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SURFERMAG.COM INTERVIEW: Andrew Kidman – Filmmaker, Artist, Musician

| posted on July 22, 2010

Low key is an understatement. Australian filmmaker, artist, and visionary Andrew Kidman is very relaxed. He glides into my office with the ease of a neap tide, ebbing and flowing naturally. Like the art he creates, both musically and in film, Kidman is harmonic and calming. In the States to tour his newly released film Glass Love, Andrew Kidman stopped by the office for a quick chat. The tour, which includes an acoustic guitar set by Kidman, is however, centered around the movie itself: a mellow vantage of our culture sans heat sheet, including the Curren clan in congress, Neal Purchase Jrs. backside tuberiding technique, and travels into organic Kiwi-land. This tour is a must see. Go check it out! – Scott Bass

SURFERMAG.COM:
To me, one of the highlights of the Glass Love was when Tom (Curren) grabbed the board from Joe (Curren), the green board; it was pretty magical, you could tell that he was digging it. The board looked pretty beastly and he was just ripping on it.

ANDREW KIDMAN:
Yeah, he was riding a really thin board, Tom was that day. Like a super-thin modern board and then…he was surfing really well, but as soon as he jumped on that green board, because it was thicker and the swell had a bit of punch to it, that’s the first wave he rode, the one where he does that carve. I think, to look at it, it looked like something that he’d ridden before in Hawaii, like one of those Maurice Coles’ or something?

SURFERMAG.COM:
It seemed to me like there was more of an ethereal connection with his dad when he rode the board. I’m sure that there’s some unstated tension between the two and it seemed like riding that board was therapeutic for him.

ANDREW KIDMAN:
He didn’t want to give it back, I know that. That’s one thing that you could see in the water when he didn’t want to give it back to Joe. But I talked to him about it and he said that he’s ridden a lot of his dad’s boards growing up and he said it felt like one of them again. I could understand why he could have a good surf if that happened. It’d be the same for anyone. Kind of what Joe says at the end of the film: He grew up riding his dad’s boards. That summed it up really.

SURFERMAG.COM:
Do you remember the gist of what Joe is saying?

ANDREW KIDMAN:
He said that it’s really special, like, why wouldn’t it be special? You’re riding your dad’s board and boards that he built for you, and it’s really special and also really personal. I think that’s what you see on the green board, like it said something really personal. You know, it’s rare to see that stuff in surfing because there’s so many barriers put up for everything, so if you get lucky like that, and we’re just getting into that stage where families are starting to come through generations, you know. They’re kind of one of the original families, because his dad was one of the original guys. Plus they’re one of the first families to come through with really good surfers, too. It’s incredible, I think it’s just an amazing story. It just shows you how rich it is, surfing. The fact that his dad did that and he’s still doing it. And then when I asked Joe if he wanted to show the board from him, Joe was a bit nervous to ask him, but his dad was just stoked. It was just funny ’cause right after we filmed that segment we took it back and showed Pat and he didn’t understand it. Like he watched the footage but he didn’t really understand what was going on. He was like, “Was it (the green board) any good?” He couldn’t tell if it went good. Then I heard he saw the film and he was stoked because it was slowed down and he could see how it worked and stuff. ’Cause it’s an amazing surfboard for someone who doesn’t shape boards like that. It’s pretty narrow, but it’s got a lot of thickness and that thickness compensates for the narrowness, but you don’t think it would turn like it is, but it does, it’s sort of a vee-bottom, so it’s a pretty amazing board. You pick it up and you’re like, “Is this going to work?” And then as soon as you stand on it, it has a beautiful flow to it. Especially with someone like Tom riding it, he can find those flow-points really easily. It’s a cool story, so I was pretty lucky.

SURFERMAG.COM:
What about the Glass Love Tour itself? Obviously we get to go watch a great surf movie, but there’s music involved. You’re going to be performing. What can the audience expect? What’s the musical show all about?

ANDREW KIDMAN:
They’re just songs that I’ve written.

SURFERMAG.COM:
Like a 45-minute set? Is it freeform?

ANDREW KIDMAN:
They’re not freeform. We’re just going to do acoustic, me playing acoustic. I’ve done a few shows in Australia like that and it’s fun. You know, every show is different. Like the last show we had grommets standing in the front row heckling.

SURFERMAG.COM:
How did you respond to that?

ANDREW KIDMAN:
I played “The Mullet Song” and I got them singing along. It’s hard to know what to do but you get over it. You see what happens. It’s funny ’cause I used to get on the stage and do open mikes and stuff and we couldn’t even get your name down to go up.

SURFERMAG.COM:
Speaking of crowds, surfing is crowded these days. I’m wondering how you deal with crowds — do you get frustrated by crowds?

ANDREW KIDMAN:
Obviously, we surf around Snapper and sometimes it’s insane. But I usually just go in. It seems like it takes a lot out of the experience to stay out there and try to deal with it.

SURFERMAG.COM:
Have you ever gotten in a physical confrontation in the water?

ANDREW KIDMAN:
Yeah, but not in a long time. At Jeffreys Bay years ago some guy attacked me, so that was weird. But then he later said he was sorry. It’s a funny thing: It seems like the more perfect the surf, the more crowded and angry people get.

SURFERMAG.COM:
It’s kind of a paradox, isn’t it?

ANDREW KIDMAN:
It is really when you have perfect waves coming down the point and you’ve got people fighting each other for them. It’s the greed thing and it’s the worst. You’ll watch guys and they’ll catch every wave. The most frustrating thing for me is when I’m surfing with Michelle, my partner, and she’s getting hassled by people. She can surf, she’s a confident surfer, but she’s not aggressive, and so people will paddle around her all the time, take off on her and drop in on her. If she could get a wave she’d be fine, she only wants one, but she can’t even get that one. And she comes in …

SURFERMAG.COM:
Frustrated?

