Taylor Steele’s Innersection has been revolutionary. In an era where media has become metastatic, Steele and his Innersection partner, Nathan Myers, devised a way to simultaneously harness the chaotic energy of viral video, expose the public to both new surfers and surf filmmakers, deliver content in an interactive and fun-to-watch format, and ultimately crown a victor and write them a check for $100,000. While the rules and structure of the competition are somewhat murky, the judging criteria used is a matrix of best practices that would, in theory, ensure that the 20 best two- to three-minute sections would advance to the final.
The problem with Innersection is the finale. After nearly a year of watching, rating, voting, posting opinions and comments, and forming a niche community in a non-linear online environment—all for free—suddenly to cast a vote for the winner of the grand prize, you have to buy a DVD? In order to vote, viewers must purchase the DVD which comes with a card imprinted with a 16-digit “unique vote code” that allows them to go online and cast their vote. Talk about counterintuitive. After utilizing everything the Web does right during the four preliminary rounds of competition, suddenly we’re back in the old paradigm of surf video—paying a high price ($24.99) for antiquated technology. (As an ironic side note, you can buy a DVD player for less than the right to vote.)
Without a doubt, the video parts are awesome, especially those of Peter Devries, Mike Losness, Nat Young, Ozzie Wright, Cory Lopez, Craig Anderson, Kelly Slater, Marco Giorgi, Clay Marzo, and Matt Meola, whose techno-driven aerial-fest got my vote (for the record, I didn’t buy the DVD, but was sent one for review). The competitive aspect of Innersection truly appeared to push the surfers involved to take their surfing to a different level, but because the individual parts were created by different filmmakers on varying equipment, there’s a disconnected feel to the flow of the final project that should come as no surprise when you remember that the sections were originally created as Web video shorts, not chapters of an overarching story. The graphics package does provide glue that connects each section to the one before and after it, but it doesn’t give the hour-and-fifteen-minute moving collage an organizing principal.
Steele’s idea is fantastic. He facilitated the next wave of progressive surfing on video and got to put his name on it without investing the kind of time, energy, and money that would have derailed what seem to be his real passion projects—Sipping Jetstreams and Castles in the Sky. Sadly, in the end, the community Innersection built online got stuck with the bill.