Stephen Boyd

This Surfing Life: The Emergence of the Irish Surf Film

Year: 2014

Keywords: ,


Institute of Art, Design & Technology
(at time of presentation)

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Stephen Boyd is a lecturer in Media Studies, Visual Culture, Popular Culture and Non-Western Cinema at the Institute of Art, Design and Technology in Dun Laoghaire, Co. Dublin and is also a PhD student at Trinity College Dublin. His most recent publication is is entitled ‘Surfing a Postnationalist Wave: Surfing and Irish Popular Culture’.

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This paper will offer a comprehensive history and a critical analysis of the Irish surf film from its beginnings in the early 2000s. The surf film is an unexplored area of Irish and global film studies that has a large subcultural local and international audience. The genre includes feature films, community based ‘folk’ films, an emerging online film short film culture, and has evolved to such an extent that the ‘Shore Shots’ 1st annual Irish Surf film festival was held in early 2013.

Whilst Joel Conroy’s Waveriders (2009) is the most familiar Irish surf movie, this analysis will examine the film in the wider context of local and global examples of the genre; beginning with early examples such as Eye of the Storm (Conroy, 2002) and Driven (Mr. B. Productions, 2007) and concluding with the most contemporary films such as Wet Dreams (PFOWP, 2014).

Methodologically, the paper will examine the form of Irish surf film (narrative, documentary and commercial) in relation to the major debates within Irish film studies, contending that the surf film represents an ideological development away from a national/modern depiction of Irish identity towards the post-national/postmodern. Employing the films of Mickey Smith as an example, the paper will interrogate how surf film has attempted to break from traditional discourses surrounding romanticism and realism in Irish cinema. The analysis will also consider the broader social, cultural and economic impact that the films have made to Irish coastal regions.