Soul People: On 19th October, the London Surf Film Festival kicks off, marking the seventh annual celebration of the very best in international surf film, art and culture.
Words by Chris Nelson | 18th September ‘16
We caught up with the festival's co-founder, Chris Nelson, to get the low-down.
What is your name and where’s home?
My name is Chris Nelson and I live close to the village of St. Agnes in Cornwall.
Why did you decide to set up the LSFF?
Myself and Demi Taylor (who I co-founded the festival with) have been involved in the surfing world for a number of year years. We met when I was editor of a surf magazine and Demi did the PR for Quiksilver..,.we packed our jobs in and went on the road for a year and wrote the surf / travel guide ‘Surfing Europe’.
About 10 years ago I was writing ‘Cold Water Souls’ a book charting cold water surf pioneers. I was speaking to Tyler Breuer about the New York surf community and the topic wandered onto the surf film festival that he founded there.
Writing about surfing and surf culture, Demi and I were working with some really talented surfers, photographers, artists and filmmakers and we realized that we were missing that in the UK – a platform for homegrown creatives and filmmakers to showcase their work. So we sat down in our kitchen and imagined the event we wanted to go - the best British films, international premieres, Q+A’s, art, photography, talks, music, culture, good times. We reached out to the creatives we knew across the surfing world, and those we wanted to know, and founded the London Surf / Film Festival.
What’s been the highlight of running the LSFF?
So many people have gone from an email exchange to become friends who then come and stay…The festival is a real melting pot and being able to bring people together who go on to collaborate is wonderful.
Film wise, having inspiring people coming to present their projects and staying to chat with everyone in the bar after is a real highlight- Steph Gilmore, Keith Malloy and Kepa Acero are just a few of those stand outs.
But mostly it’s seeing great films on the big screen surrounded by like-minded folks all stoked on a love of waveriding.
What are you most looking forward to about this year’s festival?
We have a pretty epic line-up! Albee Layer is coming to show ‘Nervous Laughter’, Kepa Acero, Mike Lay and Lee-Anne Curren are in the house to present a special world premiere of Chris McClean’s new film, we’ve got live music, photography, we’re premiering the hotly anticipated Bunker Spreckels documentary ‘Bunker77’ with a Q+A with director Takuji Masuda… I could go on… I’m pretty stoked to be honest!
What inspires you about your work?
It’s two-fold – seeing the amazing creativity and quality of filmmaking globally, and the fact that UK filmmakers are up there with the best. And bringing all the pieces together for an event where people can come together and just revel in the joy of surfing. No cliques, no VIP areas, everyone in one room just stoked on waveriding of all kinds.
You guys are writers by trade, can you tell us about some of the projects you’ve been working on in recent months?
We spent a year writing a documentary TV series ‘The Ripple Effect’ – charting the path and impact of ground breaking cultural pioneers such as the founders of Hurley, Atari, Wired Magazine, Moog synthesizers. Talking story with these people was hugely inspiring.
More recently we were asked to write the Jack O’Neill tribute film ‘I Knew Jack O’Neill’. Filmmaker Peter Hamblin of Surfer Poll winning ‘Let’s Be Frank’ fame Directed the piece. We had a week to write the script – condensing a man’s life and achievements into just 7 minutes. Peter only had a couple of weeks to pull the rest of the film together including all the archive and animation. It was a super exciting and humbling project to be involved in. The film was seen by over a million people in its first week – that’s when you realize the impact Jack had on surfers everywhere.
If you had to surf one board at one spot for the rest of your life, which would it be and where/why?
It would be my local beach break, 4ft and clean on my bright orange Bonzer! If we could have that every day I’d be a very happy man. I love the way the Bonzer rides the high line, there’s so much speed available. I ride everything from single fins to quads, but in clean surf a Bonzer combines the best traits of all these boards. Only if it’s clean through – a bit of onshore I’d go with my Bing Puck 2 quad.
What does soul mean to you?
Soul is everything. It’s about doing it for the love, the enjoyment, not focusing on any other reason.