Two Recent Cuts to the Bone of the Surfing Experience
Ether, by Andrew Kidman
With the faceless beast of big business devouring the soul of surfing one high-gloss advertising campaign at a time, there is perhaps no greater guardian of the holy than Australian surfer Andrew Kidman. A humble poet, gifted musician, tireless tube hunter, unflinching photographer, wandering journalist, husband, and father, Kidman has been surfing his way through a creative life, informed by an all-encompassing and ever-growing understanding of the act of wave riding.
Now 37 years old, Kidman has in his rearview mirror two surf films, Litmus and Glass Love, which are unrivaled original odes to the Sport of Kings. His body of written work-songs, stories, articles, and interviews-is as rich and varied as the fabric of surf culture itself. And now there is Ether, a beautiful and uniquely constructed 1010 limited-edition book featuring the choicest photographic cuts from Kidman’s journeys.
From a slightly out-of-focus 1986 snapshot of Nicky Wood in a pro junior contest to contemporary, color-soaked, pulled-back views of unridden barrels, Ether is a tuning fork to the infinite dance of creation that is surfing. Pawing through the pages, you get a good long look at Kidman’s brilliant universe and the shiny stars that call it home. There are candid shots of legendary shapers lost in their craft; timeless bottom turns executed on boards of all shapes and sizes by men and women as varied as the boards they ride; mind-spinning purple-pink barrels; swell-stacked seas; surf-weathered smiles plastered authentically across the faces of world champions; unsung and unknown heroes; screaming silent nature shots; and, of course, the Kidman staple of rugged, raw, and flawlessly functional surfing.
From New York City to northern Scotland to Santa Barbara and South Australia, the book sings a song one part warning and one part celebration. It urges you to remember why we first left the safety of sandy shores and started to surf, and to be fearful of what we stand to lose should we forget that transcendent moment that launched us all. On page 29 there is a picture, blurred with speed but frozen forever in a moody saturation of ocean hues, of Simon Anderson-the inventor of the modern thruster-deeply slotted sometime after sunset on the East Coast of Australia. Rough around the edges with his face all but absent, this image, though guaranteed never to be published in a mainstream surf publication due to its unorthodox composition, shows surfing as honest and true as any sort of film could capture it. As Kidman is quoted in the book’s foreword, “If surfing is not about art-it’s over.”
Currently, Kidman is traveling California on a book tour for Ether. He, along with his art and the trailer for Richard Kenvin’s forthcoming film Hydrodynamica, will be at the Dan Merkel Gallery (632 State St.) on the evening of January 17. If you value the salvation and daily redemption that surfing gives you, I suggest you be there.
One, by Joe Curren
Born into surfing royalty, Joe Curren’s new book, One, marks another coronation of sorts for the Santa Barbara native and world-class photographer. A self-published work, One is a visual odyssey-completely devoid of words or page numbers until the very end-that celebrates a life less ordinary, lived in search of moments and experiences akin to sun-soaked rainstorms and flowers blooming through a crack in the sidewalk.
As a professional surfer, Curren has been on the road searching for waves for much of his adult life, and luckily for us, he has often had a camera in hand. With an eye that is trained by both surf lust and an appreciation for nature, Curren’s decidedly non-digital camera harvests fresh looks at well-known places Pipeline and Kirra while also culling stoke-inspiring shots from unlikely surf outposts like Norway and Lake Superior in Minnesota. And while page-popping empty lineup shots, exploding with early morning or late evening light, are the bread and butter of the book, the true gems of One are Curren’s foray into naturescapes. Years spent sitting in the lineup, letting the weather roll in around him, and watching the days dawn and sunset from a board rider’s perspective at far-flung lineups the world over have given Curren a remarkable sense of timing and sensibility to the rhythms and all-too-fleeting moments of beauty dished out by Mother Nature. You get the impression, looking at his work-such as the haunting black-and-white Ansel Adams-esque shots from Iceland and Greece-that Curren stalks these moments for days on end, lying in wait with his camera, saving each precious exposure until all the variables come together in a glorious cacophony of light, subject, and view.
His art, much like his surfing, is a balance of timing, function, and flow made brilliant by his subtleness and appreciation of the sublime. One is a testament to the remarkable catalog of soul-stirring photographs Curren has amassed in his relatively short time taking pictures.
Released just last month, One is available online at joecurrenphotography.com and soon will be carried at Patagonia stores around the world.