Awards Announced for 2021

Eighth Annual Florida Surf Film Festival Announces 2021 Awards


New Smyrna Beach, FL – Florida Surf Film Festival (FSFF), presented by Monster Energy, is proud to announce awards for the feature and short documentary film categories for the 2021 festival, which convened on November 19th and 20th at Atlantic Center for the Arts, in New Smyrna Beach, Florida.

Coming back from a pandemic has been rewarding for a lot of reasons.  One is gathering in a public space to celebrate the hard work of filmmakers in our culture.  Another, seeing old friends from out of town who rarely get to interact, if not for the festival.  This year, returning to the main event, Matt Warshaw, Scott Hulet, Wyatt Daily, Justin Misch, and Jack Coleman returned to share stories and work with fans, and what a weekend. Kelly Slater, 11X World Champ, stopped by Saturday night for the USA Mainland Premier of Waterman, by Isaac Halasima and producers, David Ulich and Dr. Steven Ungerleider (The Foundation for Global Sports Development & Sidewinder Films), and winner of Best Documentary – Feature for 2021.

Kelly said, “Duke’s story is the thing of legend for the surf community, but much of his popular fame has been lost in recent generations. This movie outlines what seems to be a timely topic given our current civil situation but also brings everyone up to speed with the importance Duke played not only for surfing, but in the community at large in a time when people of color were rarely celebrated. His kindness and humility shone through some tough times in history, and he inspired people with his character, kindness, and larger than life persona.”

Other winners at the main event included Jack Coleman’s Polysun, which took home Best Soundtrack – Feature, set entirely to Relatively Clean Rivers self-titled 1976 album, pulled from the dust by Joey Bookout, who collaborated with the filmmaker for this five-year project of alternative watercraft.  The retro look and sound of the project unified with Joey and Jack on stage, discussing how it came together after its World Premiere.  Jack also took home Best Soundtrack – Short for his film, Inner Wild, which screened in March 2020.  Not only is Jack Coleman the winningest filmmaker at our festival, he was officially the second inductee in our Hall of Fame (which doesn’t exist, but if it did, he would be in there along with long time sponsor, Brian Layman).

While we do not select for competition any films made outside of our arbitrary year and a half window before the festival year, we most certainly and proudly shared the 50-year anniversary edition of a fully remastered, 4K version of Albert Falzon’s Morning of the Earth.  After the mind-meld with mother ocean, we talked with Albe on the phone through the microphone, while he fed parrots sunflower seeds on his porch.  The man sounded at peace with Justin and Wyatt’s remastering over three years every single frame of the original work.  What a blissful way to end the 2021 festival year.

Both Havana Libre, by MakeWild Films, and Water Get No Enemy, by Aurthur Bourbon and Damien Castera with Almo Film and Hand Studio, played to a sold-out crowd on Friday Night, earning high marks from various jury members.  Accompanied by Nate Laverty’s Born Pacific featuring Pete Devries exquisite aerial work and green room, finger-dragging shacks.

Every year, we try to approximate which films win the Viewers’ Choice Awards for the feature and short category based on feedback from the fans.  This year, Girls Can’t Surf earned the Viewers’ Choice Award – Feature; and The Midnight Hour earned the Viewers’ Choice Award – Short.  Both projects scored highly with the jurors as well.

Both nights were held in the Harris Blackbox Theater at Atlantic Center for the Arts, alongside the studio complex where fans were treated to New Smyrna Beach Brewing and Clancy’s Cantina poke’ and tacos.  Thanks for all our sponsors below who make this event happen for five programming nights per year.

Congratulations to all the winners, and congratulations to all the selections for 2021.  We sincerely appreciate all your hard work and can’t wait to see where you turn your lenses next.

Here are all the winners for 2021:

Best Documentary – Short:            Mirage: The Ever-Changing Story of Skeleton Bay

Best Surf Movie – Short:                 Dark Hollow by Dion Agius and Joe G.

Best Cinematography – Short:       Dark Hollow by Dion Agius, et al.

Best Soundtrack – Short:                Inner Wild by Jack Coleman

Viewers’ Choice – Short:                 The Midnight Hour by Keith Malloy

Best Documentary – Feature:        Waterman, by Isaac Halasima and and producers, David Ulich and Dr. Steven Ungerleider, The Foundation for Global Sports Development & Sidewinder Films

Best Surf Movie – Feature:             Rainbows in the Rearview, by Albee Layer and Dan Norkunas

Best Cinematography – Feature:  Arc of Aleutia by Chris Burkard and Ben Weiland

Best Soundtrack – Feature:            Polysun by Jack Coleman

Viewer’s Choice – Feature:             Girls Can’t Surf by Chris Nelius

It’s been an incredible year, and there’s no way to thank all of the producers, directors, cinematographers, and editors that put their hard work into these projects. Their stories are the ones we want to hear. Adam Steckley constructed our 2021 awards from a washed-up piece of lacewood from the damage caused by Hurricane Andrew in 1992.

For a full archive of the films presented during the festival year, please visit our website at

We recognize the difference between Best Documentary and Best Surf Movie.  Those who approach the art form by documenting a character, locale, etc. with personal interviews, historical footage, and anecdotal clips will be in competition for Best Documentary, and those movies focusing on the high performance, action-driven sequences will compete for Best Surf Movie. This award will be extended to short films as well. In addition, Best Cinematography and Best Soundtrack will be awarded for both feature and short films, along with a Viewers’ Choice award.

Florida Surf Film Festival’s jury, comprised of twelve individuals with journalistic, cultural, and/or experiential factors will determine recognition.

Juries include:  Feature Films – Matt Warshaw, Chas Smith, David Scales, Taylor Steele, Keith Malloy, Lauren Hill, and Ira Opper.  Short Films –Marcus Sanders, Takuji Masuda, Matthew Shaw, Scott Hulet, Ashton Goggans, and Joe Turpel.

We are proud to have Monster Energy serve as our presenting sponsor for this year’s festival, providing travel and lodging for the filmmakers who attend the festival.

Principal Sponsors:  Roark, YETI, Surfline, Globe Brand Footwear, Anson Stoner (Advertising and Creative), and Atlantic Center for the Arts.

Major Sponsors: Aetna Healthcare, Cronin Surfboards, Florida Virtual School, Brian Layman Wealth Management, Red Dog Surf Shop, Kembali Board Shack, Café Verde, and Clancy’s Cantina

Sponsors:  SurfYogis Sunscreen, Scott Yurchison Real Estate, Dragon Alliance, LunDev Homes, New Smyrna Beach Brewing Company, Nixon, Mangrove Bay Design, Biological Consulting Services, La Ponderosa Beach and Jungle Resort, Total Vision, Funxion IT, Holistic Movements, NSB Spine and Injury Center, Beachside Tavern, Daytona Climbing Company, Surfrider Foundation (Cocoa Beach and Flagler/Volusia Chapters).

Media Partnerships include:  Surfline, Stab, The Surfer’s Journal, Surf Splendor Podcast Network, Beach Grit, The SurfNetwork, and Encyclopedia of Surfing.

Encyclopedia of Surfing provides our historical and archival needs.

Florida Surf Film Festival mission: 

Florida Surf Film Festival’s is a 501(c)(3) non-profit whose mission is to invigorate surf culture and artistic appreciation by exhibiting contemporary documentary films with surfing as a focus from artists far and wide and operate featured-artist workshops in journalism, photography, and filmmaking.

-Kevin Miller