When event organizer Ann Wycoff describes the athletes who plan to attend this year’s X-Dance Action Sports Film Festival, she can’t help but use some colorful descriptions.
There’s "epic" snowboarder Travis Rice, "legendary" skier Scott Schmidt, powder "charger" Jeremy Jones, moto "bad boy" Twitch Hoodrich, "sassy" snowboarder Erin Comstock, mountain biking "maniac" Chris Van Dyne and big-wave surfer Dave Kalama.
The descriptions are over-the-top because most of these athletes and what they do really are larger than life. During the annual extreme sports festival, the adventures of these athletes will be chronicled in some of the year’s best action sports films.
Among the myriad of films slated for the festival is local favorite "I Ride Park City" directed by Park City Mountain Resort director of action sports marketing Jim Mangan, featuring Shaun White and the Park City All-Stars. Another film features White in the documentary "Don’t Look Down," an ESPN Home Entertainment production that takes viewers all over the world with White — from his 2006 Olympic victory in Turin, Italy, to the superpipe of Alts Bandai, Japan, and the blacktops of Rwanda.
But some of the best riding in the festival will take place on the waves.
X-Dance will open with "Surfing 50 States," whose title alone suggests it could be a show stopper.
A self-produced documentary film, "Surfing 50 States" is the effort of first-time filmmakers, Jonno Durrant and Stefan Hunt of Australia.
According to Durrant, they did not originally set out to make a surfing film. Hunt explains that the reputation of America Down Under has not been too great as of late and the duo wanted to see the country for themselves.
"I think more than surfing, it’s the story of how Jonno and I found the U.S. to be," Hunt said. "We wanted to see what the country was like."
They decided to tour the 50 states with movie camera in hand, but struggled to figure out a good theme.
"50 Dates in 50 States" was quickly voted down, as was "50 Hamburgers." Then a friend suggested that, since they are both avid surfers, they ought to try and surf in every state.
To work around the landlocked locales, Hunt and Durrant decided that surfing meant being on the board and moving, whether there was water underneath or not. Using that definition, they surfed at a school play in Kansas, across a potato field in Idaho and rode the waves in a drainage canal while being pulled by two motorbikes in Bluffdale, Utah.
Although Durrant and Hunt are admitted surf action film addicts, they both are very honest about their lack or surfing talent.
"We’re not very good surfers. We’ve never been in a surfing competition," Durrant said. "But we love surfing. It’s our passion in life."
This was their first film and since selling the idea of surfing through the Nifty Fifty is a bit challenging, they ended up completing the entire project by themselves. They had never heard of X-Dance before making the film, but once they finished, their publicist assured them it was a perfect fit. She was right. The film’s unique content and hilarious dialogue earned it the position as the opening film of the fest.
More a humor-laden adventure than your average extreme sports flick, the Australian duo agrees that the film will appeal to people of all ages, surfers and non-surfers alike.
"I think what our film lacks in action and high performance, it makes up in the story," Durrant said.
Both found the U.S. to be a wonderful place. They made friends wherever they went and ended up never having to pay for a place to stay, finding hospitable Americans to put them up at every stop.
"Every Americans knows what makes their state so important," Hunt said. "It’s that diversity. We wanted to check it out and it’s really cool."
"Surfing 50 States" will open X-Dance on Friday, Jan. 16, at noon at the Off-Broadway Theater in Salt Lake. The theater is located at 272 South Main St. Tickets are $7 ($5 for students), and can be purchased in advance at the Off-Broadway Box Office, http://www.theobt.com, or call (801) 355-4628.
Durrant and Hunt will be on hand for the screening and will answer question afterward at a question-and-answer session.
Another surf-themed film is "One Track Mind," which will be the last X-Dance film screened on opening day. The movie is the latest film from the creative collaborative Woodshed Films, a.k.a. The Moonshine Conspiracy.
"One Track Mind" delves into the psyche of competitive surfing, exploring the inherent contradiction of the Zen-like mindset of surfers contrasted with the cutthroat mentality of surfing competition.
"That’s the kind of dynamic that plays again and again in the sport," said producer Tim Lynch.
Lynch is quick to emphasize that the film tells a story of surfing. It’s not just a surfing action film.
The film, shot on 16mm, features top surfers from many decades, and chronicles the evolution of surfing competition, introducing viewers to may of the circuit’s top athletes along the way.
"We looked into the minds of some of the best surfers in the world," Lynch said.
The movie, which was directed by pro surfer Chris Malloy, looks for "the common thread."
"One Track Mind" will screen at 9:25 p.m. on Friday at the Off-Broadway Theater.
If that’s not enough surf action, head back to X-Dance on Saturday night for the screening of "Waterman" at 7:45 p.m. The movie is a journey with surfing greats Laird Hamilton, Dave Kalama, Gerry Lopez, Rob Machado and Chris, Keith and Dan Malloy as they venture into the heart of Indonesia, into a hidden paradise of colossal barrels and perfect waves. In "Waterman," viewers take a boat trip with the legendary surfers as they bodysurf, paddle surf, hydrofoil, stand-up surf and tow surf in the Indian Ocean.
"Waterman" will be screened at the Off-Broadway Theater. For more information on this film or to find a complete festival schedule, visit http://www.x-dance.com.
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