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Monday, February 11, 2013
The Depths of "Blue"

By Daniel Ikaika Ito

A light drizzle fell when Jack McCoy got on the microphone to introduce his latest film, "A Deeper Shade of Blue," at the Hilton Hawaiian Village Great Lawn last week. Perhaps the rain was ka aina (the land) acknowledging the presence of the 68-year-old filmmaker, who is originally from Honolulu. Maybe it was Rell Sunn, Bud Browne and Jeff Johnson, for whom "A Deeper Shade of Blue" is dedicated, showering their blessings upon the world premiere. Whatever the precipitation was, it stopped 10 seconds before the movie started and the skies cleared for the rest of the evening.

It was a chicken skin moment, and the night was filled with them. Whether it was two-dozen surfing legends sharing the stage before the screening, or the impromptu Jack Johnson performance during the credits, every audience member left the screening with a cherished memory.

It took five years for Jack McCoy to make "A Deeper Shade of Blue," which he calls "a labor of love and a mission." This documentary is the story of Hawaiian surf culture and the evolution of surfboards. It's not necessarily a movie that makes you want to surf -- rather "A Deeper Shade of Blue" makes you feel grateful to be a surfer. McCoy intended for this project to be consumed by the masses and it definitely has a mainstream appeal with a clear storyline, vivid animation and theatrical reenactments of ancient Hawaiians.

Jack McCoy
At 68 years old Jack McCoy is one of the most accomplished filmmakers in surf, putting in over 40 years behind the camera.

"The idea was to share the film with people who surfed and didn't surf to help explain what surfing is instead of what it's become," explained McCoy after the screening, "this is really the spirit of what I see surf culture really is."

Jamie O'Brien is one of a handful of featured surfers in "A Deeper Shade of Blue," and echoed McCoy's statements. For a pro surfer like JOB, who is on the cusp of high performance surfing, this movie is more about our history and culture rather than about shredding and punting.

"You don't really get movies like this nowadays, [most surf movies are] like 'surf porn' and this movie relates back to Hawaiian culture," said O'Brien. "There's a story line: it's talking to you, you're understanding and learning about Hawaiian, Polynesian, Californian and Australian culture and it's showing how surfing came together, which is really cool because we have a lot of respect for surfing that [non-surfers] don't really understand and this movie helps them understand it."

"A Deeper Shade of Blue" starts from the beginning of surf culture: the ancient Hawaiians. Then it highlights the most-influential moments in surfing and surfboard history while taking the viewer to the wave riding meccas in the world. While "A Deeper Shade of Blue" acknowledges the sport and competition, the film is more about the lifestyle and art form of wave riding explains noted ala'i'a-board builder Tom Wegner.

"I think people should look at the great depth of the art of surfing," explained Wegner, who is also in the film. "Surfing is a sport, but it's much more of an art with history and so much more to it that it's more of a lifetime, cultural pursuit than a sport."

Like any Jack McCoy movie, "A Deeper Shade of Blue" features stunning water photography, and the underwater jet ski shots from Tahiti are breathtaking. Furthermore, the film also reveals the impressive contributions of wahine (women) to surfing. It covers everything from Princess Kai'ulani, who resurrected he'e nalu (surfing) in the late-1800s after it was nearly abolished by the missionaries, all the way to the Gidget-led surf boom in the '60's and more currently 4-time ASP World Champ Stephanie Gilmore.

The storyline of "A Deeper Shade of Blue" is circular in nature. It starts with the ancient Hawaiians and ends with a Native Hawaiian, Terry Chung. The board builder and hydro-foil master from Kaua'i has the last segment in the movie, and his style of wave riding is a possible glimpse into the future of surfing.

"I'm kind of the anchor for the movie and that segment points to the future of surfing," said Chung, "the implement I'm surfing [the hydro-foil] looks kind of weird, it's not organic, it's a piece of aluminum, but when you do it you're mentality is surfing on the wave."