It’s been a year since surfer/filmmaker Pierce Michael Kavanagh (PMK) released the eye opening Manufacturing Stoke, documenting the environmental sustainability of the surf industry.
Excited by the vibe of the Green Expo at Seaside Reef in Cardiff, California, PMK got busy researching the toxic side of surfing. The result was a much needed film; a history lesson from known legends and a showcase for up and coming innovators crafting a more sustainable surf industry.
We got in touch with PMK to talk about the movie, new projects and the future of surfing.
How long have you been surfing and what’s your favorite board from your quiver?
Over 30 years. Surfing, my cherished 6’9” 1970s Terry Fitzgerald Hot Buttered single fin. For bodysurfing, my *enjoy handplane which I don’t leave home without.
How did you get into film making?
I always liked films and photography as a kid. I used to lug around a VHS camcorder when I was a teenager and film my friends surfing and I never stopped. The technology may change but the stoke is still the same.
Can you tell us a little about your film Manufacturing Stoke and how the idea for the movie came about.
The idea came about at a “green surf expo” my beautiful wife went to in our hometown. I had never noticed the shift to more eco-friendly components in regards to the surf industry so I thought there was a good story there. The people involved were so passionate that I really got inspired to capture their enthusiasm.
It’s been almost a year since the films release. What’s changed in the surf industry in that year?
The surf industry has been in turmoil over the last couple of years with the ASP canceling tour venues, major companies like Billabong in financial upheaval and surfers questioning what the industry means to them. I think the industry is still light years away from where it needs to be. Remember, we are surfers, we should be leading the way for other industries. As far as Manufacturing Stoke is concerned, we have opened many eyes and have had tremendous feedback around the globe. We risked a lot with this film because we dared to talk about something that people hadn’t addressed. We made a couple friends and a couple of enemies but it has all been worth it.
Was/is the movie being well received by the surf community?
Yes, we have been invited to over a dozen surf film festivals worldwide so the exposure has been greatly appreciated. I still think every surfer should see this film and hopefully they will. The film can be seen on the www.thesurfnetwork.com
Do you think the real push towards sustainability in the industry came from the closing of Clark Foam? If so, why?
I think it did. With Clark closing the surf world was scrambling to figure out where their blanks were coming from. And with Clark Foam out of business, it made room for people with new ideas. The shame of the transition is that the major corporations jumped on the green bandwagon but that was mainly for show. Check out their claims in 2005 and see what has actually happened. If you don’t like research, I will answer it for you…nothing.
Will a sustainable surf movement help to keep the little guys in business and revive craftsmanship in the industry?
I believe so. There was a huge shift to manufacturing overseas but there has been a backlash towards this because surfers are demanding to know where their equipment is coming from. We all grew up in the industry and the backyard shaper is a pillar in our society. Get rid of the craftsman and we just become another lame sport.
How has the film impacted your personal view on surfing?
I have always had a love/hate relationship with the surf industry. If I ever buy surf clothes it is from the 75% off rack. I would rather wear anything else than surf clothes. Surfing has split from a counter culture form of self-expression to a mass marketed attempt at homogenization. I have always been a black sheep so I could care less what the rest of the followers do. I am just trying to open their eyes.
How do you envision the future of surfing?
I like the anything goes attitude surfing is embracing right now. Surfers can ride any type of boards they want from alaias to handplanes and it is all about having fun.
Are there any projects coming up for Misfits Pictures?
We are working on our next project called “What the Sea Gives Me” which delves into unique relationships that individuals have with the ocean. I am really excited about it and it will be my proudest work to date. It is not just a surf film, it will encompass the entire global community.
Finally, what advice do you have for anyone that wants to help make surfing sustainable?
Your dollars control the surf industry. Hold these companies to a higher standard and research where you products truly come from. If you don’t dig what they are feeding you, stop purchasing and they will be forced to change. There are a lot of people shifting towards a more responsible future and that is where your money should be spent. The fat cats have had is well for far too long.
But first and foremost, support your local shapers.
You can check out the trailer for Manufacturing Stoke below, and watch the full length film at thesurfnetwork.com.