Big Breaks


By David Moye

Hawaii transplant George Douglas Freeth, the first lifeguard at La Jolla Cove, introduced surfing to San Diego in 1907.

A century later, the city is writing a new chapter in surfing history, as the inaugural San Diego Surf Film Festival takes place May 11 to 13 at Bird’s Surf Shed, a Quonset hut in Bay Park stuffed with historically significant surfboards and artifacts.

Nearly 15 features and 30 shorts will be screened during the three-day festival, which co-founder Pierce Kavanagh hopes will become an annual event as important to the surfing community as Comic-Con is to Star Wars geeks.

“I used to watch surf films in the mid-'70s at the Cove Theater in La Jolla and the Roxy down in Pacific Beach,” Kavanagh says. “I want to recreate this atmosphere for the next generation, who has sadly missed out on these experiences.”

Kavanaugh’s film, Manufacturing Stoke, which delves into the concept of sustainability in the surf industry, played the surf festival circuit to great acclaim last year.

The Festival’s other co-founder, Ed Lewis, who runs a company that recycles broken surfboards and wetsuits, believes the best surf films do more than just immortalize radical rides on killer waves.

“The really successful surf film is one that defines a moment in time, what a culture is feeling and living,” Lewis says. “It is one that changes you and inspires you in new directions. In a day of mass media consumption, you watch a film once and never desire to see it again. The surf film is so different than that, as you may watch your favorite film 20 times or more. In fact, that is the test for a great surf film.”