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The Melding Of Finless Surfing With Classical Violin

| posted on July 22, 2010

We recently caught up Mick Sowry, the writer / director of the documentary Musica Surfica. The film explores Derek Hynd’s friction free finless surf festival at King Island. An added twist is the not-so classical spin on the classical music of Australian Chamber Orchestra director Richard Tognetti. The film requires you to push away the barriers of what is considered ‘correct’, or conventional, and open your thoughts to a new way to ride waves — and perhaps new ways to listen as well.

SURFER: In the film Derek Hynd is riding a number of different finless boards; it looks as if the boards that Derek really likes have a wider tail outline. Tell us a little bit about what Derek is riding?

MICK SOWRY: The edge does a have bead but Derek is constantly experimenting with design. There are two things he is looking for, he wants the boards to bite as he’s coming off the bottom, but he wants the boards to release so he can spin.

SURFER: The 360-degree spin is sort of the staple maneuver, isn’t it?

MICK SOWRY: He’s got several different maneuvers that he uses. He obviously has the spin and that is a stalling maneuver that keeps him near the power zone and another move that he calls an ‘upback’ that he uses to go up to the top of the wave and come down sliding back on his track. When I first met Derek I was like “how do you ride these?” And I had heard some scuttlebutt about him riding 8-foot Bells and doing all these spins and stuff. So I asked him, ‘Can you bottom turn? Can you ride the tube?” and he said, “Yeah, you can do that.” And then I asked him, “Can you do a cutback?” And Derek said, “No, but I can do an upback.” Strangely enough, I’ve seen him do cutbacks on his backhand, because then he has his inside toe edge, like doing a forehand bottom turn, to control it. It’s been interesting watching him evolve because over the 18 months that I’ve known Derek. He surfs all day long, if there is a swell he’ll drive away following the swell and surf all day. And we had a swell run up the coast from the Central Coast all the way to Noosa and Derek followed the swell all the way up there and I got to see him evolve and get better and better.

SURFER: The music in the film is interesting. I’m not a guy to listen to classic violin, but the film’s music was unique. Not something I’d ever consider really listening to. But I find myself listening to the soundtrack in my car.

MICK SOWRY: The idea behind the film, the theme of the film, the philosophy, was the concept of ‘risk in learning.’ Put yourself outside the comfort zone and you’ll learn new things. If you stagnate, that’s all you will do is stagnate, but if you try and push your limits in surfing or in life you’ll find fascinating rewards, and without sounding preachy, that’s what we wanted to show the surf world.

SURFER: The finless movement here in the US is small but it is happening. What does it say about our culture when the finless movement happens with really, no tangible help from the surf industry?

MICK SOWRY: Yeah, look something was bound to happen, the seeds were partly sown back with Litmus with Derek trying to make people understand that there was greater depth to our heritage as surfers than just what Kelly (Slater) rides. No disrespect to Kelly at all. But most surfers are riding potato chip thin surfboards that they realistically probably have no business being on. So I think Derek reacted against that. And on top of that I think most surfers were a bit bored. But look, Scott, let’s be clear, if you go out on a finless surfboard you are not going to rip. It’s just not going to happen. But you have a heck of a lot of fun reinventing yourself and challenging yourself. It’s not a 6-foot thruster. And I think guys riding the hulls in California and the fish, or whatever, theses boards demand a different line, they demand a sense of trim and glide and you can still do strong powerful turns. There are some limits to what you can do, but the enjoyment of riding they wave itself on these different models of design is limitless. I think the finless movement is just an extension of looking outside of the narrow thruster paradigm. Surfers understand that surfing is a dance. It feels good. It’s not how it looks to other people but how it feels to you that is important. Surfers get that now, now more than ever. It’s like when someone breaks out a video of you surfing. You think you were surfing pretty good, but the video doesn’t look so good. But it sure did feel good when you were doing it, and we should enjoy what it feels like. And that feeling is why we go surfing.