Moving Away from Mainstream
Nathan Oldfield balances intention and intuition to create a unique brand of surf film all his own
— What does it take to make a compelling film about surfing? The answer seems obvious when the film‘s protagonist happens to be a highly photogenic sport which, most of the time, delivers ocular pleasure and heaps of wanderlust through a screen. However, in the oversaturated surf movie market, surfing films can also be quite insipid and bereft of creativity. A crop of cookie-cutter features glorifying glassy curls, pro-surfers and ostentatious production leave the viewer hankering after genuine experiences with a stronger narrative element.
Enter Nathan Oldfield, whose films allow emotional journeys and uncontrived human stories to take center stage. “What I hope to communicate in my films is that there are lots of simpler, subtler moments taking place that are just as valid as those presented in mainstream portrayals,” says Nathan, who sees his work as a comprehensive documentation of surfing life and all the rich layers within it. His anthropocentric approach to the sport seeks to highlight our connection to the sea as an invaluable component – after all, our interaction with water is profoundly therapeutic, both physically and mentally.
“I‘ve always felt that surfing is clearly not just physical, it‘s metaphysical. It‘s an experience of the heart and spirit.”
Nathan doesn‘t follow scripts; he relies on his innate appreciation for the sea to kickstart an intuitive filming process. Seaworthy, one of his most renowned pieces of work, is a paean to the surfing lifestyle and the simple joys transpiring from engaging with waves with an almost sophomoric enthusiasm. What propels Nathan to tell stories is the need to capture beauty teeming with adventure and a sense of freedom amid the wilderness. “Storytelling nevergets old and no two waves are the same. There will always be a fresh image to be made about surfing – it‘s endlessly inspiring and motivating.” His relationship with the ocean has come a long way from the days of building sand castles and obsessively watching surf movies in the hopes of imbibing skills by visual osmosis. What has remained the same is his unwavering belief that the sea offers solace to those who know how and where to look for it. “The ocean is my heart country and surfing is how I find my place in it.”
Text: Effie Efthymiadi
Photography: Nathan Oldfield