opinion

Let’s Begin Again

John Florence's latest clip raises the bar, by going back to basics

| posted on May 09, 2013

I followed with horror as the surf media had a social media orgasm over the release of John Florence’s new web clip Begin Again. On my Instagram feed, eight posts in a row from eight different media outlets proclaimed that you could watch it on their website. On Twitter and Facebook they heralded it as something glorious, something spectacular, something divine. One even hosted a physical premiere in Los Angeles…for a four-and-a-half minute web clip!

As the social stream continued to reveal itself, all I could envision was a backyard full of dogs waiting for John John to toss chunks of meat over the fence. In my mind’s eye each dog grabbed a piece and ran to its corner to consume it, protecting theirs fiercely as if they somehow got something that the others hadn’t.

Yes, SURFER took its steak, and by “contextualizing” the clip here all we’ve effectively done is marinated it and added some garnish. And it’s not lost on me that by writing all these words I’ve actually made more of a commotion than the outlets I’m pointing a finger at. But why wouldn’t we share this? It is an A-grade cut. I’m actually writing this in hopes that other surfers and filmmakers will take notice of this gem and follow suit. The edit is built on solid foundations. It’s what good surf films used to be: a great surfer in epic waves.

Granted, not everyone can surf like John John, so I don’t expect every web clip to meet this standard. But I think the real reason for the media’s spontaneous outpouring of hyperbolic goo is because we’ve been lulled into a stupor by endless clips of logos being waxed followed by mediocre sessions in head-high mush. Begin Again stirred something deep inside us: a memory of what surf films used to be like (even if this one still features gratuitous logo hits.)

Begin Again has no robots with fruit on their heads, there is no grainy footage or lens flares obscuring sub-par surfing, there is no evidence of surfers “making art,” the entire thing wasn’t filmed in one day in small, wind-blown “relatable waves” on an overcast day. It has variety, it’s set to good music. But mostly, it just celebrates good all around surfing.

It’s nothing revelatory, it’s just what a surf movie should be.

  • JOSE WR

    Nasty Great clip

  • https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/aquatica-magazine/id561877397?mt=8 Peter Anthony

    Very interesting point. I watched the clip a few times with my 8 year old who is super passionate about ice hockey, not surfing! Imagine that, a grom living in San Clemente who doesn’t surf. He told me the clip made him feel something that he had never felt before. He described it as candy for his mind. This pleased me as he fell asleep to that beautiful and authentic edit.

    If only we had 1080 video when Corky Carrol roamed the SoCal beaches!

  • http://www.michaelyankaus.com Mik

    I’m not sure which full-on / full length movies you are referring to, but if you are equating small self-promo vids, including Marine Layer, etc. (ulra rad, btw) with full-length films… and i think ur wrong to be claiming any form of superiority.

    First, other than the Waimea (?) section, DFR has posted heaving barrels as big and heavy as the Backdoor (?) sections on ML.
    and his hipster approach of filming works, for him.

    what drives art is freshness. and when freshness is achieved that doesn’t mean what preceded was lesser, because it was also fresh too, until that new kind of contrast emerges.

    Surfer is trying harder to be Outside magazine (corporate clean?), than what its roots were: core. creative. Surf.
    I suspect you’d have fired David Carson after one issue, and would have had a lesser talent redesign it.

    for me, Carson / Surfer & Travis Ferre / Surfing mark the most fascinating new eras in the different mags history.

    the one wasn’t better than the other, they both were fresh. ML is fresh, and as soon as it isn’t, Dane will be doing the next thing.

    Bottom line is: for sure, this footage of JJF, is rad, but it doesn’t matter what style is used to showcase him.

    (the intro music IS suspect tho’—but intentionally, one hopes)…..

    rambling on. yet again.

  • Barb *Rasta* Hanington

    John john is so hot in this this clip, I’m about to have it!!

  • Ben

    You have to take it a step further: Nobody, save maybe Slater, has the repertoire of John John, and presently only Slater or Dane could make such an exciting collection of clips (though Mason Ho is starting to really step up). I agree regarding the surfers as artists schtick: The grainy grey-scales and oblique photos are entertaining as a side note, an option, but should not be the main event.

  • david

    Amazing. While watching, why do I kept thinking about the original “The Performers”? This is so good.

  • http://leimo.tumblr.com,leim0.wordpress.com Lei Hookano

    I think I liked this write up just as much I liked the video. Things are SOOOOOOOOOO overhashed these days, but for this video, it does deserve the praise it’s getting. Thumbs up to John’s camp as usual for once again dazzling us with their surf media magic and double thumbs up to the writer of this here opinion piece for telling it like it is.

  • tony (ty) carson big isalnd

    Hey Brendan, for such an amazing clip, you got 8- oops, I mean 6 comments- must be some kind of surfer mag record..You seemed impressed by the media’s outpouring of hyberbolic goo, but you got only six hits on your blog.. Maybe, most real hardcore surfers, would rather be out catching waves themselves, than watching some so called, over payed pro. But hey, we know surfer mag gets advertising dollars from (Hurley, ect.), and your job probably requires a certain amount of a -kissing ..Lets not forget though, JJ gets paid by “Hurley” and “Hurley’ is owned by “Nike”. “Nike’ bought “Hurley” a few years back. Nike is a multi-billion dollar, corporate mainstream, track and field giant shoe company.. How core is that, (track and field)? Exactly, I believe, what most surfers are trying to get away from. Every dollar given to “Hurley” goes directly into “Nike’s” pockets, (the establishment). If your wearing something from “Hurley”- you might as well be wearing a “Nike”- corporate shirt and tie. Just remember, the best waves ever ridden-by a so called pro, or anyone- are always the waves you ride yourself. Peace…

    • Brendon Thomas

      @Tony “most real hardcore surfers, would rather be out catching waves themselves, than watching some so called, over payed pro.” And yet here you are…

  • daveblount

    In a similar vein in thick wetsuits – http://www.fergalsmith.com

  • tony (ty) carson big isalnd

    Hey Brendon, good one, and here I am again. While I did make a comment on this blog , I can truthfully say I did not ‘watch the clip and don’t think I have bought a mainstream surf dvd or video in over 20 years. I really believe I would rather be out riding waves myself, than watching some one else surf.. II’s bad enough that “Hurley” was named after a mediocre shaper from H..B.., ( Bob Hurley ), who had the modesty, (not), of naming the company after himself and now it is owned by “Nike”- (corporate establishment). Come on, where is the “youth against establishment”? Oh ya, Volcom was recently bought by “PPR” -a multi-billion dollar French women’s fashion company who also owns Gucci and now owns Volcom. I guess when you are now “owned” by the establishment -its pretty hard to be anti-establishment. Any way, sorry if I came on a little strong, just tired of seeing these companies prostituting surfing to the masses for their own personal gain. I still believe the best waves ever ridden- by a so called pro, or anyone- are always the waves you ride yourself. Peace…

  • http://Surfer Joe Bong

    Found the clip, shared it with friends. That guy rocks, I had to watch it twice to try to figure out how he did what he did. great stuff, what surfing is supposed to be, looks like he was completely at home.

  • pat

    ehh, I am 42 years old with pretty bad knees and a sore back from working my ass off day in and day out. I’m a better surfer than most, but it never occurs to me to put myself in a position that could prevent me from paying my bills each month. The last thing I want to watch is some spoiled little kid doing backflips in warm water. Show me some man hacks and perfect waves that make my little pecker perk up a bit. Thrown in some teenie boppers so I can have a happy ending.