Visit to Praia do Norte

Praia do Norte has already established a name for itself among the surfing world. The Portuguese beach made headlines around the world when american surfer Garrett McNamara surfed the biggest wave ever: a wall of water with 90 feet.

Nowadays, Praia Norte has become something of a surfing Mecca in Europe, with hundreds of people visiting the place every weekend. This week we made the trip ourselves and give you the account with a detailed photo gallery.

The  lighthouse featured in the now famous Garrett Mcnamara´s surfing picture
The mentioned photo
The same photo on the frontpage of the London Times
Close to the lighthouse, a van displays images of the big rides
The best part was seeing the enthusiasm of local families
Praia do Norte beach - a hill separates the main city of Nazaré and the famous beach.
The lighthouse seen above resides on the top of that hill.
The powerful Atlantic Ocean. This is the view you have from the lighthouse.
Farol, portuguese for lighthouse
Close to the lighthouse, you can get very close to the sea.
The waves were not as huge as when Garrett broke the world record,
nonetheless the power of the water was something of great beauty to observe.
Another view of Praia do Norte, close to the lighthouse.
A sunny day over Nazaré. It is a tourist-friendly fishermen´s city


Surfing in Iceland

This blog has a thing for unusual ways of surfing. Anyone remembers those dudes that surfed with wooden boards, the long waves of River Kampar in Indonesia or the balls of steel that it takes to surf in the gelid ocean waters of Alaska?

The surfing world will never cease to surprise us, and this week Ian Battrick brings you the amazing adventure of surfing in Iceland. From the same country that elected a comedian mayor for its capital and brought us thing like Lazytown or Bjork, we present you one of the surfing world best kept secrets: the ice cold waves of the arctic.

But remember: if you wanna give it a try dont forget the thick wetsuit.

Ásatrú, surfing & camping in Iceland with Ian Battrick from Ian Battrick on Vimeo.


Interview with Finian Pye (Director of the movie The Endless Wave)

It is probably the most famous urban wave in the world. The Eisbach River in Munich is for surfers in Germany what Hawaii represents for americans in the U.S. However there are some big differences: you won´t see tanned broads or sandy beaches in Munich. Located  in the middle of the bavarian capital, the Eisbach River is the place where river surfing goes to a whole other level.

"The Endless Wave" is the flick that documents this amazing alternative to the sport we all love. We interviewed its director, Finian Pye and got a great insight about the work of a surf movie director that we all should keep an eye on for the future.

Great Surf Movies: Tell me about the process of filming The Endless Wave. What equipment did you use and what filming techniques did you employ? 

Finian Pye: I used a Panasonic SD900 to film "The Endless Wave". What was important was to get shots of all sides of the Wave to create a bubble of the environment for the viewer to get a sense of the environment this special place was being filmed in. For me the slow mo shot was a giver as it is for the surf film, genre defying and in this case you you really get a feel of the strength of this river which I believe flows at 30 cubic metres per second. Most of the film was shot hand held, although I did use my tripod for a few shots.

Editing on Premier Pro took me about 5 weeks, I am known for working long long hours on my films, in this case I would work on it for a day or two and then leave it for three or so days so that when I came back to editing a could have a step back from my work so I could see what needed to be improved. I personally think sound is very important to the film. You can have bad shots but well recorded sound and still have a pleasant result. I found the sound the hardest to edit as in various shots you have the sound of the wave at noticeably different levels, and these needed to match to make the film flow throughout.

The end result exceeded my expectations. I then sent the film to some old teachers and friends to critique and then worked on what I could before officially releasing it on the 14th of October. It was a great little project to work on and the reception and kind words I have recieved has far exceeded my expectations.

GSM: How did you get to know Munich´s fantastic urban wave and what do you had in mind when shooting the flick?

