ANDREW KIDMAN: Steph Gilmore and The Art of Single Fin
BIG SKY WIRE is a regular Coastalwatch column produced by Michele Lockwood & Andrew Kidman. This week, Michele Lockwood keeps it in the living room and speaks to Andrew Kidman about his beautiful new book with Steph Gilmore.
Two years ago, Andrew Kidman released Lost In The Ether a film/book combo dedicated to the craft of the handmade surfboard. Andrew had been filming Lost In The Ether for some time but he was aware of the increase of free digital downloads replacing actual DVD sales and so he knew he had to come up with a unique product that could not be undermined by this. That was when he sparked on the idea of creating the book to go hand in hand with the film. The book would serve to be a sort of owner’s manual to the heavy load of information covered in the film. The idea was to print a limited number of 1000 copies and to take as long as needed to sell them. To date he has about 40 left. This has lead to his newest published work entitled SINGLE -Stephanie Gilmore: Studies of Movement. SINGLE is the second in the series of books after Lost In The Ether only this one is a prequel to the Spirit of Akasha film, featuring speed-blur frame grabs of Steph ripping at Greenmount on a single fin shaped by Dave Parmenter. I will say no more except to please wipe the drool; it’s starting to drip down your chin.
CW: What was the initial seed that saw Dave Parmenter shaping Stephanie Gilmore a single fin? How did that process go down?
AK: Dave and I have been working together on these modern single fins for 20 years now, messing around with volume, rockers and channels. I’ve followed Dave’s lead and he’s made me boards that have really been the best boards I’ve ever had. They’ve just opened up feelings and places to go on a wave that I hadn’t experienced prior. Being able to shape my own boards and then going back and forth with Dave on things the boards just got really good. Last year Dave came out to Australia with a board he’d shaped for his wife Claudia, I rode that, a channel single, it was without doubt the best single fin I’d ever ridden. I felt like I could do anything on it.
When we came to making the new film I really wanted to see modern surfers have a go at riding this kind of equipment. I thought of Stephanie because she has such a beautiful flowing style, I mean, she kind of reminds me of how Michael Peterson approached the points, I just thought if Dave customised a board for her to ride the points something special might happen.
You haven’t really included mainstream pro-surfers in your projects since Litmus in 95. So why Stephanie? Why now?
When we began making this new film, I wasn’t really considering mainstream surfers, we had people we were working with and things were going along nicely. Alby was really happy with the tracks we were taking. Then I was talking to Simon Anderson about it, I told him what I was doing and he laughed and said, “Good luck Andrew,” in a condescending tone. He went onto say, “Morning of the Earth featured the best surfers in the world and the best music…” The conversation really struck me because Simon was right, I called Alby and talked to him about it and he said, “Everyone’s got the spirit in them, just ask who-ever you want and if they’re into it they’ll do it.” Considering this, again, the first person I thought about was Stephanie, the way she surfs reminded me of the way Rell Sunn rode a wave…Rell was a reflection of what was happening around her, I don’t think I’ve ever felt this watching male surfers, maybe Curren…I dunno. Steph just reminded me of Rell and I wanted to see if it would translate if Dave made her a surfboard. Dave was married to Rell.
When you captured those first few waves of her riding that board on film what was going on in your mind? I mean her surfing was otherworldly; there was this undeniable synergy between her, the board and the wave. And to think these were the very first waves she’d ridden on that board, it was like she was beyond the physical, she was tapped directly to the source of what every surfer is searching for, this really magical connection, it was coming from another plane, so to speak…
Well, I couldn’t quite believe it. It was weird. It was kind of like an outer body experience filming it, like I was watching it above my head. It felt like watching Michael from back in the day… you could just feel Stephanie’s joy as she was surfing, she was just beaming… the waves at Greenmount were so perfect and there was only a handful of people in the line-up, it was after a month of swell, I guess people were surfed out. You never get waves like that at Greenmount with nobody out. It really was like some other hand was guiding the whole show. I guess that’s why I wanted to make a hardbound document about it, because it felt like something very special.
As an independent publisher, each book you put out is like a big roll of the dice – you never know how it will be received, how you will pay that hefty print bill. How do you explain the success of your projects and what do you think keeps people coming back for more?
I guess I have some kind of reputation… good and bad. Some people like what I do and there’s enough of them that value it and are prepared to support its production by investing their money in it when I sell them from my website. It’s limited stuff, I don’t make very many of the books because I value what they are, I don’t want them pulped if they don’t sell through. I try and make them as beautiful as I can, using sustainable resources. I’d rather not mass-produce things in Asia just because it’s cheaper, I don’t live there and to be honest I really don’t know what goes on up there. The printing place I work with is in Australia, they are sustainable printers and they do exceptional work. It’s expensive but I think it’s worth it. I feel it’s my duty to keep the money in Australia, to keep people in work that have an environmental conscious. And I think you can feel all of that when the book is in your hands.
For the last year, you’ve been working very closely with Albert Falzon and Producer Chris Moss on the Spirit of Akasha, a Celebration of 40 years since Morning of the Earth. Can you tell us how you approached the insurmountable task of making a follow-up film to something so iconic as MOTE?
At first it was daunting, I wasn’t sure that I wanted to do it, but everyone I spoke to was so enthusiastic about it that it just became fun. Working with the different musicians, surfers and photographers that all wanted to give something to it. The muso’s love the soundtrack, whether they’re surfers or not, they know it because it’s so legendary. Each muso has a favourite song they’ve wanted to cover. It’s been so classic listening to their versions of the songs and also the originals they have composed for the new film. We’ve begun editing, which is super fun, just seeing the surfing and ocean and the lives we get to live against the new music is really interesting in a new kind of way.
SINGLE: Stephanie Gilmore: Studies of Movement is available only from: andrewkidman.com
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