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.