The Right Direction

Peel Scores Another One for Quality Surf Films

by Ethan Stewart

A majority of the surf films coming out these days are shameless
acts of self-promotion or glorified navel-gazing sessions cut to
the tunes of Jack Johnson or some other guitar-strumming “friend of
the industry.” The aforementioned films have less than nothing to
do with the average surfer’s genuine experience. Can you imagine
watching 50 minutes of Ron Jeremy’s greatest moments in porn with a
Top 40 emo-punk soundtrack and then feel inspired to make sweet
love to your better half? Perhaps you could. But the letdown — when
you realize you can’t perform like the über-endowed Jeremy — would
be somewhat akin to watching Andy Irons get spit out of a 10-second
barrel in Indonesia and then trying to surf cold wind slop with
1,000 other people at Sands Beach. Surf movies are meant to make
you feel good and get you moving in a better direction, not toward
a therapist’s couch.

Luckily for the board-riding masses, not all is pulp and porn.
Next Thursday night, up-and-coming surf filmmakers T.J. Barrack and
Wes Brown (yes, the grandson of surf movie patriarch Bruce Brown)
roll into town with their Endless Summer-esque travel piece, Peel:
The Perú Project. Though far from groundbreaking, the movie offers
a refreshing blend of high performance surfing, beautiful travel
footage, history lessons, and a high degree of cultural sensitivity
from which much of the surf industry could take a lesson. It
chronicles two separate month-long trips to Perú: the adventures of
Hawaiian hellmen Mark Healey and Jamie Sterling, and the escapades
of California pros Randy Bonds and Jesse Colombo. The cameras roll
as the boys make their respective ways from the dusty streets and
warm water of Mancora in the north to the impossibly long lefts of
Pacasmayo and Chicama. As anyone who has ever lived out of a
backpack in a foreign land knows, the road is full of surprises and
this movie does its best to pay homage to those bumps along the
way. From car break-ins and wicked bouts of diarrhea, to alien
footprints in the hills of San Gallan and human skulls in the
desert, the movie — though occasionally overly dramatic — nails the
essence of third-world travel.

But perhaps the best thing about Peel is the justice and
attention it gives to the country of Perú, its people, and its rich
surfing heritage. Seven-time national Peruvian surfing champion
Magoo de la Rosa serves as the tour guide throughout the film.
Besides plugging Barrack, Brown, and company into some truly
world-class waves, he and current women’s world champion Sofia
Mulanovich provide a unique look into this enchanted land of left
point breaks. There are history lessons as the movie traces the
lineage of Peruvian surfing from the mid-20th-century Waikiki Beach
Club in Lima up to the surf-stoked “gromatitos” of today. The film
includes visits to Machu Picchu and other breathtaking
archeological sites, honest talk about Perú’s years of civil war,
and a classic reed boat surf session that hints that perhaps it was
ancient Peruvians — popular theory points to the Hawaiians — who
brought wave riding to Polynesia.

Having wandered around Perú a number of years ago as your basic
dirt-bag surfer, I have to admit this film does the experience
justice. But even better, it gets you excited to dust off your
passport, pack your bags, and light out for the wave-filled
territory ahead. And that is exactly what a surf film is meant to
do.

4•1•1 Peel: The Perú Project
shows at the Lobero Theatre on Thursday, September 28 at 8 p.m.
Visit peelperuproject.com for more information.

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