office (020-8237 1111) or on the festival website. Night passes from £14, individual screenings £8

If you’ve come across any great surf films, send us the link in the comments below

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