ANDREW KIDMAN:
Kind of scarred a little bit. It’s pretty brutal. Sort of affects the whole day. One of those guys out there that gets all those good waves, all he has to do is let one go. That’s kind of why we put that thing in that (Steve) Pezman’s talking about at the end of the movie. Well, that’s kind of why I put it there — I think they need to hear that from someone like him because he’s been around for so long and saying that with the exponential growth of crowds, he’s still humble and he’s happy to just catch one wave. You’re going to have to take that into consideration some time.

SURFERMAG.COM:
What about music and surfing and their relationship together? Do you think that they’re symbiotic? Am I making it out to be too much? Is it just surfing over here and music over here?

ANDREW KIDMAN:
I talked to Tom about this too. And his belief was that surfing films have always come with music, so people always relate music to surfing, and when I’m at the film I want to have the kind of music that I like on the film.

SURFERMAG.COM:
What about if you had the opportunity to listen to music while you’re surfing?

ANDREW KIDMAN:
Sometimes I do, sometimes you have it in your head and you have a blast and you’re singing that song in your head and you have a great time. I don’t think I would listen to music, if you could — I wouldn’t do it. I like to listen to the ocean. Sometimes you’ll be in a barrel and it’s just the most incredible sound you’ve ever heard. I know that’s going to happen soon [music in the lineup].

SURFERMAG.COM:
It’s already happening. I do it all the time.

ANDREW KIDMAN:
Really?

SURFERMAG.COM:
You get that a lot with anything new that comes into surfing. Board designs coming in — it seems like it creates rifts between people. Why do you think that is?

ANDREW KIDMAN:
I don’t know. If you’re having a good time listening to music while you’re surfing, do it. It doesn’t affect anybody else. It’s the same as surfboard design: If you’re having a good time on fishes or modern thrusters, then cool. I think maybe they feel challenged by it. Buy whatever makes you happy, do whatever you want to do.

SURFERMAG.COM:
What about style? Who do you think has the best style in the water today in the world of surfing? Who do you look at today and say, “Gosh, I want my kid to surf like that?”

ANDREW KIDMAN:
I really like watching people that follow the wavelines, the way the line of the wave goes. I think you could say that about the movie too. If you watch Glass Love, all of the people in there I think have good style, they follow where the speed-points of the waves are and the heart of the wave. And demolish it. That’s what I think is good style. But style is also function. Functional surfing –say you want to be in the right spot for the tube, you need to put yourself in there somehow. I’ll find that however you do that you’re going to do it with a certain kind of style. And world-class surfers are able to put themselves in that position with some sort of grace or beauty. It’s almost style-less.

SURFERMAG.COM:
Do you think that surfing could be described as dancing?

ANDREW KIDMAN:
Well, for sure. But surfing’s just its own thing. You know how people try to compare it to other things. It’s a dance, it’s this, it’s that, maybe so other people that don’t surf can understand it. But it really is its own thing.

SURFERMAG.COM:
It would be selling it short to pigeonhole it by comparison?

ANDREW KIDMAN:
Well, it’s not dancing.

SURFERMAG.COM:
But I would argue that maybe it is dancing. I like to think that I’m dancing. But it’s gymnastics too.

ANDREW KIDMAN:
Right. It’s all these weird things. But then you’re also doing a thing that just is.

SURFERMAG.COM:
Certainly dance is an expression of one’s self and I think that most of us are trying to express ourselves.

ANDREW KIDMAN:
Surfing?

SURFERMAG.COM:
Yeah. Definitely. We’re certainly not trying to rack up points.

ANDREW KIDMAN:
Well, some of us are. And some people are good at it, too. I saw Mick Fanning in that contest recently and his take on it was unbelievable. I’ve never seen anything like it. Which is great, I love to see that, it’s an element of surfing that I’m not really involved in. He’s like a gymnast, that guy, where he puts himself and how he gets in and out of things. It’s amazing. It’s a lot of those things, though. Then you’ve got that element about, it’s a piece of water that comes to you and you get this thrill.

SURFERMAG.COM:
Yeah, I think it’s often overlooked that we are riding a wave. It’s the only physical manifestation of wave energy.

ANDREW KIDMAN:
That’s what I like to think about, other people are doing dancing and snowboarding and it’s all something that doesn’t move. But that wave comes and moves and that’s amazing that when you’re done, it’s gone, it isn’t there.

SURFERMAG.COM:
The wave is the dance partner that leads the dance. Do you agree?

ANDREW KIDMAN:
Sure, but that’s a human. The wave, it’s an entity. It’s just a really unique thing; it’s definitely an addictive thing as well.

SURFERMAG.COM:
What else can we say about Glass Love and the tour?

ANDREW KIDMAN:
Well, we’ll be putting on the shows. The music’s fun. We’re not going to play music for too long, but I think people could really enjoy the music we play. We want to take it as many places as we can take it. It’d be nice if we can take it to some of the colder places. The shows at home were really fun to do it in the kind of isolated towns because people don’t get that all the time. They’re just a different kind of people. I’ve done shows in the city and I’ve enjoyed the shows in the country a lot more. They’re real hardcore surfers. They’re into their own designs and they were into talking to you about it, it was just real interesting, whereas in the city, people were there but they weren’t really sure why they were there, or they were still learning about surfing, whereas the guys that came down into the South Coast, they’ve spent 20 years surfing. It’s just cool, they’ve got respect and you’ve got respect for them. I think you’d find the same thing if you went up to Northern California as well. Or even Maine, or places like that.