Video Killed The Surf Movie Tours

By the mid ’80s the advent of the video market had literally wiped out a right of passage surfers had been celebrating since the ’50s–seeing a surf film on the big screen at their local hole-in-the-wall theater. With little in the way of communication amongst surfers in the ’60s, surf flicks were a great way of getting together and sharing ideas about equipment and culture. But decades later the dramatically cheaper production costs of video vs. film drove the four-wall viewing experience of surfing into the comfy confines of one’s living room, replete with the luxury of stop, slow-mo and rewind options.

That long dry spell could be changing though. This past spring, Jack McCoy did a thorough U.S. Tour of his new film and said he was on a crusade to preserve the tradition of the showing and touring a surf film. He felt it was a crucial part of surfing’s heritage and culture.

Just a few months after McCoy successfully barnstormed U.S. coastal towns with his movie, another dedicated filmmaker, Thomas Campbell plotted his own tour path with the opening of his new film, Sprout, in New Hampshire.

On July 29, in the small New England City of Portsmouth, Campbell kicked off his ambitious U.S. Tour, hitting a dozen and a half East Coast cities in four weeks, and finally finishing up on Florida’s panhandle in Pensacola.

Campbell’s touring posse was rolling deep. His van was stuffed with several of the film’s stars and musicians, and was closely tailed down the entire Right Coast by me and a handful of other vehicles with people with nothing better to do.

Amid three hurricanes, we managed to maneuver through the mess unscathed, only having to cancel one show on the Outer Banks thanks to vicious wind and rain from Charlie.

Among the film’s stars present for the tour was Dan Malloy. Upon our return to Cali, I caught up with Dan in Ventura days before the California Sprout Tour was to kick off in Hollywood and rapped with him about our East Coast expedition:

Devon Howard: What was it like spending a good chunk of August on the Right Coast?

Dan Malloy: After working on the project for so long it was really fun to see what people thought of it–what people laughed at or didn’t, hooted or just remained super quiet. Plus we got some fun little waves from some of the hurricanes.

How do you feel viewers received the movie?

I think it was received pretty well. Down in Florida, and parts of the south people, were a little bit skeptical and scared of the lack of thruster surfing. But overall, I think surfers out there were just excited to have a surf movie tour come to their hometown. That kind of thing just doesn’t happen very often, and especially on the East Coast.

Have you ever been on a lengthy tour like that?

Never. At least not for any surf movie. I have been to a couple of premiers, but those are pretty common, especially in Southern California. But doing a full on tour with 30 something stops by the time we finish, very few filmmakers have done that in the past two decades. It was cool being part of it.

Did you wish there had been a full-on tour bus?

No, but it still felt like we were packing into a bus everyday and hitting a different city each night. We had Thomas’ Econoline van, though. Pretty Classic crew we had. I mean anytime you travel with Alex Knost it’s pretty classic.

How many of you were stuffed in that van?

Well, you had your own car, and CJ had his van, but I think there was like five of us–me, Alex, Moose, Thomas and Ray Barbee. It was tight in there. We had all of the equipment for the live music and the projector and the T-shirts and posters, clothing bags, and then there were all the surfboards–longboards, fishes and shortboards, and skateboards. The two front seats were only legitimate chairs in the vehicle. Everyone else was just stacked in the back atop all the gear.

So, summertime, East Coast–It must of got pretty stale in th van after a month on the road. Did you at least have some A/C?

Uh, I don’t recall any AC. (Laughs.)

For you what was the highlight of the tour?

For most of the guys, it was the waves in Montauk from Hurricane Alex, but I was sleeping. (Laughs) I had no idea. I guess it was overhead, that’s what everyone said anyway. … But honestly, for me it was the first show we did, which was in Portsmouth New Hampshire. It was this really cool old playhouse style theater with box seats, and Will Oldham and Matt Sweeny played before and I got to play a song with them on stage. And that was just the coolest thing ever because I am a huge Will Oldham fan. Plus, it was the first time everyone was getting to see it and it was the first time I got to see people’s reactions. It was a relief to see some laughs and hoots right where you hoped people would.

How did you like the New York City show?

That was great too because it was like the whole art scene showed up. They were people that enjoyed surfing, but it wasn’t like a bunch of New York City wannabes that showed up. It was just a bunch of people who really appreciate surfing and were cool about it and mellow. Sometimes I would sit up at the ticket window and sell tickets. It was fun to see all the different type of people that showed up because the NYC crowd was obviously nothing like all the other places we showed the film.

Not that you want to give away anything, but what was the best part of the film to you?

I don’t know. That’s a hard one. I think CJ Nelson has one of my favorite waves of the film. But, as far as a part goes, I like the girls’ section.

Why is that?

Because I didn’t get to see the girls surf a lot while we were making it. It was cool I thought. Just really refreshing to me. I have seen a lot of dudes surf, you know. It was nice see some girls surfing really well.

You obviously spent a lot of time surfing in front of Campbell’s lens, but didn’t you also have a pretty big role in helping facilitate this project?

