The surfers with their creations. From left to right, Tanner Gudauskas, Dane Reynolds, Lee-Ann Curren and Alex Knost
The surfers with their creations. From left to right, Tanner Gudauskas, Dane Reynolds, Lee-Ann Curren and Alex Knost

Seedlings of Surfing’s Past Sprout on Day One of the Vans Duct Tape Festival

The celebration of surfing's eclecticism and craftsmanship commences in Zarautz, Spanish Basque Country

All photos by Jimmy Wilson

The sun sets late on the coast of Spain during this time of year (around 10 p.m.), dangerously luring visitors to the region to revel into the wee hours of the morning. But as locally made cider flowed and skateboarder/jazz master Ray Barbee noodled away on his electric six-string at the welcoming party last night, it certainly didn't appear that those who'd come to Zarautz for the Van's Duct Tape needed any extra incentive. So with the sun rising before 7 a.m. this morning and a full high tide predicted, it wasn't the least bit surprising to find few were keen for a dawn patrol.

But the first official day of the Zarautz iteration of the Duct Tape Festival did eventually arouse a celebratory atmosphere, to be sure. Once the marine layer dissipated, sunny skies and a collection of handshapes from the surfing luminaries on hand brought out the masses. And the falling tide kicked off a full day of semi-clean, waist to shoulder high waves–fitting conditions for the variety of crafts on hand. But nearly perfect for long boarding.

Gallery Image
Gallery Image
Gallery Image
Gallery Image
Gallery Image
Gallery Image
Gallery Image
Gallery Image
Gallery Image
Gallery Image
Gallery Image
Gallery Image
Gallery Image
Gallery Image
Gallery Image
Gallery Image

"Logging is really an under-head-high trip," proclaimed artist and filmmaker Thomas Campbell in his seminal 2004 movie "The Seedling," which starred Joel Tudor, and others from the era’s emerging underground longboard scene in Southern California. In hindsight, more than two decades since its release, the film, along with Campbell's follow-up, "Sprout," represents a watershed event for surfing, as it reintroduced and augmented the style, the performance, the equipment, the vibrant culture of surfing’s past and kickstarted a cultural shift that has reverberated around the globe that’s influenced surfers from California to Australia to Indonesia to Japan, all the way to this small, insular, surf-crazed town here in the Basque country, where a rich longboard scene has been cultivated over the course of the last two decades. 

Nowhere is the influence of those films more apparent than at the Vans Duct Tape Festival and its competition component, the Duct Tape Invitational. From highlighting quirky, distinctive surf-and-skate-adjacent artists like Ray Barbee (whose music was featured in the soundtrack to Sprout) and Geoff McFetridge (who designed this year's logo) to encouraging craftsmanship and providing opportunities for surfers to shape their own boards and share them with the general public to spotlighting varied approaches to wave riding, the Duct Tape Festival’s focus on the connective tissue of our shared surf culture is what makes it one of the most unique events in all of surfdom. 

Alex Knost and a Basque Country sunrise.

Adding to the distinctive, communal nature of the event, boards shaped by a diverse crew of surfers--from relative shaping newbies Lee Ann Curren and Tanner Gudaskas to more seasoned craftsmen Alex Knost and Dane Reynolds--were made available to the general public. It was a idiosyncratic offering, to be sure. Between Curren's forked double ender to Knost's pinned and red-racing-striped Robert August-inspired log to Reynolds's compact convex bottom twin, it was certainly an innovative, if not quirky quiver.

Dane Reynolds gives Alex Knost’s shape the old under the arm test.

The opening day wrapped with  a panel discussion led by Joel Tudor. Each of the shapers discussed his or her experience building surfboards for the event. At one point Tudor was asked to talk about the first board he shaped. "1996," he remembered. He no longer owns that board, but footage of Tudor riding the board remains. Coincidentally, he rode it during his section in, you guessed it, Thomas Campbell's "The Seedling." 

When the Duct Tape Invitational contest kicks off sometime during the Duct Tape Festival weekend, at least a half dozen fresh faced teens, all too young to remember when Campbell’s movies came out, will compete in the longboard contest. When I asked 19-year old French surfer Nathan Sadoun, how he was introduced the classic, stylish single-fin surfing he’s internalized so well, he didn’t mention “The Seedling” or “Sprout.” He did mention a contest in Bairritz. It was the 2012 Vans Duct Tape Invitational.

Golden hour in Zarautz.