By Mick Sowry
One minute we’re watching a handful of Australia’s most talented classical string players going off in a musty old Cheese Factory on quiet, rural King Island; next minute we’re watching Tom Carroll kook out sideways and men riding 16ft wood planks. And the classical violin playing is almost more radical than the surfing. Almost. To further complicate matters, almost all of the surfing in Musica Surfica is conducted without fins.
These ‘improbable elements’ came together down at King Island in 2007, when Derek Hynd teamed up with an old surfing pal, Richard Tognetti, whose day job is being artistic director of the Australian Chamber Orchestra.
These are two radical human beings. Tognetti is a big, blond, outdoorsy type who’s also a highly articulate musical genius. When his giant fingers start flying over his tiny, priceless violin, it’s like watching Hendrix fused with Stravinsky. Hynd is, of course, some kind of seer to the sport of surfing, a man of outrageous and unusual vision. He hasn’t ridden a surfboard with fins for two years now.
Among those joining them on this ‘grand experiment’ are Tom Carroll, Tom Wegener, Sage Joske, Belinda Baggs, and a bunch of others willing to go finless for a week … between concertos. While all kinds of sawn-off and heavily-concaved boards are ridden, Hawaiian-style wooden alaia and olo boards (made by Sage Joske and Tom Wegener) are reminders that this whole crazy experiment actually taps deep into surfing’s roots.
Musica Surfica interweaves scenes of extreme violin playing with talking heads and often hilarious surfing, loosely following the surfers’ progression from complete kooks on Day One to competent friction-free riders. The fast learning curve begs a question: If this crew got that good in a week, and early Hawaiians surfed finless their whole lives, how good would they have been?
So was this just an eccentric stunt or could we be heading for a finless future with a classical soundtrack? Well, take note: Derek Hynd will go down in history as an important instigator. His early experiments at J-Bay with Tom Curren and some San Diego fish arguably inspired today’s happy flowering of surf-craft variety. I’d urge you to watch this film and see if the violiners don’t blow you away, then keep watching when the credits roll … because DH getting tubed and throwing himself into a full 360º rotation in the raging vertical maw of 8ft J-Bay suggests this finless thing could fly. Stay tuned!