SBIFF Closing Night film “Spoons” is a love letter to our surf community
If Santa Barbara didn’t have the geological anomaly called Rincon Point, would it have given birth to some of the world’s best surfers? Filmmaker Wyatt Daly has the easy answer to that question: no.
“You can look at Rincon as the motivator for everything that came,” Daly said, on the phone from his editing room. “Everybody points to Rincon as the single most important facet in the development of surf culture in Santa Barbara. Without Rincon we wouldn’t have the same caliber of surfboard designs coming out of Santa Barbara or the caliber of surfers.”
The history of Rincon, and that of two famous board designers Renny Yater and George Greenough, is at the center of Santa Barbara International Film Festival’s closing night film, “Spoons: A Santa Barbara Story.” Along with the filmmakers, many of the surfers and board designers will be in attendance for tomorrow night’s screening.
The 28-year-old Daly grew up spending time up north inland with his mom and down in Newport Beach with his dad. Landlocked up north, he found escape down south on the beaches where he became obsessed with bodyboarding and skimboarding, but still never felt accepted.
“I developed an understanding of surfing that was very personal,” he says. “I didn’t need other people to bring me into it. I did it because I enjoyed it.”
Daly moved to Santa Barbara for UCSB–he doubled in Film and English–and also found himself inside a surf community with a long and exciting history. He interned for filmmaker Keith Malloy on “Come Hell or High Water,” a documentary on bodyboarding by Woodshed Films. “I was so lucky,” he says. “throughout the whole editorial process I grew to be an assistant editor. That’s how I came to understand how much of a film is created in the edit.”
He then worked on 2015’s “The Fisherman’s Son” by Malloy’s brother Chris on the production side of things, shooting with a small crew down in Chile. “All that experience was making me think I can do this,” he says. And then he turned to the project that he’d been nursing since college.
Initially he was exploring a project on Rincon for a short, but when he interviewed Renny Yater he knew he had a subject.
“He was so influential, not just for Santa Barbara but beyond,” Daly says. “He’s an important part of the early modern surf industry, there from the beginning. And he’s still there shaping surfboards five days a week, even though many of the other guys have moved on or retired.”
The Rincon doesn’t produce world-class waves around the clock. But what it does provide is a long, long ride. If you are a designer making tweaks to a shape or a fin, the Rincon is to the surfboard what a dry salt lake bed is to testing cars.
“Spoons” was mostly a local shoot, with a tightly-knit group all available to talk, like Tom Curren, but he also traveled to Australia to shoot. George Greenough–who now lives there–and Yater and others went to Australia in 1964 through ’66 with their boards and their influence spread.
Daly funded the film bit by bit, and though it does have its premiere tomorrow night, it’s still raising funds through a Kickstarter to get a post-festival cut. (Check it out: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/spoonsfilm/spoons-a-santa-barbara-story).
As we finish the interview, Daly says he was just putting the finishing touches on the film.
“We’ve been burning around the clock,” he says, “but I have a great team around me.”
“Spoons” shows at 8 p.m. Saturday at the Arlington Theatre. sbiff.org for more info and tickets.