FP: My mother is from Munich, I am fluent in German and go to the city two or three times a year, and see the city as my second home. The Eisbach is near the famous Haus of Kunst (House of Art) and the first time I saw was about 8 years ago. I was amazed, I didn't know river surfing existed in Munich, which is far away from the nearest beach!
 I was with my photo-keen Mum at the time and that was the time she took the photos you see in the film. Since then whenever I have been about I have spent a fair amount of time sitting by the side and watching the surfers. Its incredible what they do on that Wave, as the surfers have adapted to their environment. What struck me is how small a space they have to use whereas the sea gives you an enormity of space to manoeuvre. I had wanted to make a wee film on the Eisbach for at least a year before I actually filmed it.I knew what kind of shots I wanted and what questions I wanted to ask the surfers but didn't plan it beyond that. I just rocked up with the ideas in my head, hoping that there would be some people surfing there. I told people I was making a short film, though a fair few didn't want to be interviewed or didn't feel it was appropriate as they were not actually from Munich.
 Had there not been any surfers I would have come back the next day, but as it was late August I was sure that there would be. I didn't know any surfers there so couldn't pre arrange anything which was unlike every other film I have made! It was actually quite refreshing taking this approach as it was a step into the unknown, though could have been a failure!

GSM: How did you get started in directing?

FP: I had always been into films and its processes. I did film studies in sixth form and my first films where "film noir" trailers we made. At the University of the West of England I then studied joint history and media and cultural studies, specialising in film.

 Outside of uni I was practising my art of filming using my 6 megapixel samsung camera then editing on windows movie make. Initially I made music videos performed by me and my friends. I was never shy to show them and I learnt my basis of practise and directing my own films. This helped me prepare for the enormity that was really my final year uni project, an anthropological film on students which took my filming to a new level.

I have always been keen for extreme sports especially surfing so I guess directing a surf film was the next step for me and a path I will continue pursue, for now as a hobby, maybe one day as a profession but either way I will be a happy man. 

GSM: What are your favourite surf movies?

FP: The inspriation for my film was from watching Bjorn Richie Lobs (2009) film "Keep Surfing", for me that was quite an amazing cinematic experience as it combined my favourite city with my favourite sport! Really worth a watch as Munich has a unique surf culture unlike the most famous surf spots and towns. I showed many to many of my mates, but very few understood the German it is mainly filmed so I thought making a short English language film would be a cool project.

As you may have guessed from my film title The Endless Summer (1966) is one of my favourites. Bruce Brown's commentary throughout instills a warmth that only David Attenborough has been able to create for me so far, and depicts the sport in its rawest form, before all the sponsorship hype. I also love the intensity of the colour in which the film was produced back then. Bruce Brown has already created an inspiring moment for my next film project.

GSM: Do you have already a project for a future movie? If so, tell us about it.

FP: In the new year I will be commencing my new film in West Cornwall. My brother lives down in Penwith and he and a few mates are going to come down with me and shoot. Planning is already underway and we will have more cameras, go pro cameras and I'm looking forward to getting in the water,  in with the action,to film this time. Surf conditions should be good that time of year and I am taking in all the feedback from The Endless Wave to put all my creative energy make this next one as engaging as can be.

GSM: What makes in your opinion a great surf movie?

FP: I think what is important is to give the viewer a sensation of where they are. Whether it is the small spot like the Eisbach or a vast sprawling coastline in western Australia you need to give the viewer a chance to see their surroundings. Chances are that the viewer will never actually see the place you have filmed. I always like to see interview footage with those who surf or habitat the location as their words can mean as much as the images to convey the film.

GSM: What kind of advice do you have for someone who wants to start directing a surfing movie?

FP: I guess a an individual passion to make the film as good as you can, and to get some friends who are keen to be aboard your project. Be inspired and above all have fun! Make it for the love of filming and surfing rather then for profitable gains.


Joel Parkinson gets in altercation with bodyboarder

Things are getting heated up in Portugal. The world´s best surfers are currently competing on the waves of Peniche, Portugal, for the last European leg of the ASP World Tour, but the last events have been of trouble for two of the world´s surfing superstars: Kelly Slater and Joel Parkison. Both surfers habe been involved in two minor altercations.

The first incident involved Kelly Slater. The american all-time record champion changed some heated words with a photographer after almost running him over.

The second altercation got a bit more serious. Joel Parkinson got almost physical with a local bodyboarder. Next time Parko should be more careful, Peniche surfers are known in Portugal for being ferociously hostil to any non locals. Local elitists of that small fishing city can indeed ruin all the fun.


