Star-Bulletin Features

Tuesday, March 9, 1999


Wahine surfers steal
the scene in new videos


Soaking Wet Girlz Betty Depolito, producer 55 minutes, $24.99

By Greg Ambrose
Special to the Star-Bulletin


Former professional surfer turned filmmaker Betty Depolito shows a keen sense of surfing history at the start of her latest video. While most news media act as though the explosive growth of women's surfing is a recent phenomenon, Depolito reveals it to be merely a modern return to the ancient Polynesian practice of whole families riding the waves. "Soaking Wet Girlz" begins with local wahine cavorting on the waves while a narrator tells the tale of Kalea, a Hawaiian princess in Lahaina and the most gifted and graceful wave rider in the kingdom, who would rather surf than do her duty and marry strategically.

Out There The rest of the video shows wahine surfers young and old, world famous and locally renowned as they embrace Kalea's excellent example by frolicking in waves seemingly during every waking moment.

Captured by in-your-face water photography, wahine fly across the waves at top speed on shortboards, longboards, kneeboards and surfing tandem.

Kauai's Keala Kennelly blows the top off waves with her youthful assault, as do other pros such as Rochelle Ballard, Megan Abubo, Cathy Beauford and Layne Beachley. Future star Melanie Bartels styles on a longboard and shreds on a shortboard, while Malia Jones shows that she's not just another pretty face, posing ashore for fashion photography and ripping on the waves. A loving tribute to Makaha surfer Rell Sun reveals a dramatic difference in surfing philosophy. While most wahine use the ocean as a stage for self-expression by imposing their will on the waves with amazing acrobatics, even after cancer had stolen most of her vitality, Sunn honored the waves by flowing with their energy.

Tighter editing could have solved some problems with focus and framing, but filming during local amateur and professional contests provides refreshing images of wahine of average ability from keiki to aunties having fun in the waves.

"Soaking Wet Girlz" makes the point over and over that while there have always been women who took pleasure from riding waves, their numbers once again are legion.

"Soaking Wet Girlz" is available at local surf shops, or call Banzai Productions at (808) 638-8326.



Blue Crush Bill Ballard, producer 66 minutes, $29.95

By Greg Ambrose
Special to the Star-Bulletin


There is a moment deep in "Blue Crush" that eloquently captures the philosophy of this ground-breaking video. A male surfer is posturing on the periphery of the Backdoor Pipeline barrel, while deep behind him in the inner sanctum of the tube, Rochelle Ballard is gliding over the clueless fellow's wake and making him look foolish.

The message is dramatic enough to penetrate even the most dense misogynistic brain: look out boys, the wahines have passed you by.

Fortunately, Bill Ballard embellishes this point with stunning footage of the world's top professional and wannabe pro wahine surfers in a variety of mundane and exotic locations. Hawaii, Samoa, Australia, South Africa and Mexico serve as splendid backdrops as the wahines perform amazing antics.

A side trip to Tavarua Island in Fiji uses borrowed footage to provide a historical context that reminds the current generation of wave shredders that there have always been exceptional wahine surfers. Pam Burridge, Frieda Zamba, Jodie Cooper, Margo Oberg and Kim Mearig lacerate waves in special sequences, while Lynne Boyer, two-time world champion and one of Hawaii's best big-wave riders, is strangely absent from "Blue Crush."

Throughout the video, watching world champion Layne Beachley and her closest competitors such as Serena Brooke, Trudy Todd, Megan Abubo and Lisa Andersen absolutely destroy the waves is a revelation.

But a segment honoring Makaha surfer Rell Sunn and her courageous but terminal battle with breast cancer is a greater revelation. The segment shows that rather than try to surf just like the guys, which is physiologically impossible, Sunn accentuated the grace and style that make wahine surfers unique in the surfing world.

Technically, "Blue Crush" isn't as polished or satisfying as Ballard's previous video, "The Moment." But by creating the first commercial video starring only women surfers, Ballard has tossed down a gauntlet that other filmmakers will surely accept. This increased attention can only help bolster the resolve of wahine wave riders, and inspire a new generation of wahine to take to the waves.

"Blue Crush" is available at local surf shops.

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