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Coast Film Festival showcases action sports, the great outdoors

From the mountains to the sea, they explored, broke barriers and accomplished amazing feats.

There’s the story of the Hawaiian gold medal Olympic swimmer who helped share the stoke of surfing, a waterman and hero who helped popularize wave riding on the mainland, and the tale of the curious hitchhiking surfer from Laguna Beach who inspired a wave of surf travelers seeking exotic spots to explore.

There are the women who faced a tide of gender discrimination in the water and the story of snowboarding’s forefather who found a way to shred on the snow.

These stories and more will be shown on the big screen as part of this year’s Coast Film Festival in Laguna Beach, which kicks off Wednesday, Nov. 10, and runs through Sunday, Nov. 14.

“Come curious, leave inspired,” said Ben Warner, co-creator of the unique outdoor-focused festival, now in its third year.

Enich Harris, left, and Ben Warner, co-founders of Coast Film Festival, now in its third year. The festival, which focuses on action sports and outdoor pursuits, starts Nov. 10, 2021. (Photo by Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register/SCNG)

The festival’s films and documentaries will feature a mix of board sports – surf, skate and snow – as well as other outdoor pursuits such as mountain biking and climbing and environmental concerns.

“It’s never been more important to share these stories about people connecting with nature and each other,” Warner said. “We as a community can learn through these films and connect with ourselves and each other about these very important topics.”

For the first time, the film series will be held at the Festival of the Arts, with more full-length, feature films and indoor and outdoor options, Warner said.

“Some people love to watch a film in a dark room with complete focus, other people prefer the outdoor space,” he said.

The festival started three years ago with just 24 films, but now has nearly tripled its offerings, with 65 this year, and it has extended by a day.

The first night kicks off with the story of Laguna Beach native Dick Metz in the “The Birth of the Endless Summer: Discovery of Cape St. Francis” being shown at the Hobie Surf Shop.

Dick Metz, a surfer who inspired the Endless Summer film, revolutionized surf retail and created the Surfing Heritage and Culture Center, is featured in the film “The Birth of The Endless Summer” created by Laguna filmmaker Richard Yelland . (Photo by Jeff Gritchen/SCNG)

The 86-minute movie directed by Laguna Beach filmmaker Richard Yelland tells of how Metz stumbled upon the surf break in Africa during a three-year hitchhiking adventure that started in 1958, then came back to tell friend and filmmaker Bruce Brown about the discovery. Brown’s “The Endless Summer,” which followed Metz’s travels, became a global hit, inspiring a generation of adventure seekers to travel the world.

Yelland, a former Laguna Beach lifeguard, aimed at telling the untold story of “The Endless Summer” and traveled with Metz to South Africa to retrace his steps.

Metz not only came back to tell Brown about his escapades and connected Brown with the people he met, but he helped expand surfing in Africa by shipping over foam blanks and in Hawaii by setting up the first surf shops.

“It such a bigger story than just surfing. Dick is kind of the pioneer of modern surfing, not just the pioneer surf traveler,” Yelland said. “He had a big hand with all these things.”

Yelland said he is especially excited to showcase his film in front of a hometown crowd. The movie had two sold-out showings at its premiere during the Newport Beach Film Festival a few weeks ago.

“I’m so excited. My eyes water a little bit,” Yelland said. “Growing up here, lifeguarding here and the legendary history of watermen in this town, in a way it’s not only giving Dick Metz his credit, but our town as being, arguably, where everything started.”

Laguna Beach filmmaker Richard Yelland, who created the film “The Birth of the Endless Summer: Discovery of Cape St. Francis,” to be shown on the first and final night of the Coast Film Festival. (Photo courtesy of Yelland)

The film, which will also show on the final night, will be followed by a Q & A with Metz and Yelland.

During the day on Friday, Nov. 12,  the film “Torn” will be have its Southern California premiere, directed by Max Lowe about the death of his father, Alex Lowe, in the Himalayas in the ’90s.

The evening will showcase a mix of mountain biking and climbing films, including the West Coast premiere of “Dear Rider,” the story of Jake Burton, founder of Burton Snowboards. The film is expected to draw several pro snowboard athletes to celebrate the man who pioneered the sport, Warner said.

The weekend starts off Saturday with an 8 a.m. hike and meditation, followed by a short film block called “Healed by Nature” and another called “Our Oceans.”

Saturday evening’s features – themed “Ocean & Surf Culture – includes “Girls Can’t Surf,” a film made in Australia focusing on the ’80s female icons, such as Lisa Andersen, who calls San Clemente home, Pam Burridge, Wendy Botha and Layne Beachley, who helped raise the level of women’s surfing despite facing gender discrimination.

The headliner film, “Waterman,” showcases the story of Duke Kahanamoku, who hoped popularize modern-day surfing while facing discrimination due to his dark skin during his pursuit of Olympic swimming gold medals and later as he tried to break into Hollywood.

Co-producer Steven Ungerleider, speaking from Hawaii where the film premiered this week, said it was an important story to tell, especially following surfing’s debut in this year’s Olympics, a vision of Kahanamoku’s a century ago.

Duke Kahanamoku surfing tandem with Viola Hartman, Corona del Mar, in 1922. COURTESTY SURFING HERITAGE AND CULTURE CENTER

“He was such a major icon, not only in the water and surfing arena, but a decent human being people look up to,” Ungerleider said.

The film tells the story of the surfer who also used his board to save countless lives, including a big rescue off Corona del Mar in Newport Beach, paving the way for modern-day lifesaving.

“It’s pretty chilling, what he did,” Ungerleider said.

The film is narrated by actor Jason Momoa, whose roles include blockbusters such as “Aquaman” and the recently released “Dune.” Despite being told by his agent he was too busy to do the film, after seeing an early version in Canada last year, Momoa jumped aboard and did the job pro-bono, Ungerleider said.

“He’s just been so kind and so gracious,” Ungerleider said.

Ungerleider recalled Momoa saying it was important not just for Kahanamoku’s story, but to tell about the Polynesian culture and the aloha spirit.

The final day of the festival, Sunday, Nov. 14, is all about “Legends of Laguna,” with films such as “Lost Profits,” a locally created film focusing on the Laguna Beach surf scene, narrated by Boogie Board inventor Tom Morey, who grew up in the quaint beach town. Morey died last month.

Laguna Beach film-making legend Greg MacGillivray will showcase “Grand Canyon Adventure,” narrated by Robert Redford, and will speak about the film.

Finishing off the festival is another showing of “Birth of The Endless Summer” and a concert by local musician Matt Costa.

A portion of the ticket sales and proceeds will go toward related nonprofits, including the Laguna Canyon Foundation, Surfrider Foundation, Protect Our Winters and, organizers said, and a $1,500 scholarship for a young Laguna Beach filmmaker will be funded.

For Warner, the goal for future years is to build the festival into a community event that “resonates with every age group and lifestyle choice.”

“The more you love nature and getting outside,” he said, “the more you’ll want to protect it.”


Source: Orange County Register

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