On Saturday, the 12th annual Honolulu Surf Film Festival kicked off with a sold-out reception and screening of White Rhino. O‘ahu surfers young and old (and the people who love them) were lined up on Kinau Street waiting to get in. (Pictured above are director Brent Storm, producer Julie Romaniuk, surfer Kohl Christensen and HoMA theater program coordinator Sarah Fang.)

In Luce Pavilion, guests dined on plates of poi, seafood laulau, kalua pig and haupia prepared by Honolulu Museum of Art Café chef Ben Abes and cooled off with beers from Kona Brewing Company to the chillwave tunes of local indie rock band Goon Lei Goon. They also explored the exhibitions 21st Century Women and Lisa Reihana: Emissaries.

White Rhino opened the festival with a deep dive into the monster Fiji and Tahiti swells of 2011 and 2012 and the surfers who braved them—and the audience loved it. “We’ve been to about 15 screenings now and I felt that the audience was more engaged than any other screening we’ve been in,” said director Brent Storm, who was at the event with producer (and his fiancé) Julie Romaniuk.


“They were laughing a lot, they were cheering a lot,” said Romaniuk. “I even noticed, which I haven’t noticed really in other screenings, their reaction to the music. Brent chose specific music for the film for certain scenes and I could see people bobbing their heads to the music and they were really into it. It’s really nice to see that.”


A Q+A followed after the screening with Storm, Romaniuk, and surfer Kohl Christensen, who was featured in the film. Romaniuk and Storm, who was a wedding cinematographer on the North Shore at the time, revealed how it was a passion project for them. Storm was able to get in touch with photographer Brian Bielmann and interviewed the cast at Bielmann’s studio.

Someone asked Christensen how he balanced going out into big-wave, life-and-death situations while being a father to two young daughters. “I just can’t think about them,” he responded, “because if I do, I wouldn’t go out.” Christensen then shared the importance of his work with the Big Wave Risk Assessment Group (BWRAG), a program designed to educate and train surfers in the water to reduce the risks of big wave surfing. Big wave riding gets a spotlight in this year’s lineup, bookending the festival with the closing-night tribute to big wave pioneer Kimo Hollinger and the screening of Gun Ho! (This event sells out early every year—so don’t wait to get tickets.)

Big wave surfer Paige Alms in the film "Paige."

Big wave surfer Paige Alms in the film “Paige.”

The importance of women in big wave surfing was also discussed during the Q+A. Storm, Romaniuk, and Christensen all showed support for riders like Keala Kennelly, Bianca Valenti, and Paige Alms. Kennelly was named the female 2018 Big Wave World Champion, and gave an emotional acceptance speech about the gender pay equality at the World Surf League (WSL) Awards. Alms is featured in this year’s festival in the film PAIGE, screening alongside TROUBLE: The Lisa Andersen Story on July 25, 27 and 28.

This week, you can thrill to more big wave surfing in Satori, about a South African gang devoted to the infamous Dungeons break a kilometer off the coast of the village of Kommetjie, on Wednesday, July 10. Then learn about the birth of Russia’s surf culture (yes, it’s a thing!) and see Siberian swells in Priboi, screening July 11, 13 and 16.

You can go on adventures of mind, body and soul almost every day through Aug. 4. Here’s the full schedule.

The museum thanks Honolulu Surf Film Festival sponsor Nordstrom, as well as major sponsors Hawaii Life Real Estate Brokers and Kona Brewing Co., and Surfjack.

The Nordstrom crew at the opening reception for Honolulu Surf Film Festival 2019.

The Nordstrom crew at the opening reception for Honolulu Surf Film Festival 2019.