SURFER'S PATH Issue # 30 by Alex Dick Read
RunMental is sick. It's ugly. It's low-down and dirty. The language is foul, the footage is terrible and the humour hardly perceptible through the schoolyard crap which the narrators spout all the way through the film. And yet it seems such sweet relief in these drought days, like the taste of a sickly, sticky candy bar when you're about to starve to death. Not what you crave, but of course it tastes good. Way, way back in time, surf movies used to be a communal event, shown in school and community theatres. People who made them had one thing in mind other than the door takings - they wanted to wow the crowd. And they did this by means of humour, often sick and schoolyard-level, and of course, by showing good surf footage. Good footage, in the early days, was usually grainy, often badly lit and very often, badly edited. But did the early surf movies wow the crowds? I wasn't there, but I've heard and read that the best ones ended in riots. Surf films these days - often clothing company adverts - flow out by the ton. Backed by high-quality equipment and healthy blue-water budgets, they tend to wash through the surf population broadly unnoticed. The quality is excellent, the aspirations are sometimes high and the schoolboy humour is heavily controlled so as not infect the minds of the young product purchasers, or at least, so their shocked parents don't ban them from buying the latest video or clothing label. Basically, they're A Grade, but often boring. Runman Films' latest release is happy to be D Grade, and riotous in the old sense. For a start, their footage is both the worst I've seen on a commercially released film, and some of the best. It's dark, shaky and a strange blurred sepia-blue, and yet...some guy, we don't know who, rides one of the longest barrels I can ever remember seeing. The waves and surfers of Kauai, where much of this was shot, provide some awesome watching. Titus Kinimaka, pretty much the only surf industry celebrity to appear in the film, disappears into double-storey A-frame chambers and comes flying out, over and over again, while numerous unknown riders perform similar brain-frying feats. It's a healthy reminder that whatever happens on the Tour or however skilled the sponsored riders of the world may be, there is a huge swathe of the surfing population - it could be you or I -out there riding incredible waves, all over the world, everyday. So while the film quality is terrible, the surf and the surfing in RunMental can only qualify as amazing. And the lame schoolyard humour? I wanted to turn it off. I know people who did. We don't need to watch this shit. To paraphrase the narrator himself, who sounds bored and disgusted throughout, the visuals can be summed up as, "butt, butt, surfing, titties, kooks, surfing, barrel, barrel, butt, tourists falling over, surfing, surfing, idiot doing something idiotic, butt, butt, surfing...." Sure, we don't need to see half the stuff that's there, but there are some incredibly funny parts and something else that's extremely rare in American video productions - clever sarcasm. There's something refreshing about Runman's "fuck you" attitude. It's just more believable than the fake punk sold to us in 90% of the other videos we see. I've watched parts of this video again, with my finger on the Fast Forward button, whereas most of the usual films fall into my one-time viewing category. There isn't an agenda behind it, other than a simple "fuck you" to anyone who cares to watch, and some incredible surfing that makes it worth that minor offence.