“We were just trying to copy surfing. Everything about skateboarding had to do with surfing. It was all about fun and a way to surf when the waves were shitty.” -Jay Adams (1961-2014), 2001 [via zboys.net]
And yet, even when the waves are good, many of us stick to the concrete. Skating has deep roots in these islands, and its relationship to film dates back at least as far as 1986, when the star-studded Bones Brigade skate team came to O‘ahu to shoot segments for the legendary film The Search for Animal Chin. Almost thirty years later, my efforts as curator and organizer of the Hi Sk8 Films showcase, now in its third year at the Doris Duke Theatre, center around a seemingly simple thematic question: What is skateboarding in Hawai‘i? In theory, if you visit the Doris Duke Theatre on September 19 for the event’s opening night, you’ll come away a bit wiser, holding abstract pieces of this strange and entertaining puzzle.
In fact, the question “What is skateboarding in Hawai‘i?” is the very line of inquiry put to directors each year when the call for submissions goes out, in hopes that filmmakers will take great creative liberties with their submissions. This year’s event brings together the largest group of films in the series’ history, with 8 shorts ranging from 2 to 20 minutes in length. Several veterans from past years, like filmmakers Sean Reilly, Conor McGivern, Kale Kaaikala, and Jonathan Brousseau, will make an appearance alongside a handful of newcomers eager to show us all what they got. Viewers can expect to see, among other things: carcasses willfully flung down staircases; high-definition, slow-motion aerial shots of local skateparks; a Makiki cruise; teenaged boys skating to Japanese pop music; unusual homages to both Spike Jonze and William Golding; a hybrid surf-skate mockumentary; and a hefty serving of skate tricks filmed up close and personal with wide-angle lenses.
As in past years, filming and editing came right down to the wire for many of the filmmakers who are, in a sense, contributing to a collective documentary of the progression of Hawai‘i skating. Unfortunately, not every moment can be captured; though several filmmakers and skaters definitely put in some late nights in the streets trying to get some last minute “bangers”—skate slang for extremely difficult maneuvers. Ideally, what the showcase does is give an annual deadline, a payoff for their efforts, and a general space to share with each other and with the greater community. Procuring each film requires me to work individually with all of the filmmakers interested in submitting. Many are personal friends, which can be a blessing and a curse, as our relationships often precede our professional exchanges when it comes down to the deadlines. But after a flurry of peer-pressuring conversations, texts, emails, and skate-shop rendezvous, it has once again come together. And thankfully, I receive enormous help from the Doris Duke Theatre’s dynamic duo, film curator Abbie Algar and theatre manager Taylour Chang.
So what is skateboarding in Hawaiæi? A bit of irony, a sense of humor, some blood, occasional debauchery, big smiles, sweat, sunshine, and as many supportive souls as we can fit in the seats of the Doris Duke Theatre to laugh and shout and clamor for what they want to see next year.
Screenings are September 19 & 20. More information and tickets for this year’s festival here.