Photo: Christian Oehmke
By Ashley Brooks
New Smyrna Beach, FL – Five years ago, the Florida Surf Film Festival was just an idea still in formulation, as friends Kevin Miller and John Brooks decided to show a Taylor Steele film at the Atlantic Center for the Arts (ACA) to “just see what would happen”. Quite a lot has happened since that first showing, with things coming full circle at Friday night’s sold out Southeast US premiere of Taylor Steele’s newest film, Proximity, with Taylor himself in attendance. Little did Kevin and John know with that first screening just 5 short years ago, they’d be creating an outpost of sorts for our “small, but big surf community,” as local surfer Mike Simon put it, to host both world-renowned surfers and surf filmmakers alike.
After the showing of Proximity, John and Taylor sat down for a live Q&A, both a surreal moment for John, as well as for many in the crowd. John started the interview by saying that, “Taylor is the best farmer I know. He plants this seed, and as it sprouts and grows, it becomes the stoke for all of us. Taylor is a farmer of stoke.” This drew a laugh from the crowd and a grin from Taylor, who went on to explain that for him, filmmaking is actually a somewhat selfish pursuit, with his projects tending to reflect what is relevant in his own life and relationship to surfing. Taylor shared that his childhood had been centered around surfing and making short films of his buddies, and how that progressed to the early 90’s Momentum, a punk rock anthem filled barrage of short boarding clips smashed together, because at the time that was what he was into, and also what was available to him. He talked of not having the right equipment, and not being able to catch the eye or hold the attention of his then idols Tom Curren, Martin Potter, and Occy, so instead of giving up, he simply used the camera equipment he had and started making short films of these two groms, Rob Machado and Kelly Slater. What would come after that, the amazing careers of all three men, we all well know, and Taylor talked about the fact that just starting with what he had and trying to find the confidence to be different is something that he’s extremely passionate about.
Taylor’s newest film, Proximity, is again a full circle moment from his first film Momentum, with the focus of Proximity being about time and how we live our lives, set against the backdrop of pairings of some of surfing’s most iconic figures. With three of the four duos, there is a “passing the torch” feel, with 11-time World Champion Kelly Slater traveling with the current World Champ John John Florence in the Marshall Islands, famous competitor turned free-surfer Rob Machado with anti-competitor Craig Anderson in Japan and Chile, and big wave legend Shane Dorian with up and coming big wave surfer Albee Layer slab hunting through Scotland. The fourth duo shows more of a yin/yang of the surfing culture, pairing fierce female competitor Steph Gilmore with free surfer/activist Dave Rastovich at Mexico’s long point breaks.. The film seems to say that there are many paths to being a surfer, any of which can be amazing and fulfilling, but it’s up to us how we spend our time, and ultimately our lives, both in and out of the water.
If you missed out on Friday night’s screening, there will be another showing in Orlando at The Abbey on Friday, June 30th, and in Cocoa Beach, FL on Friday, July 7th. Doors open at 6pm, movies start at 7pm. Tickets can be purchased online here: ORLANDO and COCOA BEACH