Sustainability in boardsports

     Not every surf movie is about great surfing manoeuvres or monster waves, there is a type of movie - let´s call them meta surfing movies - that care about every other aspect that concerns the sport, be it the training, the daily life of the surfers, or, in the case of today´s movie, the sustainability of it. 

    The "3 weeks, 3 boards, 3 friends" project (abbreviated to 3fwb), made three surfers come together in order to "document the lifestyle, the adventure and the passion of travelling" in three different sports: snowboarding, skating and surfing. Matze Reif, Benno Postert and Maximilian Meisberger took a three week trip, documenting their experiences on concrete, snow and water and presenting their discoveries and experiences on a weekly web episode.  

    The fifth web episode of the first season, called "Sustainability in Boardsports" is particularly interesting to the world of surfing. It consists on an interview with Tony Butt, author of the book "Guide to sustainable surfing" and discusses the ecological footprint surfers leave and suggestions for more sustainability in the world of boardsports. An interesting view.


The best of 50 years of wipeouts

Over recent years the Style Evolution Project (SEP) has made a notorious contribution in recovering what we could call "lost" surf movies - "surfing footage that is becoming rapidly unavaible due to new video formats". This video in particular compiles 50 years of the most amazing surfing wipeouts ever recorded on tape.


The greatest surf movies you've probably never heard about (Interview with Brian Tissot)

       While digging around the interwebs looking for movie treasures (and believe me there is still an insane amount of fantastic footage to be discovered), I found a remarkable relic. Filmed during the seventies with a Super 8 camera, this collection of ten short movies captures an era when surfing began to take a defining role on american youth culture.

As an authentic and beautifully raw material the footage is testimony to a whole generation of californian surfers, mostly teenagers who cruised through places like La Jolla, Shell Beach or Santa Cruz looking for the perfect wave.

Its author, Brian Tissot, a marine biologist based in the United States and an enthusiastic teenage filmmaker when these movies were shot, kindly agreed to answer some questions about the footage and share some of the experiences he had as a surfer.

 Brian also writes about surfing, here is a fine example and a recommended reading for everyone interested in a part of America´s surfing history.

(The complete collection of surfing videos by Brian Tissot can be found here)

Interview with Brian Tissot 

Great Surf Movies: Could you introduce yourself to our readers?

Brian Tissot:  I began my surfing career in Pacific Beach, California in 1970. I usually rode my bike to the beach although my mom also drove me to the beach and she would wait in the car while I surfed. Because I had a newspaper route in the morning I would usually arrive at the beach very early in the morning with my Friend Neal Unger, often while it was still dark and wait until we could see enough to paddle out. Those early days were by far the best of my life and the San Diego area was perfect for surfing: not too cold, you could progress from easy spots in Pacific Beach to the more challenging spots in La Jolla, Sunset Cliffs, north county and eventually Mexico, all within a relative short drive. 

My father was in the Navy so as we moved every two years my surfing career switched to Alameda, California (San Francisco bay area) where I surfed northern California and Santa Cruz; then to Alexandria Virginia  where I surfed Maryland, Delaware, Cape Hatteras and Florida; and on to College at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, California where I surfed the central California coast, Mexico, then on to Hawaii and eventually Indonesia. In those days I was also an avid skateboarder which kept me in shape between swells. 

In the 1980s my interests shifted from surfing to include SCUBA diving which ultimately led to my career as a marine biologist. I am currently a college professor at Washington State University near Portland, Oregon and part of my research involves using submersible to explore and ultimately conserve marine life and protect the ocean. Although I am very concerned about the health and future of our oceans, it is very exciting to work underwater and teach others about the importance of our waves and beaches. Yes, I still occasionally surf!

Great Surf Movies: How did you start to surf and how was surfing back in those days before mass popularity made an influence?

Brian Tissot: I started surfing with a longboard in the summer of 1970. I just went out and rode the foam in every day until I was good enough to move out into the line-up and catch swells a month or so later. The best part of those days was that you never knew what the surf would be like until you got there and me and my friends would often be the first people out, alone for awhile on perfect days. 

