Surf film festival shifts perceptions, raises ocean awareness

Written by Yazeed Kamaldien

Surfers often appear in mainstream media as laidback dope-smoking airheads, but a local festival is challenging this perception by turning ocean-lovers into switched on conservation activists.

The Wavescape Festival is Cape Town’s only event that gathers surfers around socially conscious issues related to their home: the ocean.

Surfing in the far northern part of the world, the Arctic Circle, means confronting bitterly cold seas and wind, as evidenced in this scene from the film Arctic Swell. (Pic by Chris Burkard)

Surfing in the far northern part of the world, the Arctic Circle, means confronting bitterly cold seas and wind, as evidenced in this scene from the film Arctic Swell. (Pic by Chris Burkard)

Its eleventh annual edition started this weekend with a fish braai and surfboard sale in Muizenberg. This gathering aims to “raise awareness around sustainable food consumption”.

Festival founder Steve Pike says only sustainable fish, as indicated by fishing industry authorities, will find a way onto the braai menu.

“Our underlining theme of the whole festival is ocean conservation and sustainability. As surfers, we make good ambassadors for this, and it helps that we are passionate about it,” said Pike.

While a number of events have been added to the festival since it started, at its heart has always been its inspiring film line-up.

This scene from the film Arctic Swell shows the raw beauty in conditions that rank among the harshest in the world. Its filmmakers braved sub-zero temperatures in the Arctic Circle. (Pic by Chris Burkard)

This scene from the film Arctic Swell shows the raw beauty in conditions that rank among the harshest in the world. Its filmmakers braved sub-zero temperatures in the Arctic Circle. (Pic by Chris Burkard)

Pike says a number of this year’s 30 films at the festival have a conservation theme.

“The very nature of surfing films; the pristine environments where they are shot, are conducive to conscientising our audience, and we always ensure we curate content, such as photo exhibitions, community events and art projects, that include themes of sustainability,” he said.

The festival’s documentary films include ‘Flux: Redefining Women’s Surfing’, which “explores sexual exploitation of women in surfing”.

The immense beauty of nature comes across in a number of films. This includes ‘The Cradle of Storms’, which “tracks a journey though the remote Aleutian Arc of Alaska”.

An even greater visual feast is the film ‘Arctic Swell’, which shows unfiltered natural beauty found in some of the world’s harshest conditions. Its filmmakers braved sub-zero temperatures in the Arctic Circle to bring back tons of eye candy.

The festival also has a filmmaking competition that will on December 12 unveil the three best short films showcasing adventure sport.

A photographic exhibition showing what the ocean holds will run during the festival. Another photo focus on kelp forests will launch during the festival at the Sea Point promenade and it stays up until next April.

Efforts to create awareness about the ocean life’s vulnerabilities will include Slide Night, an event that platforms ten “thought-leaders intimately connected to the ocean”. This will take place at the innercity’s Centre for the Book on December 3 from 7pm.

Speakers will be from the Save Our Seas Shark Centre, a film director and kelp forest expert and also Sasha Specker, a former drop-knee body boarding world champion and photographer.

Others involved in film, photography, conservation, sustainable fishing and a musician will share their insights.

Pike said it was “gratifying to see how the critical issues of ocean sustainability have gained momentum over the 11 years we have been putting on our events”.

Film screenings are planned for the Brass Bell, Kalk Bay, from December 7 to 10, and also the Labia Cinema, on Orange Street in the city, from December 11 to 14. Free film screenings will be held on Clifton 4th Beach on December 6 from 9pm.

For more information on films log on to www.wavescapefestival.com

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About Yazeed Kamaldien

Self-employed journalist and photographer from South Africa.

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