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Wavescape - Surfing in South Africa

Mon, 23 July 2018

About 1,000 Durbanites watched the heavy opening film of the Wavescape Festival at DIFF at the Bay of Plenty last night, with the director out from the US to be there, writes Spike.


BIG WAVE FEATURE: About 1000 Durbanites braved a chilly NE wind. Photo Spike

Despite a chilly northeasterly breeze that seemed determined not to die away into a light land breeze, Durban people came out in their droves. One group in the audience had even set up a table complete with dinner and red wine.

Spike gave away five O'Neill hampers, before introducing the Director, Michael Oblowitz, who was sponsored by Red Bull to be there to host the screening of his film. He was stoked with the AV setup so slickly produced by production company Black Coffee, particularly the sound quality.

The visual side of things was pretty impressive too, with the grunt behind a 15,000 lumens Sanyo projector creating a crisp image across the 6 metre by 4 metre screen, although the onshore breeze was causing the screen to bulge towards the audience to produce a slightly 3-D effect.


DIRECTING: Michael Oblowitz makes friends with the tech team from Back Coffee Photo Spike

Heavy Water is a gritty documentary in the style of a man who loves to play with the dark side of the human condition, in particular death. After all he made Sea of Darkness, the unsavoury story of the the surfing dream forged in the night-sweat of a drug-induced Indo nightmaresurfing dream forged in the night-sweat of a drug-induced Indo nightmare, where death is just another trip, a bad mixture of the wrong chemicals or a denge fever attack or a virulent streptococcus that pulls the life from you like a succubus. It's a place you can go as easy as falling out of a hammock, or get cheese grated across the inside reef at G-Land in 1973.

He is working on the Sunny Garcia story, which of course has heaviness like Heavy Water does. It's heavy in all sorts of ways, from the heavies who are tough guys to the heavy that is the racial contortion of being Hawaiian in a culture-shocked land. Oblowitz is fast becoming the go-to guy for more than just one sea of darkness, but all sorts of seas of surfing sordidity.

In fact, if he had his way, we'd be a lot more shocked at the sheninagins of some of the top athletes of our time, with a lot of stuff from the Nathan Fletcher movie being ordered to stay on the cutting room floor. But there is just enough to suggest the underlying grit. Just looking at Jay Adams' tattoos, or listening to how many times Fletcher or Bruce Irons say Fuck, gives you some clue as to the hardcore activities that fuel these death-defying acts.


LUCKY 13: The screen at Bay of Plenty. For 13 years, the weather has played ball. Photo Spike

The footage of Fletcher riding ridiculously huge Cloudbreak, or the climactic sequence where he performs his own version of the skateboard acid drop (when you jump onto the board in mid air to land onto a ramp). This Acid Drop sequence shows Fletcher jumping from a helicopter onto a 25 foot wave face.

It's a riveting yarn, with a good pace, and authentic interviews. Afterwards, Oblowitz wanted to run a Q&A with the audience, and he got the usual questions, like how long did it take, how many times did Fletcher try the Acid Drop before he pulls it off. Oops. Spoiler alert.

Then he says on the mic, several times, to a few hundred people and a whole bunch more living in flats along the beachfront: "Whose got a spliff for me?". What concerned me were the two cop vans parked on the walkway alongside the lawns. When I quietly told him, he announced he didn't take drugs. Haha. We're driving down the coast back to Cape Town next week. I think it might be a roller coaster ride.

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