Top positive review
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Can't Wait for the Sequel!
on 9 December 2012
Thank you, thank you, thank you to Matt Crocker and James Dean (directors) for making The Endless Winter. I've been watching each teaser as they've been released over the last few months and when the full length film was broadcast in three episodes on C4, I was thrilled to find that the finished product lives up to the hype. No wonder it won Best British Film at the London Surf Film Festival. This film is always going to be a favourite for me and I'm sure it's also going to have a longstanding cult following as well. This is a fantastic film and not just because the filming of the surfing, beaches and coastlines is so beautiful. The Endless Winter also takes the eccentricities of the British surf scene seriously and treats the subject with all the curiosity this quirky subculture deserves.
The basic premise of the documentary is a road trip around Britain led by presenters Mitch Corbett and Mark Harris, who interview the local characters at a number of famous surf spots. In Newquay, we get to hear about the first ever attempt at big wave surfing in the UK, which took place at the Cribbar in the late 60s. In Wales, Linda Sharp shares her memories of competing in the early (and very male) British surf scene. In the Northeast, we learn about what it was like to surf Arctic swell when wetsuit innovations apparently consisted of a wool jumper under a diving suit. The section on Tynemouth is one of the most memorable with Gabe Davies getting choked up while remembering his mentor Nigel Veitch, who died at the age of 26.
Interspersed throughout this interview material are semi-humorous history spots. One of these narrates Cook's first sighting of stand-up surfing in Tahiti to a background of animation similar to a Victorian stage setting complete with overly patriotic music. And of course, this would not be a British documentary without a BBC accented voice over providing the authoritive narrative coherence for the whole. The three modes of filming work really well together. The humorous bits take the edge off the nationalist flavour of identifying a properly British surf culture and the traditional documentary qualities provide the objective approach needed to encourage the public to take the history of surfing seriously.
Mitch and Mark are fantastic presenters as well. If I could identify any fault in this film, it would be that more use could have been made of them. In the section about surfing the Severn bore, there is a wonderfully humorous accident where Mark scrambles up the river bank into a garden to unexpectedly come face to face with the home owner. His reaction is classically understated and British, `I'm sorry, is this your garden?' If these guys can make surfing a tidal bore in smelly brown water look like fun, they must get up to other things during this journey that are worth including in a film. Toward the end, much is made of surf exploration in the section called `the next chapter' and surf exploration is also a prominent feature in Mitch and Mark's profiles on the website. Will we have more Endless Winter with a focus on surf exploration in future? Can I suggest that we do?
For me, this film is always going to be a favourite because it makes such a virtue of the eccentricity of the British surf scene. When I first came to Britain, I was really hard pressed to find a way of enjoying the beach. Having grown up in New Jersey, regular visits to the beach aren't a privilege to me, they are a necessity. Imagine my surprise when most people I met on this island just didn't seem interested in going to the beach at all. Then I went surfing in Newquay on a whim and caught the bug. What a relief to find others who are just as beach-obsessed as me. And all of the surfers I have met have been equally nice and enthusiastic to the people Mitch and Mark interview. Watching The Endless Summer makes me feel proud of the fact that I've had the opportunity to interact with this friendly, quirky and welcoming cold water surf scene. I also wonder if my weirdness makes me fit in well. After all, what could be more strange than a thirty-something American woman from a warm coastal state trying to learn how to surf in Scarborough, one of Britain's coldest breaks?