The San Diego Surf Film Festival was the brainchild of native San Diegan Pierce Michael Kavanagh. He was traveling around the country a few years ago marketing his new film at a New York surf festival and was beside himself in disbelief. How could San Diego, a city with one of the richest surf histories in the world, not have an event that brings together the local community to celebrate the art of surfing?
Kavanagh is not one to wait for somebody else to do something, so he and his wife, Petra, got moving and created the SDSFF in 2011. They asked longtime friend and respected surf retailer Eric Huffman if they could use his Quonset hut/surf shop to present three days of surf movies to hundreds of stoked viewers.
While it was a huge success and would have been a great venue for years, Kavanagh knew he wanted to eventually house the festival in a real theater that could hold more people and be taken a bit more seriously.
Kavanagh recently made that vision a reality by securing the beautiful Sherwood Auditorium at the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, a La Jolla venue steeped in surf movie lore. Jack Johnson premiered his first surf film, “Thicker Than Water,” here 15 years ago and In the 1980s and ‘90s it was the spot to watch any and all the surf and skate movies that traveled into town. The festival marks the triumphant return of stoke to the museum.
This year’s opening night festivities on May 20 include a killer VIP night at Green Flash Brewery in Mira Mesa (6550 Mira Mesa Blvd., San Diego). The evening will feature art being created live by local artists like the world-renowned Andy Davis, Ballast Point Brewery artist Paul Elder, and Northern California legend Matt Beard. All the art pieces will be sold during the evening at a live auction with proceeds being donated to the local nonprofit organization H20 Trash Patrol.
The next night it’s all business as the doors open at the museum, 700 Prospect St., La Jolla. The festival will be dedicated to the late, great San Diego surfer/film maker, Sonny Miller. There will be special guest presenters, live music and a banging happy hour presented by Green Flash from 6-8 p.m.
Over the next two days, fans will enjoy 12 films in the 492-seat Sherwood Auditorium, which has renowned acoustics and unobstructed sight lines that will provide viewers a huge upgrade in their experience compared to years past. If you haven’t been to the festival these past couple years, this is the year you will want to go and experience all it has to offer. The roots, the creativity, the refined amenities of the great venue but most of all, the stoke that one can only get from surfing and the adventures it brings.
For more information, visit sandiegosurffilmfestival.com.
As a lifelong San Diegan, Ken Lewis has surfing and ocean life in his DNA. A 30-year surfer himself, Lewis has worked in the surf and skate industry for most of his career. Send him your thoughts about the surfing world to firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Instagram @hanger18