A film by Taylor Steele
This film looks beautiful. It is beautiful as a simple slice of planet Earth through the eyes of a couple of surfing artists. The colours are rich, the faces are rugged, and the waves look their best every time. Taylor Steele is way past the video-your-mates-at-the-beach stuff that made him famous in the early ’90s. Now he can afford to trip around the world with 16mm film cameras and shoot at places far off the beaten surf track.
The original concept for Sipping was brewed up by Steele and photographer Dustin Humphreys, whose magic fingerprints are all over this film. DHump, as he’s known, was taking photo stills for a coffee table book charting the pair’s journeys to Morocco, Italy, Egypt, Hong Kong, Cuba, Bali and Barbados. Hump is an expert in light and colour, and it’s obvious the two worked closely in choosing, framing and shooting the objects of their affection.
But you could almost call this a “coffee table film”. Although the soundtrack is great – including Massive Attack, Tricky and Placebo – there are no words, just a bunch of surfing segments woven in between hundreds of exotic landscapes and portraits of people in each country. It both starts and ends with a bang: a super-round, unridden Moroccan right, deeply mined by Dorian and Dan Malloy; then Kelly’s greatest sessions ever (it’s claimed he claimed) at truly Backdoor-like Bathsheba, Barbados. Aside from that, surfing is pretty thin on the ground.
So what we’re left with is ‘travel stuff’. Like I say, it’s beautiful. And? And otherwise, well, it’s virtually empty. It looks like it has depth, but I’m not convinced. I hate to say this because I do admire these guys, but elements of this film drove me absolutely crazy. The parade of voiceless people left me feeling I was watching a tour through a zoo, full of ‘exotic’ native people – specimens, poor ones at that mostly, stared silently at the camera, and I’m not entirely sure why or what they were telling me.
Try watching Sipping Jetstreams and the film reviewed above, Chasing the Lotus straight after, and you’ll see where ‘surf travel’ has travelled over time. Today we can mimic the journeys, but something seems to have gone. It’s not gritty, it’s all shiny. I don’t want to run this film down too much because there is artistry and love in there by the ton. Oh, and there’s some unbelievable surfing. I’d say buy it, but don’t buy into it. Watch it as a thing of beauty ... and don’t think too much about it, because that nearly ruined it for me. – ADR