I never liked the intros to surf movies. I understand the purposes they serve — set a tone, introduce a theme, fulfill creative desire, etc — but they never really did much for me. The main reason I watch surf movies is because I enjoy seeing how people are pushing surfing forward. What new airs are they landing? What combos are they doing? How deep are they getting and how’s that power game coming along? Those are the things I watch for, and I feel like I’ve seen enough shots of palm trees, plane entrances, car rides and guys checking the waves or waxing their boards to zone out through any intro without ever feeling like I’m losing much. Then I saw Psychic Migrations.
The film opens with a long intro, and I almost wished it was longer. Creative shots, a unique aesthetic, the hint of a storyline — it would have been very hard to look away. If you told me an hour before the premiere that I’d actually enjoy a clip of a rock (like, just a rock) in a surf movie, I’d tell you that you were stupid and to go away. An hour later, there I was. Loving every second of a full-frame rock shot and hoping maybe another one would proceed it. Psychic Migrations somehow had that effect on me.
On second thought, “somehow” wasn’t the right word. I think I know how Volcom and Ryan Thomas did it. The creative shots and unique aesthetic revealed in the intro end up threading the whole film together. The soundtrack is slow and zany at times, fast and natural at others, but perfect always. The lifestyle, music and surfing all blend together without a kink. It felt like the sounds were born to suit the surfing and vise versa. And that thread, those visuals, the rock…it all felt so good.
Speak of the surfing, it was great. I’d say Yago Dora had the best overall performance in the film, as well as the best single maneuver — a hearty backside mute grab, fully rotated of course. Oh, and Parker Coffin’s section at Kandui will be remembered for a very long time. He almost died on that trip and it’s easy to understand why when you watch his clips — he’s charging like a man bound to have a brush with death. Ozzie Wright, Kelly Slater, Balaram Stack and all men in between strung together stellar clips. But even though the surfing exceeded every expectation, Psychic Migrations didn’t have a surf porn sort of feel. It didn’t have that Taylor Steele effect that creates an urge to immediately go surf your hardest while the song you just heard play on repeat in the back of your mind. PM still made you want to go surfing, but in a different way.
Something about the film made me feel like I was on the outside looking in. It made it feel like surfing was an almost religious endeavor, something that offers a rare form of fulfillment, something that people do less out of desire and more out of necessity, something as awesome as it is arcane. Something you can tune into. Something curious. Something real.
I work at high-performance surf magazine. We took about barrels and lien grabs, not energy and zen. But PM made me see the broad picture again. What we do is pretty fucking wild when you stop and think about it — we’re riding these tangible, unpredictable and totally unique moving walls of energy, forcibly finding a rhythm with nature while being totally disconnected from the pixels and madness and pixelated madness of the rest of the world. It’s a special thing, really. We’re very fortunate.
More than any other surf film I’ve seen, Psychic Migrations reminded of that. I don’t know if that was the intent, but I know that it was the impact. The fact that such a reminder was served with some of the best surfing of the year makes it a movie that you need to see. —Brendan Buckley