GSM: Tell us  something about the footage and the filming process. Did you have it all planed out ? What to you wanted to achieve with the movies?

BT: For most of my films I had a general idea of what I wanted to do but in reality I just filmed events as they unfolded. As such, my films are documentaries of our experiences. Because 8mm did not have sound most of films were edited to specific period music to capture the mood. My goal was to capture the waves and bring it back to share it with others. I grew up around a culture of going to great surf films like Endless Summer, Five Summer Stories and Pacific Vibrations where the room was packed with hooting surfers. I guess I was trying to recreate that experience. 

GSM: Whats the best story you remember from those filming days? What was the most risky thing you did just in order to catch a wave?

BT: The scene was to capture hot waves and great surf trips on film then show the film at parties. When I was on college at Cal Poly we had many a lot of fun doing that and often had big crowds showing up at our house in Shell Beach to watch the newest movie. It was an awesome time.

Probably the riskiest thing I ever did was to surf Fort Point (in San Francisco under the Golden Gate Bridge). At that time (in 1973) it was owned by the US Army and it was illegal to surf. My friends (mainly Jeff Chamberlain and Sam George) and I would wait until the MPs (Military Police) completed their patrol then paddled out for some quick waves before school. The first few times we surfed there were absolutely incredible. Eventually I got caught one too many times and was arrested for "trespassing on military property for purposes unlawful" and had to go to court. In the end the Army dropped the charges and Fort Point was turned over to the Park Service. We filmed the arrests and it is near the end of my Fort Point movie on YouTube. 

GSM: From all the places you surfed around the world, which one have you never forgot?

BT: I dream of surfing often and it always of my earliest days in Pacific Beach. Paddling out on a crisp morning with a light offshore breeze, 3-6 foot waves and getting tubed in front of my friends. I've surfed incredible waves at Uluwatu, Nusa Dua, Honolua, and the north shore of Oahu but those are my most treasured days.  

GSM: How do you see surfing nowadays? Do you relate in any form with the surfing culture of today?

BT: I think surfing is still pretty much what it always was it terms of making in intimate connection with the ocean and sharing it with friends. I will always relate to that. In my day surfing was a carefree style and carving smooth lines and getting tubed. The models were Gerry Lopez and Barry Kanaiaupuni.  Although I love watching surfers ripping waves apart and I have great respect for those that surf extreme waves such as Peahi, Mavericks, and Teahupoo that is a very different culture that what I respected when I was young.

This interview was made by email


Polyurethane, polystyrene or fiberglass? Nah, just wood

        Portland based eyewear company Schwood just released one more video of its experiment series. 

This new clip shows a group of surfers building a wooden surfboard made entirely of an old log found on the beach. This takes surfing up to its origins as the first surfboards were made of this material. 

Back in the time, wooden boards were made using the Wili Wili, the Ula and the Koa tree's and ranged from 10 to 16 feet long depending on social class. For hawaiian commoners  the size was about 10-12 feet while for the noblemen and chiefs the size was between 14-16 feet.


Collect Call From Canada

Those who have followed my site for a while know that I like surfing done in extreme conditions. It is easy for every slacker in Southern California to hit the beach with a surfboard (even just to show off), but to enter a sea in a remote region where the water temperature is cold beyond believe, sure takes some guts. "Collect Call from Canada" follows the three day surf trip of a very talented group of surfers headed by Dane Anderson.The stunning scenery allied to the music by Jesus and Mary Chain are the other contributions that make this flick one of the best surprises of the year.


Malibu Pier

 Surfing in Malibu is all fun and giggles until you approach the pier and have to show the real surfer in you. I wonder how the dude in the video manages to ride a surfboard with the huge balls he has to drag everywhere.


The rise of the machines in surfing?

And so it begins... If this trend catches up I can imagine the future ASP championships being disputed by a bunch of neckbeards sitting on the beach and controlling their radio controlled surfers from a safe distance. Well there is still no reason to overreact like the dude in the video though. Courtesy of catch surf.



ISOLATED - Documentary Film Trailer from Something Kreative Films on Vimeo.

