Proximity Film Review

We live in a time where phones and laptops have become our main source for motion picture entertainment. We are satisfied seeing a “clip” on Instagram or a montage on a website. In some cases the 5 inch screen has replaced the movie theater-especially in surfing.

The Florida Surf Film Festival has set out to change all that and on July 7th, 2017, they did –at least in Cocoa Beach with a screening of Proximity by Taylor Steele. The Surfside Playhouse was an original surf film venue back in the 1960’s and tonight it was to be revived!

5 years ago, Kevin Miller and John Brooks, co-founders of the festival wanted to bring everyone together to see surfing on the big screen with hopes of rallying 20 or 30 people. They had over 120 and the festival was born.

Proximity is likely one of the most anticipated surf films of the year and the place was packed with local surfers and a few heavies. Legends like Matt Kechle, Todd Holland and Bruce Reynolds filled the hall with family and friends from the surf community. We saw Britt from Sun Bum, Mike Duffield from Nixon, Sandy Beach from Surfrider CB Chapter and many others. The film questions our perception of time and asks us to challenge ourselves in terms of living. Living now and understanding the now is the most prevalent theme in the film. We are hit with ultra wide and long shots of places that you and I dream of visiting as we are being reminded through narration that the future and the past are only concepts that we create in the now.

Visually the film follows different groups of surfers who are paired up and sent on a trip in close “proximity” with one another. Shane Dorian and Albee Layer, Rob Machado and Craig Anderson, Stephanie Gilmore and Dave Rastovich, along with John John Florence and Kelly Slater. 4 legends and 4 rising stars create this cast as we join in their “Proximity”. Steele and the cast completely deliver on the obvious, the surfing. Incredible variations of camera angles from underwater to aerial photography of open majestic oceans, blue waters, vast polar ice caps, long snowy bridges were beautifully edited and juxtaposed against the surfers conversing in close quarters before and after surfing.

We learn that Dave Rastovich aka Rasta, while talking to 6x world champ Stephanie Gilmore, is sometimes so stoked to be in such a great spot on such a beautiful wave, that he just rides it to admire it and not necessarily rip the top off all the time. And that Stephanie gravitates toward admiring the styles of male surfers with a slight amount of femininity in their style. We are let in to valuable moments together, on the road, in a tent or in a hut or in a pub with Shane Dorian and Craig Anderson talking about Shane’s continuing desire to know how he would do in competition, even after all these years. Shane explained that when he was 20 he thought he had the best wave of his life and it couldn’t get any better… then he says that it does.   These surfers share their ideas and insights on competing, living, and traveling. Kelly and John John are paired up and competing the entire time. Chess, crab races, and fishing are some of the light contests in which these two engage.

In the water, they trade back to back 9.9’s and 10’s (if it were scored). Again, Taylor Steele brings us the best in surf cinematography making us all want to drop in and try what John and Kelly are doing to those waves. During the surf sessions it seems there was no competing between Kelly and John, just top bill surfing.  On land we get a glimpse inside the competitive minds of these surfers as John asks Kelly if he would rather a free surf or surf in a contest in perfect conditions.  It might have been the best 20 seconds of the film with a silent Kelly Slater trying to weigh the options deciding with a free surf…then changing it to a contest heat following it up with the explanation that the contests are their “world stage”. -Yeah, we don’t want you to stop either, Kelly! Listening to the conversations between these surfers was the real treat of the movie. The incredible surfing is just the gravy. The film illustrates the importance of “the process” over the “end result” and continues to ask the viewers if they (we) are actually living their lives-even after we left the theater. I asked myself am I living for the now moment or am I looking for an end result? Deciding on the now is easy. I have been doing it for quite some time. However, if you are not sure which way to go on that question, you should have a solid direction by the time you see “Proximity”.


Scooter Newell July 8, 2017 Swell Life Magazine


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