Gary Linden, the patriarch of West Coast big-wave riding, stood in front of the California Surfing Museum in Oceanside last Friday night, greeting attendees at a VIP party that was one of numerous events in the museum's annual surf film festival. It was Big Wave Film Night, with screenings of Derek Dunfee's Down With The Ship, footage from the last winter's Big Wave World Tour event at Todos Santos, and a roundup of the best rides of the 2009-2010 Northern Hemisphere season. In short, it was an evening to celebrate what was the best winter of big waves for a long, long time.
Speaking of long…the Long brothers were there, as well as Reno Abillera, looking dapper in a tie, with the air of a champion about him. Set at the California Surfing Museum, the backdrop included the "Women on Waves" exhibit—a display that neatly covers the achievements of our surfing sisters from Victorian times to the present—as well as various framed prints by Jason Murray, who has documented many of the most intense big-waves moments in the past 10 years. The large-format pictures captured, with unnerving energy, the forces involved in a raw ocean peak at Cortez Bank, Rusty Long's insane asylum cavern at Mavericks, and some apparition from another world at Teahopoo.
The highlight of the night, Derek Dunfee's film, is a gritty 24 minutes that present the past few years in his hard-charging life. It documents a nasty injury and sped-up recovery that led him from agony in the channel at Tavarua, to grinding pits at Puerto Escondido with an ankle boot on (as if that place isn't challenging enough), to some momentous Mavericks sessions—where one wave earned him the 2009 $55,000 XXL award.
Finally, it was night to look back on an extraordinary year, and plan for the season just brewing now…