Behind the Scenes at Bristol surf film festival

Wavelength talks to Hugh Johnson organiser of Bristol’s inaugural surf film festival.

What’s the story behind the festival?
It all started with the idea of having a small charity film night in a bar in Bristol. We called it the Bristol Surf Film Festival because, surprisingly, one didn’t already exist! We then realised that in giving it that name, the event had something bigger to live up to. Bristol is a very creative city with a lot of surfers in its catchment area. The potential for the event is huge; next year it will be twice the size!

Who is Paul Simon Brewer and why is the festival dedicated to him?
Paul was a friend of mine who lost his life in a car accident in Morocco five years ago. He was an inspirational guy who worked closely with charities and development projects in Indonesia. I wanted to do something to honor him.

Is this the first year of the festival?
Yes. There are quite often public surf film showings in town, but this was the first official festival.

What do you think will be the highlights?
For me it will be the chance to have the premier of Behind The Tide, and have James Otter and Karl Mackie who feature in the film, come up to see it for the first time, then do a question and answer session.


What are your thoughts on cold water surfing?
It’s exciting to see a new frontier of surf exploration that embraces surfing in cold climates and gives it its own identity. Being UK based, I get more from watching people rip in cold, dark, heavy waves than tropical perfection. The latter is something I relate to, well, apart from the ripping bit!

Are you a surfer and if so what are your favourite places to surf in the UK and abroad?
I’ve been surfing for about 20 years now. I started out in Kent so I didn’t get much practice in the early days. My favourite UK spot is probably Three Peaks or that left in Devon. Abroad it has to be Mundaka.

What do you think of the London Surf Festival?
The guys at the London fest have done an amazing job. I can only hope to share some of their success.

Who inspires you?
I take a lot of inspiration from people that have managed to forge a living by doing what they love. This is reflected in the festival with the likes of James Otter and John Eldridge and his company CMBL.

What’s your favourite surf film?
Right now it has to be Cradle of Storms by Bryce Lowe White and Ben Weiland

What made you want to run the festival in Bristol?
Bristol is a city that embraces creativity and independence. It is just a couple of hours from a huge range of amazing surf spots, with a very active surfing community. It had to have a surf film festival!


How much grass-root support is there for surfing in Bristol?
There’s been a lot of support; the people and companies that stepped up to support us overwhelmed me. I have tried to share this at the festival by giving artists and companies a chance to come and exhibit.

What industry figures will be there?
Wave UK will be there to sponsor the short film award, plus the guys from Otter Surfboards and Passenger Clothing and reps from Brixton, not to mention Pete Abell from King Surf!

Will this be a yearly event?
It has to be!

What do you love about surfing?
It’s a passion that keeps you healthy, both physically and mentally.

What do you think about the UK surf scene?
I can’t believe how big surfing has become here! With the world embracing cold water surfing it’s cool to see people starting to celebrate the reality of being a UK surfer rather than pining for the California dream. I do miss the old (less crowded) days a bit though.

What will people take from the festival?
Apart from a ton of free gear provided by Passenger Clothing, Finisterre and Brixton, I’m hoping memories of a great night and inspiration to create, explore, or simply go surfing!