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A man surfs in the 1970's.
Crystal Voyager, 1973


Chasing Waves - Salt, Sea and Surf

Australian Mediatheque

From Jan

Unbelievable as it may seem, in 1901 Australians were not allowed to swim in the sea during daylight hours. Public opinion saw this restriction soon abandoned, however due to many not being able to swim many people drowned. In reaction, groups of young volunteers were formed to patrol the beaches and eventually the surf life-saving movement was born and is now established world-wide. This package includes films from our earliest records of surf life-saving activities and the emergence of surf culture in Australia. The package also captures the innovation and evolution of surf-board riding, and board design. - National Film and Sound Archive of Australia

  • All for a Good Cause: Sydney [excerpt from Australasian Gazette No. 468]
    1920, 2mins, Australasian Films

    This 1920s short, silent newsreel shows surf life-saving drills at a surf carnival on Bondi Beach NSW, to help raise funds for the St John Ambulance Brigade.

    Beautiful Bondi
    1926, 16 mins

    A beautifully filmed silent documentary with crowds and holiday-makers enjoying the surf, the beach and various leisure activities. Shots also include a surf rescue demonstration and footage of men riding surfboards.

    Crystal Voyager
    1973, 76 mins, Tracks Motion Picture, David Elfick, director

    Crystal Voyager was one of the most beautiful and successful surfing movies ever made. Shot largely in California, Greenough and his surfing friends Richie West (a Californian) and Nat Young (Australia’s world champion surfer) take to Californian waters, searching for undiscovered waves. The final sequence is a 23 minute odyssey containing Greenough's legendary short film 'Echoes' and including extraordinary slow-motion footage shot inside the curl of the waves. The shots were achieved by using a camera in a waterproof housing, which was strapped to Greenough's back. The footage has an abstract beauty and is further enhanced by the music of Pink Floyd.

    Duke Kahanamoku: the man who gave us the Surf Board [excerpt from Cinesound Review No. 1410]
    1958, 60 mins, Cinesound

    Born in 1890, Duke Kahanamoku was a Hawaiian-American five time Olympic medallist in swimming. After retiring from the Olympics, Kahanamoku travelled internationally, including to Australia. He gave swimming and surfing exhibitions which popularised the sport of surfing, previously known only in Hawaii. His surfing exhibition at Sydney's Freshwater Beach on December 23, 1914 is widely regarded as a seminal event in the development of surfing in Australia. In 1958, the newsreel cameras recorded his visit to Sydney's Bondi Beach and interaction with a young Australian surfboard rider.

    Morning of the Earth
    1972, 77 mins, Albert Falzon

    Morning of the Earth is a 1971 classic surf film with cult status. Part of the film's attraction is the way that director Albert Falzon creates an inspiring and romantic mythology around the act of surfing. 'Soul surfing' (as opposed to competitive surfing) was not a new concept, but 'Morning of the Earth' offered a visual manifesto for its would-be followers. The film portrays surfers living in spiritual harmony with nature, making their own boards (and homes) as they travelled in search of the perfect wave across Australia’s north-east coast, Bali and Hawaii. The film's soundtrack included music and songs by notable Australian music acts (most famously Brian Cadd and Tamam Shud) and became Australia's first Gold soundtrack album.

    Surf Beach
    1965, 17 mins, Australian Commonwealth Film Unit, Bern Gandy

    This film captures the essence of Australian beach life - the bodysurfers, board-riders, sun-bakers, families, tourists and, of course, those iconic Aussie Surf Life-savers.

    Surf Patrol
    1950, 9 mins, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Australian National Film Board, Jack S. Allan

    'Surf Patrol' shows the work of the voluntary associations and surf life-saver clubs in Australia, saving hundreds of lives each year. A surf life-saver must sacrifice their personal time for training which requires formal study in life-saving methods and the study of human physiology. Training is provided in the handling of life-boats at sea, and how with belt and line methods, surf life-savers brave sharks and heavy seas to rescue unwary swimmers.

    Surf Ski is novel Australian invention [excerpt from Australian Diary No. 047]
    1951, 3 mins, Australian National Film Board/Commonwealth Department of Information

    Surfers in action at Manly Beach NSW using three different surfboards designs. The first is the original wooden surfboard bought to Australia by Hawaiian swimmer and surfer Duke Kahanamoku in 1915. A 1930s hollow long board and the latest 1950s designed surf ski are also seen.