Imagine discovering one of the best barreling left points in the world. Then imagine keeping it a secret for 10 years, and risking life and limb to surf it. Back in the '70s, during the golden age of Indonesian surf discovery, that's exactly what Bill Heick and his friends did after stumbling upon Desert Point by sailboat. Secrets of Desert Point, directed by Ira Opper, an Emmy Award-winning surf documentary director, revisits the early days of one of the most exciting – and successfully undercover – wave discoveries in history. We rang Ira to get a little more insight into the soon to be released 45-minute film.
How did Secrets of Desert Point come to be?
Bill Heick [One of Deserts’ original surfers and the film's narrator] and I met on a snowboard expedition about 20 years ago. While we were camping in Canada and getting to know each other way back then, Bill told me about the history he had with the early days Deserts. Fast-forward to 2015, and Bill came down to visit me with a bunch of hard drives full of content from those trips, and we started to mine it. We quickly realized this was bigger than the legacy project Bill originally had in mind, and that there was enough material to make a comprehensive documentary, because there was a very compelling story to be told. We brought in Steve Barilotti, since I've worked with Steve on several documentaries over the years, and he was the perfect person to help script this story.
How tough was it to sort through everything? The film has so much historical footage from the early days at Deserts.
I've spent a lot of time in the surf documentary genre. Historically, what happens is we come up with an idea on a storyline or a person we want to profile, and then we accrue all the material, and then build the story. I've never had someone show up with all of the film footage, photographs, and stories, and allow us to work it the other way around, so it was a compelling project for us. It gave us an opportunity to write a very factual and informative story that I'm not sure too many people know much about. It's not like those guys uncovered a wave that was easy to go surf, not to mention score, especially one where Malaria and infection were really serious risks. Those guys were putting their lives on the line.
Do you think it's still possible to discover another wave like Deserts? Might there be an opportunity for another small crew to camp in the dirt somewhere in Indonesia, like Bill's crew from the ’70s?
I highly doubt it. And that's one of the things that makes this story so special. Back then, you had a compass and a boat to go discover surf. It was a different world. Now you have a credit card, google maps, GPS, surf forecasting, and so much else. I'd say most spots have been surfed. I'm sure there are places out there, especially in the Arctic and Northern Canada, that haven't been discovered, but as far as a 400-yard perfect wave like Deserts where you could show up and surf with your buddies for a decade, I don't know. That may be tough. Today, it's all about the Look-At-Me. The guys in this movie really worked hard to make sure nobody saw what they were doing or knew about this place. It was totally the opposite — Nothing to see here.
When and where can the general public watch the film?
It's gonna do the surf film festival tour. The next one will be the San Diego surf film festival, which is on May 10. But also, on May 1, it'll be available exclusively on thesurfnetwork.com, which is our Netflix for surfing. It has subscriptions, downloads, and rentals — all three are available on there. It's the largest surf subscription content site on the web.