It is supposedly one of the hidden gems in the surfing world. New Guinea is the world´s second largest island and one of those places emerged in a mystic of its own. It has one of the lowest population densities in Asia while being home to some of the last ancient tribes still in existence in our world. Considering all these facts all together it shouldn't surprise anyone why it keeps attracting adventurers and thrillseekers from around the globe.

It would be much too easy to put the following group of surfers that I am going to talk you about in the same category of adrenaline junkies. In a way, yes, the love for risk and the curiosity to meet an unknown culture had its weight, but what we learn with Isolated is that some experiences tend to get a lot more richer and broad than they first appeared to be.

The premise is simple indeed. A group of surfers takes on a journey to discover one of the world´s last undiscovered waves. What they meet is a world of stunning beauty and kind people but also one that hides an horrific dark side. Cannibalism, the prevalence of human rights atrocities and the nefast consequence of an unethical mining corporation taint the initial image of a lost paradise.

More than an impressive account of a somehow reclusive place that hides what some would consider an unspoiled dreamland for surfers, Isolated makes an effort to alert a broader audience for the problems that affect this troubled region. A flick to keep an eye on. (Watch the film trailler above).

The directors are seeking help is to raise finishing funds for the film through kickstarterin order to create awareness for the cause through the film. Interested in taking action? Check out here as well


Record for longest surf ride has been broken

It was not the most dangerous, biggest or beautiful wave but it made an englishman join the remarkable Guinness Book of Records. Surfer Steve King accomplished the feat of surfing the same wave for over 12 miles in River Kampar in Sumatra (Indonesia). The watercourse has gained worldwide recognition due to a a strange natural phenomenon called Bono. A rather strange tide leads to waves that can be over 19 feet high and last for 30 miles.

46 year old King managed to ride the same wave for 1 hour and 4 minutes. Over the last years the river Kampar has been the center place for a whole community of surfers that keep on meeting every year to ride together what has become one of the main tourist attractions of the island of Sumatra. Not even the numerous crocodiles that live in the river have detracted the joy of those fearless thrill seekers. Below you can see a video of Steve riding another famous river wave, the brazillian Pororoca and a second video of Steve´s  surfing action in Sumatra.



Almost Cut My Hair by Ryan Lovelace

        What makes our digital era so amazing? For me it is the possibility for an experienced filmaker to shoot some amazing footage with almost no budget at all. Got some cool idea? Grab a cam, film good surfers in action, mix it with a nice soundtrack and voilá: a serious case of a great surf movie has just been born. As a perfect example check Almost Cut My Hair by surfer and shaper Ryan Lovelace.



More on Nazaré´s waves: Praia do Norte

People have been asking about the waves Garrett McNamara has recently given worldwide recognition. Nazaré is a small town about 1.5 hours north of Lisbon, Portugal´s capital city. Actually, it is not far away from the country´s other two surf meccas: Ericeira and Peniche (where the ASP tour takes place). Those three world class waves are not more than 200 km apart from each other.
 For locals Nazaré has had a cult like following for years but it was with the arrival of Garrett that the mainstream surf community got amazed by the massive quality of its waves. The almost extraterrestrial size has an explanation: a 16.000 feet deep and 140 miles long undersea canyon is the responsable for these high breaking waves. Finally I leave you a video that took place on Nazaré´s top of the crown beach: Praia do Norte. It shows a bunch of world class surfers just enjoying an out of competition surf session.


Garrett McNamara breaks his own record, once again

100 feet. Yeah that´s right, you read that. Big wave rider Garrett McNamara broke his own record one more time by surfing a gigantic wave with an astonishing height of 100 feet. In contrast to other well known big wave riders, the Hawaiian chose Nazaré, a surfing location in Portugal to look for big waves and in the end it paid back. His last world record was from November 2011, when the 45 year old surfed a wave with 78 feet. Is there a limit in sight for this amazing rider?


Joel Parkinson, surf instructor

This blog has always had a pedagogic nature. Teaching kids (and older dudes) the noble art of surfing is one of the most important aspects in keeping this culture alive. Since I have never posted nothing about the new ASP champion, Joel Parkinson, I find it relevant to leave here one video about Joel performing as a teacher. Its nice to see such a great surfer showing some kids what true surfing is all about.
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