Save the Waves Film Festival Graced LBI Post-Labor Day

Films Represent Activist Side of Surfing
Sep 13, 2017
Photo by: Highton Farias Surf and Sport on Friday night, Sept. 8, hosted the Save the Waves Film Fest.

Some film festivals are held in theaters in cities teeming with culture. Some have film industry players in attendance. Some film festivals feature meet and greets with breakout actors and directors, where executives and investors network at elaborate after parties.

Some film festivals are held outside of a surf shop. And that’s kind of the way we like it here.

Friday night, Sept. 8, was the Save the Waves Film Festival at Farias Surf and Sport, a traveling film festival that sheds a light on the activist side of surfing. The goal of this mobile event is not to present films promoting or glorifying activism, but rather film as activism.

Save the Waves is a global, nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting coastal resources through a unique combination of protected areas, economics and direct action. As a group, they see a world where waves and coastlines are cherished and protected. They don’t see a surf break merely as something that people just show up and use before heading on their way, but surfing as an economic and recreational reason for long-term coastal conservation.

“This was the kickoff of the whole U.S. leg of the tour,” says the film fest’s director, Trey Highton. “And it was awesome to have it on Long Beach Island, at a time where there’s so much happening with storms and climate change, to be with the Farias family and the locals here who are so aware of where they live. It’s an example of a coastal community that bounced back so well from Superstorm Sandy.”

Highton, who arrived on Thursday in his touring van, had the outside lot at Farias set up ideally for the event, which included dinner, a bar, and beach chair seating.

This year’s festival started with “Fish People,” a film by Keith Malloy that tells the story of modern characters of the sea. Next up was “Island Earth” by Cyrus Sutton, about the inner workings of GMO chemical companies and the land in Hawaii. That was followed by “Mas Afuera,” a pioneering trip to Selkirk Island. The finale of the evening was “Under an Arctic Sky,” Chris Burkard’s documentary of an expedition to Iceland for the most ferocious storm in 25 years to catch perfect waves under the northern lights. The finale of that one was truly breathtaking.

At the root of any surf film is “stoke,” a simple inspiration for surfing. But these films combine that desire for surf with ideas, issues and people who are looking deeper into the culture for answers to bigger issues. And motivating the viewer to be more aware of his or her place in it all.

Highton praised Old Causeway, who provided the food; Ryan Zimmerman, who played live music; and Jetty, who lent their screen and projector, along with sending over their new Session Ale.

This was the second year in a row that Highton came through Ship Bottom with the festival and Brian Farias was happy to host. A native of Virginia Beach, graduate of UC Santa Cruz and former surf guide in Central America and the South Pacific, Highton is pursuing a Ph.D. from UCSC centered on surfing and globalization, examining surfing as an agent of change among developing countries. He is a research fellow for Save the Waves and has been overseeing the film festival now for several years.

Highton met Farias at a wedding in Sayulita, Mexico. They became friends and Highton met up with the Farias family again two years ago in Hawaii. Farias attended one of his film festivals in Brooklyn and convinced him to come back to LBI afterwards. Now that he has been here a few times and made friends, LBI is one of his favorite stops.

He admitted on Friday night that attendance was a bit lighter than normal, attributing that to the post-Labor Day dates and the fact that there were waves all day. Highton got to see LBI bathed in swell from Hurricane Irma.

“The film festival as a fundraiser is secondary,” he stated. “What we’re really interested in is outreach and awareness. It’s about connecting with like-minded individuals. When you look at post-Labor Day in a beach town, you’re looking at the key demographic. The weather’s still nice but you’re getting the people that live there year round and have a real connection to the place. I’d rather have a handful of people and be really engaging them, than have standing room only and nobody’s paying attention.”

On Sunday night, Highton and his assistant, Lauren Parrino, got to experience Barnegat Bay and joined with locals in a sunset clambake, thoroughly impressed with the vibe.

“It was just an amazing time to get out there to have a beach cookout, with everyone being so friendly.”

The near-perfect weather certainly didn’t hurt.

They left the Island on Monday morning, heading to Montauk for another fest this weekend. From there, it’s north to Portland, Maine and then down to Virginia Beach. In November, he embarks on the West Coast leg.

—    Jon Coen


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