Yeah, I moved around the tripods a lot. (Laughs) Nah, I did a little bit of filming. Did some portrait stuff of Mike Stewart and Mark Cunningham. I have been learning how to shoot the Bolex, which is what Thomas uses and Jack Johnson uses and a lot of my friends, and I have been learning how to do it. And to see a few shots in the movie on the big screen was like ‘Wow, I pointed the camera and pulled the trigger and a bunch of people get to see this now.’ So it was pretty neat.

Are you looking forward to the California leg of this tour?

For sure. I think people there will really be stoked on it because I think a lot of people have been waiting for something like this for a long time. It’s not just thrusters, it’s not just longboarding. It just offers a little more than the average film. Not every surfing discipline is represented but a lot of them are, and this is just one filmmaker’s take on what he thinks is beautiful surfing. And hopefully people dig it there as much as they did on the East Coast.

What can viewers expect to get out of watching this film? Is there a message?

I think the goal for Thomas was just to have people realize how lucky we are to get to go surfing, you know, and how nice it is. That’s it, really. And to take it kinda less seriously. Just go out and have a good time and it doesn’t really matter how hard you are shredding, or if you get the wave of the day. Just get out there, get wet and hang out.

See Below for all of the California tour dates. The price of admission includes live music from some of bands featured on the soundtrack, as well as qualifies viewers for a free raffle that will be giving away free swag from the film’s sponsor–Converse. For the film’s trailer and updates on the tour venues see trimyourlifeaway.com.

Sprout California Premiere Dates

Thomas Campbell and friends have just announced some more California premiere dates for Sprout. Make sure you don’t miss it:

Monday, September 13
Hollywood

The Egyptian Theater (6712 Hollywood Blvd.)
9 p.m.
Musical Guest: Neil Halstead

Tuesday, September 14
Newport Beach

The Lido Theater (3459 Via Lido)
8 p.m.
Musical Guest: Neil Halstead
Tickets are available at Thalia Surf Shop in Laguna Beach (949) 497-3292, or at the door starting at 7

Friday and Saturday, September 17-18
San Francisco

Victoria Theater (2611 16th Street, between Mission and Capp streets)
9 p.m.
Musical Guest: Neil Halstead
Tickets are available at Aqua Surf Shop (415) 242-9283, or at the door starting at 8

Thursday and Friday, September 23-24
Carlsbad

Carlsbad Village Theater (2822 State Street)
8 p.m.
Musical Guest: The Mattson 2
Tickets are available at the door at 7

Saturday, September 25
El Segundo

El Segundo High School Theater
8 p.m.
Musical Guest: Ray Barbee
Tickets are available at Tyler Surfboards (310) 322-6861, or at the door starting at 7

Wednesday, September 29
Santa Barbara

The Arlington (1317 State Street)
8 p.m.
Tickets are available at the box office

Thursday, September 30
San Luis Obispo

Venue, time, and ticket info TBA

Friday, October 1
Santa Cruz

Rio Theater (1205 Soquel Ave.)
8 p.m.

Saturday, October 2
Pacifica

Pedro Point Firehouse (1227 Danmann Ave.)
8 p.m.

Wednesday, October 13
La Jolla

Sherwood Theater at the La Jolla Museum of Contemporary Art
8 p.m.

Thursday, October 14
Encinitas

La Paloma Theater (471 S. Coast Hwy 101)
7 p.m. & 9 p.m. (2 shows)

just announced some more California premiere dates for Sprout. Make sure you don’t miss it:

Monday, September 13
Hollywood

The Egyptian Theater (6712 Hollywood Blvd.)
9 p.m.
Musical Guest: Neil Halstead

Tuesday, September 14
Newport Beach

The Lido Theater (3459 Via Lido)
8 p.m.
Musical Guest: Neil Halstead
Tickets are available at Thalia Surf Shop in Laguna Beach (949) 497-3292, or at the door starting at 7

Friday and Saturday, September 17-18
San Francisco

Victoria Theater (2611 16th Street, between Mission and Capp streets)
9 p.m.
Musical Guest: Neil Halstead
Tickets are available at Aqua Surf Shop (415) 242-9283, or at the door starting at 8

Thursday and Friday, September 23-24
Carlsbad

Carlsbad Village Theater (2822 State Street)
8 p.m.
Musical Guest: The Mattson 2
Tickets are available at the door at 7

Saturday, September 25
El Segundo

El Segundo High School Theater
8 p.m.
Musical Guest: Ray Barbee
Tickets are available at Tyler Surfboards (310) 322-6861, or at the door starting at 7

Wednesday, September 29
Santa Barbara

The Arlington (1317 State Street)
8 p.m.
Tickets are available at the box office

Thursday, September 30
San Luis Obispo

Venue, time, and ticket info TBA

Friday, October 1
Santa Cruz

Rio Theater (1205 Soquel Ave.)
8 p.m.

Saturday, October 2
Pacifica

Pedro Point Firehouse (1227 Danmann Ave.)
8 p.m.

Wednesday, October 13
La Jolla

Sherwood Theater at the La Jolla Museum of Contemporary Art
8 p.m.

Thursday, October 14
Encinitas

La Paloma Theater (471 S. Coast Hwy 101)
7 p.m. & 9 p.m. (2 shows)