Out of Office Reply: Down With the Ship

Out of Office Reply is Associate Editor Taylor Paul’s column on surf travel, big waves, and other manly bits

Derek Dunfee and big-wave surfboard

Derek Dunfee with his cherished Pat Curren gun. Photo: Peter Taras

Out of Office Reply

Have you ever broken a bone? Not a finger or a toe, but a leg or an arm or something big like that? You hear it snap and that's how you know. You look down and find something completely foreign where your limb used to be. Deformed. It couldn't get any worse, and then, the swelling. That ever happened to you? Yeah, me neither.

But it did happen to Derek Dunfee. He came into the SURFING office the other day with his twin brother, Taylor, to show his film, Down With the Ship, to the magazine staff. They cruised in all salty and smiling, arms all tattooed and faces all mustached, and dished up a healthy serving of handshakes and eye contact. A fantastic pair, the Dunfee twins.

We set up the movie on the office TV and gathered 'round like cavemen circling a fire.


Derek Dunfee's "Down With the Ship" premiere at the SURFING office

Impromptu DWTS premiere next to the copy room.

It was everything we'd hoped it would be: big waves, wipeouts and an insight into Derek as a person — humble, positive, and a touch psycho.

The film details Derek's fall (a broken leg at Cloudbreak) and rise (rehabilitation and the Billabong XXL Monster Paddle award) during the 2008/2009 season, plus Derek and his buddies during some historic sessions at Puerto Escondido and Maverick's. Spliced in are quick interviews with Derek and art/animation from brother Taylor, which provide refreshing variety.

"I'm so ADD that I just wanted to keep the pace of the film up with short interviews and Taylor's art," Derek says.

Well, it worked. Although DWTS is his debut film and he made it on a shoestring budget, Derek has impressed more than just the ING staff. He won the Best Short Documentary award at the California Surf Festival, and is nominated for the Heavy Water and Worst Wipeout awards at the Surfer Poll. The movie will be showing at the Kona Surf Film Festival on December 3, and North Shore Film Festival on December 4.

When we finished the film, we retreated back to our desks. Taylor laid out his newest MapFace (check it at www.taylordunfee.com) for us to ogle; Derek thanked us for having him, and for featuring him in our current issue (“Modern Nostalgia,” February 2011, out soon). He just kept thanking us. Its funny how the people who most deserve success and recognition see it like an unexpected gift from a stranger. I suppose these are the same types of people who see a debilitating injury as an opportunity to improve their lives and surf the world's biggest waves. —Taylor Paul