A celebration of surf

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A scene from "Granite Stoke," one of the Surf Night screenings. — Photo courtesy of Martha's Viney

The Martha’s Vineyard Film Festival in Chilmark has joined forces with the California-based High Line Festival of Surfing to offer Surf Night, a day and evening dedicated to surfing. This celebratory and community-oriented event on Saturday, Sept. 20, is free and open to all. It includes surfing lessons, music, films, art, and food.

Community and family surfing lessons will begin at noon at a location to be announced so that they can take advantage of the best wave conditions. The event is not limited to surfers, though. The beach gathering is open to all. Surfboards will be available at no charge at the Green Room, 6k6 Surf, and the Boneyard Surf Shop. A sunset potluck dinner will begin at 5:30 pm in the Chilmark Community Center with music by Alex Karalekas and friends, and the photographs of Ian Durkin will be on exhibit. Three short surfing films will follow, starting at 7 pm. A dock dance at Memorial Wharf in Edgartown will round out the evening’s events at 8:30 pm.

Planning for Surf Night began last year after MVFF managing director Brian Ditchfield bumped into High Line Surf Festival founder Ari Lurie at Morning Glory Farm. Based in Mill Valley, Calif., Mr. Lurie spends the fall on the Vineyard surfing and fishing with his wife and daughter. Once he met MVFF founder Thomas Bena, a 24-year surfing veteran, the two caught waves and began planning for Surf Night. “Surfers around the world speak the same language,” says Mr. Lurie. “It’s the same religion. Surf Night is really an open evening because that’s the nature of the sport.”

“I have been a fan of his for a couple years,” Mr. Lurie says of the New York-based surfing photographer Mr. Durkin. “A lot of his photography is based on the trips he takes with his friends up and down the East and West coasts.”

“It’s basically a celebration of the ocean,” Mr. Bena said in a telephone interview last weekend. The event also reflects the sense of community that characterizes the surfing world around the globe. Twenty people, age six to 60, had signed up for lessons by last weekend. There will be a variety of instructors for surfers at all levels of the sport.

Mr. Bena has selected three of the High Line Festival’s best films to screen at Surf Night. “High line” is a surfing term that references riding in the top third of a wave. The film “Granite Stoke” describes the surfing scene in New Hampshire, where a mere 18 miles of coastline and frigid winter temperatures still foster an active surfing community. The film’s title reflects New Hampshire’s label as the Granite State and the surfing term for the state of mind surfing inspires. Director Dylan Ladds will lead a discussion after the screening.

The 68-minute film program also includes “The Gathering,” a 22-minute Australian short that profiles the social and environmental activist surfer Dave Rastovich. The third film of the evening, “Catch It,” is about a Frenchwoman who spends her time surfing in Norway.

“It’s a very organic thing,” Mr. Bena says. “Music, art, and food are a big part of what we do.”

The Vineyard does not rank as a top surf destination, because of its lack of consistent waves and cold water temperatures. But Surf Night offers something for everyone, no matter the skill level. One of the advantages of the event’s surfing lessons is to teach beginners surfing etiquette. Novices may not realize that “dropping in,” the term for taking the same wave as another surfer, is dangerous to both. “That’s where we’ll begin,” says Mr. Bena. One important aim of Surf Night is to provide surfing education.

“It made sense to bring what we do in Mill Valley to the Island,” Mr. Lurie says. “We all go through the same trials and tribulations of trying to surf all year round.” He describes the surfing community as very bonded, with plenty of stories to tell. “Thomas and I really want to do this every fall,” he says. “The hope is that it becomes a really special gathering for the Island and surfing communities.”

For more information and to sign up for Surf Night, see tmvff.org.