The Present: Premiere

Thomas Campbell's five-years-in-the-making opus, The Present, premiered this past weekend at La Paloma theater to four packed shows on two consecutive nights. Campbell, the "Ride Anything" visionary who brought us both The Seedling and Sprout, decided to give his new installment an extra couple of years of TLC (Top Level Creativity).

And it shows.

The Present is by far Campbell's best work to date. While it builds off the aw-shucks, '60s-style formula as seen in his other films, this one is tighter, more effortless, funnier and – above all else – more visually stunning. "See this here?" Thomas said on the stage before his first showing Friday night. "This is a 16 mm Bolex – the camera used to film most of this movie. It's a lot more work and a lot more hassle, but I feel the visual rewards are worth it."

In The Present, he proves his point, with cinematography so vibrant and rich, you wanted to eat it right off the screen. Lush tropical greenery and blurred-out lifestyle mix seamlessly with blow-your-mind clips like Dan Malloy weaving through an endless Indonesian tube. The magic handwork during a West African drum circle mesh perfectly with the magic footwork of Dave Rastovich, streaking on a triple-overhead J-Bay-like wall…on a twin fin. And space-like underwater shots transition effortlessly into guys like Chris Del Moro and Jacob Stuth strobing overhead tubes…on wooden planks. If you're one of those "alaia haters," watch this film. It'll make you run to the nearest lumber yard and shape a "penis plank" of your own.

It's not all pretty scenery on push-the-envelope equipment. Campbell gives it up for Dane Reynolds in a cute and futuristic performance in his hometown. And the comedy section, featuring Dan Malloy as Dracula, Alex Knost surfing on a Nordic Trak and Chris Malloy aka "Tweakus" surfing on an 8-foot ladder, could be one of the funniest things to hit surf cinema since a Bud Browne spoof skit.

In an age of quick-cut corpo surf films, Campbell reminds us once again how nice it is to take a deep breath, relax and enjoy the ride. Even after a wave of imitators and their own "independent, artsy surf films." Even after sitting on footage that's – oh my god! the horror! – as much as four years old. Campbell's The Present feels as timeless and timely as ever. Check it out tomorrow or {{{100}}} years from now.

[Special Advisory Note: SURFING Magazine sponsored this movie, but we would have given it the same {{{review}}} – maybe even a better one — if Transworld had sponsored it.]