On Friday, March 18, after a two-year hiatus, the Santa Barbara Surf Film Festival returned to town. This sold-out event brought surf legends like Tom Curren and Conner Coffin together in the local surf scene. The festival took place at the Santa Barbara Community Arts Workshop, a flexible space that allowed people to watch screenings indoors or outdoors while listening to live music. Festival-goers also enjoyed Mexican delights by Monys and drank margaritas made by Nosotros Tequila, sparkling meads by High Seas, wine from Sunstone, and beer from Firestone. 

Walking up to the festival on a hot Friday afternoon, you could hear the folk music tunes of Uncle Uncle, a band formed from former UCSB students. Their music is a mélange of influences, from Bob Dylan and Sticky Fingers to Allah-Las. They provided a perfect beachy soundtrack to kids playing cornhole, sun-kissed surfers chatting, and people selling beach clothes in an open-air market. Nonprofits such as the Surf Happens Foundation, Heal the Ocean, and Surfrider shared their missions alongside an exhibit of beautiful surf photography.

Pat Curren and Tom Curren playing before the screening of Searching for Tom Curren | Credit: Amanda Correa

The first screening on Friday was Beautiful Silence, a black-and-white short film following the life of Nate Tyler, a naturally talented surfer who chose to leave professional surfing and return home to his roots. 

For the second screening, you could see a shift in the event. As more and more people arrived from work or their homes, the event got louder, and there were no longer seats for everyone. Standing in the corner of the room, we watched fantastic footage from the ’70s in a short documentary called RE-MOTE: The Lost Reels, a remaster of Morning of the Earth, where psychedelic imagery and the soundtrack by G. Wayne Thomas took you on a surf trip to Australia, Bali, and Hawai‘i. The original film celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2022. The surf look hasn’t changed much since then, except for the lack of leashes and wetsuits. 

Searching for Tom Curren | Credit: WA Event Management 

A quick break from screenings came with music from Albatross. An acoustic set indoors gave everyone time to chat with acquaintances or participate in the silent auction where all the raffle proceeds went to their three nonprofits, Surf Happens Foundations, Heal the Ocean, and Surfrider. 

The final, featured screening of the night was none other than Searching for Tom Curren, a film that follows the three-time world champion as he rides some of the world’s best waves. The film screened outdoors, where Tom Curren himself played music along with his son Pat Curren before the movie started. The venue was packed — kids were sitting on the fence, and crowds of people surrounded the outdoor seats. It was amazing to see all the members of this community gathered once again. The event left even beginners like me inspired and ready to put on a wetsuit to jump back in the water during the weekend. 

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