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Internet made a video star

12/4/2011
Daniel Pullen

The first time an Outer Banks surfer made the cut for a major (i.e. California) surf movie was hidden within the 1994 Lost VHS, "What's Really Goin' On." Three clips of a pre-pro Noah Snyder pulling into shorebreak shacks in Rodanthe.
That's it. And were thrilled to even get that.

Apparently, backwoods Mid-Atlantic surf culture didn't translate well to major filmmakers' well-funded passion projects over the next two decades, so for the most part Outer Banks talents would have to settle for placement in Kevin Welsh's "SurfNRG" series, Dave Genchi's "Flail" projects, and other homegrown East Coast videographers' ephemeral toasts and one-hit wonders.

Enter the Internet prior to the turn of the century -- around the same time Brett Barley was just starting to figure out how to navigate the treacherous tubes of his hallowed homebreak, the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse. Twelve years later, Barley finds himself cast amongst a global stew of apex shredders in the second installment of Innersection, Taylor Steele and Nathan Myers' hugely popular surf production conceived via public opinion within their online voting platform, www.Innersection.TV.

A Hatteras surfer earning his own segment in a Taylor Steele movie is the exposure equivalent of scoring the cover of Surfer or winning a major contest at Trestles or Huntington. Simply speaking, Taylor Steele is the Lord of Surf Celluloid. Kooks don't make the cut.

It's no wonder then that a strictly local crowd of 100-plus packed the Cape Hatteras Secondary School theatre on Thursday, December 1st to see how their own wholesome, handsome surfing prodigy stacked up against the best action stars on the planet (from all over the planet; the stars literally aligning everywhere from New Zealand to New York.) While a hundred people might not sound like much, when you consider the wintertime population of Buxton is less than 1400, and CHSS' enrollment (grades 6-12) hovers around 360, a hundred heads anywhere 'round these parts in December is a party.

With Conner's Supermarket providing Carolina barbecue plates and iced tea and Barley himself raffling off gear and clothes from his sponsors (O'Neill, 17th Street Surf Shop, Smith, Sanuk), excitement reached a crescendo when Matix Cromwell (son of In The Eye/ Natural Art glasser Curtis Cromwell), claimed his trucker hat with a chewed-up red ticket. Things didn't get that loud again until Brett lit up the screen, the famous Outer Banks striped beacon standing sentinel in the background.

How good was the kid's part? Let's put it this way: It kinda made you feel sorry for Kiwi pro Richard Christie, whose section followed. No one even watched it; everyone was still applauding Brett. And while alternate premieres were held in Brooklyn, Miami, LA, and Honolulu, it also marks a time where accesible technology mixed with old fashioned hard work can put a kid from the outer rings of surfing's epicenter into the spotlight.

Despite a peculiar Clif Bar commercial posing as the intro to the movie, Innersection as a whole is brilliant -- leaps and bounds better than the 2010 release. "I can't believe Brett made it into a Taylor Steele movie, and it's probably the best surf movie I've ever seen!" marveled Frisco shredder and Facebook Like-a-lot Dallas Tolson.

Tolsons' girlfriend, Kristina Hooper, a budding local photographer and an island historian of sorts added, "All the clips surrounding Brett's surfing -- Conner's Supermarket, the ferry docks, the Lighthouse -- really put Hatteras Island on the map. It was a pretty uplifting thing to watch after all we've been through with Irene."

But the most emphatic statement came from Brett himself following the feature presentation.

"The Innersection is pretty huge for my career," Brett addressed the audience. "But all this is happening to me because of you guys. Thank you all so much for supporting me all these years. I feel so blessed to call this place home and I hope my part showed that."

It did indeed. Thanks to Steele and Myers' progressive thinking, Brett's progressive waveriding, and the public's progressive voting, Outer Banks surfing has vaulted far past three shorebreak shacks on a VHS.