London Surf Film Festival and Meeting Steph Gilmore

A post work rush on Thursday evening to get to London via feet, bike, bus, train and tube took me to the  opening night of the London Surf Film Festival and the UK premier of Stephanie in the Water.  Here is a little,  (voice of Del Boy Trotter) reportage of my evening.

I arrive at Genesis Cinema in Stepney Green just in time to join a long queue of something rather unusual, surfers in clothes, yes, surfers in clothes! Surfers in lots of clothes and coats, big dark coats and gloves and shoes and socks! It’s a cold, dark, wet night in London and we are a long way from the sea! I clutch my ticket in my fat, cold, little hand and queue with these heavily clothed people who are both strangers and so familiar.

 I head upstairs towards the theater and bar and I casually walk past Steph Gilmore, as you do.  People are just walking by, they haven’t even seen her so I decide to say hello as it’s only a matter of time before she’s going to be swamped. She offers me her hand and a massive, genuine, dazzling smile in greeting. She’s taller than I imagined and she’s got a very happy vibe about her, she seems to almost sparkle and she’s so, so pretty and natural in real life!  I babble some crap about almost being late. I’m surprised to find I’m a little star struck and tongue tied, stupidly I don’t even congratulate her on her performance on the tour so far. I babble some crap about being recovering from injury and I’m looking forward to the film as I’m in need of a kick up the arse and some inspiration to get back into training. She says she hopes it does the trick. We have a quick photo and it’s goodbye, the film is about to start. I’m a bit shaken in a good way, I can’t believe I just talked to the woman I have watched all year, in awe on the ASP tour, she’s a legend!  I can already feel a massive boost from meeting Steph and go into the theater and take my seat.

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Me and my mate Steph Gilmore

 There’s an Intro from the festival directors and a few laughs and then it’s show time. As the lights dim for the first short film by Luke Pilbeam I look around at the faces in the crowd lit up by the light from the screen and I feel like I’m part of something. I might be the only surfer ( is it ok to call myself that?)  in my everyday, local sphere but,  here everyone loves surfing.  I feel like part of a tribe, these are my people haha!

The short film Out of the Black and into the Blue is fantastic, beautiful photography, stirring music and insightful words that sum up a feeling most of us can’t articulate but, understand and constantly crave. It’s rousing and passionate and this is the first time I’ve seen any surf footage on the big screen, it was made for it. If you go to the LS/FF website all of the shorts are there.

 Next up is Stephanie in the Water but, I won’t go into too much detail and spoil it.   There’s some memorable moments and it’s inspiring, thought provoking , amusing and triumphant all in one.  It really shows Steph’s passion, determination and commitment and in some very funny moments her competitiveness provokes a lot of giggling from the audience! I think different people would get different things from this film but, as someone who is struggling to get back into fitness and feels a bit shitty it was the perfect tonic.  I took from it exactly what I needed and astonishingly I find that I can identify with Steph. I know, who’d have thought it? Me, identifying with 5 x ASP world champ but, I do simply as someone that loves surfing who is finding it difficult and is determined to work hard and get back into it. It does not matter that she’s a world champion and I’m still learning.

 The Q & A that follows proves again what a lovely, warm, witty, intelligent, down to earth girl Steph is.  This beautiful, strong, determined young woman should be the role model that young girls look to,  she’s now this old bird’s role model.  So,  it’s out with the croissants and in with a renewed focus on getting fit again. In my last post  I said I needed to get back to what motivated me in the first place and I’m almost there.  With the positivity and determination to get back on it that I took from the film and a 3 day surf trip to Newquay starting tomorrow,  things are getting back on track .  Stephanie in the Water is a reminder of how happy surfing makes me, those final scenes where Steph is free surfing, the smile on her face says it all,  it’s the very same  thing  that first motivated me. I think the kids call it stoke!

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