Entry 1: Thursday, May 17th, 2018
To the Cigarette Surfboard community,
We hope everyone is having a lovely spring. Here in California, Ben and Taylor have split weeks between the Bay Area, Santa Cruz, Los Angeles, and San Diego. We have been busy, as always, staying occupied with planning, filming, building boards, attending events, meeting with people, and continuously redefining and refocusing the scope and goals of our film. We are on an infinite learning curve that keeps us constantly on our toes. It’s been fun, rewarding, challenging, but most of all, exciting and inspiring - and we’re stoked as ever to keep pushing forward.
We attended the Global Waves Conference in Santa Cruz on March 5th to 7th. We spent those days listening to speakers from around the world (many of whom are environmentally active surfers, ranging from novice to professional) address ocean health problems and solutions: “The conference brings together the best international minds from the surfing, conservation, and innovation communities to tackle the world’s most challenging ocean issues.” We took extensive notes, felt inspired by the presentations, and had the chance to speak with influential people such as Patagonia Ambassador Liz Clark, champion big wave surfer and environmental activist Greg Long, U.K.’s “Surfers Against Sewage” founder Hugo Tagholm, “Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii” founder Kahi Picarro, and inspirational San Francisco filmmaker Sachi Cunningham. We’ve found that people are very intrigued by the Cigarette Surfboard and what it represents.
On top of the conference sessions, there was a film festival featuring notable surf filmmakers, a historical walk along West Cliff and its famous surf spots such as Steamer Lane, and a paddle-out with everyone to commemorate the power and beauty of so many like-minded people coming together to discuss the never-ending fight to protect the ocean. We decided not to film any part of the conference or conduct any interviews, but rather utilized it as a space to expand our knowledge on ocean conservation work and to create connections with influential and inspiring people, some of whom will be critical voices and stories in the film.
The following week we attended the NOAA International Marine Debris Conference in San Diego. We had obtained media passes to film at the event, which granted us access to interview many of the attendees. Over the course of four days, we conducted more than a dozen interviews with reputable scientists, UN Environment representatives, activists, and youth leaders from around the world. We also listened to a few presentations, and had the opportunity to meet Jack Johnson - a truly sweet and passionate human being, using his prominence as a famous musician and surfer to fight for a healthier ocean and happier planet. He even told us he’d be interested in riding the Cigarette Surfboard!
In March and April, we met with a number of notable ocean conservation activists and surf filmmakers in Southern California who have given us advice on the film - and it’s been extremely valuable for us to return often to the drawing board, and hone in on our strategy and structure of the film. Our current synopsis of the film is as follows: “We are creating an environmental surf film that uses the Cigarette Surfboard to question the mentality of littering cigarette butts, and how this largely represents our single-use plastic culture and its effect on the ocean. Our goal is to inspire, educate, and share creative solutions to encourage a “call to action” for the international surf community / industry to become more engaged stewards of the sea. We aim to provide people (surfers and non-surfers alike) with tools to help reduce their impact on the ocean.”
We have stratified the film into seven solution-based case study chapters, which are as follows: surf industry, education / youth, science, preventative solutions, clean-up solutions, activism / local community action, and politics. These are sub-categorized by topic rather than by individual / place - and allow for international people to fit into specific areas of the film to collectively address plastic pollution in our oceans as a global issue. We’ve also had plenty of creative visual ideas, and have figured out how to effectively interweave and connect Taylor’s story (without adopting a “Hero’s Journey” narrative), the Cigarette Surfboard, and surfing within a cohesive and interesting framework that addresses the problems and solutions to ocean plastic.
In San Diego, Scientist and Professional Surfer, Cliff Kapono, rode and spoke about the Cigarette Surfboard at Scripps Beach. We also met with San Diego State University Professor Emeritus Tom Novotny, an accomplished and well-respected scientist who studies the effect of cigarette butt littering on waterways, fish, and the ocean. In the future, we will be filming with both of these influential individuals.
Ben went with his third-grade teacher Laura Honda to San Francisco to pick up cigarette butts, and spent almost six hours doing so (plus some dim-sum in Chinatown). Filming the whole experience, Laura and Ben picked up thousands of littered butts, were thanked by numerous individuals (as well as the occasional “what the heck are they doing” look), and spoke extensively about the role and power of environmental education and exposure to nature for young kids - addressing the “why we should care” question. It was a rewarding experience for both of them, teacher and former student.
Taylor was invited to advise an environmental design class at Los Angeles Technical Trade College, to provide feedback and strategize for a junk-wars competition. He was asked to bring the Cigarette Surfboard as an example for the students, which they found as an inspirational piece. The class went on to win the contest, where they faced other classes from UCLA, ArtCenter College of Design, and CalArts.
We attended and filmed a beach clean-up in April at Santa Monica Pier, where over 1,000 volunteers helped us pick up littered butts for building new Cigarette Surfboards - we counted over 4,000 butts picked up in just over an hour. Taylor has been consistently prototyping for two new Cigarette Surfboard models, a 5’4” Twin-fin and 6’2” Bonzer. He developed a new way to build the boards - lighter, stronger, and more functional than the original - and it requires less butts, as part of our trademarked one-layer “Ciggy Mat Technology” - top secret (see the photos below). We are currently filming this building process in L.A. and plan to have both boards ready for the water in less than two weeks.
In less than two weeks (we swear we’re not cutting it too close with building the boards…) we leave for Europe. There’s been a lot of effort put into scheduling that trip (planes, trains, and automobiles), but through all the people we’ve met along the way, it’s been pretty easy finding inspiring individuals to meet and film - and there’s been overwhelming support for our project from most we’ve reached out to. In fact, we’re pretty damn booked for the 8 weeks we’re overseas. There’s a whole lot of cool stuff and interesting people involved with ocean conservation work in Western Europe and the UK / Ireland.
We fly to Paris on May 29th. As you may recall, Taylor was invited to speak on an ocean conservation and activism panel at the Think Tank Stage of the Parisian festival “We Love Green”. After the festival, we head to The Netherlands for a week, where we are booked almost every day with interviews with inspiring folks across the country. Then we head to Southwest France, and plan to spend 10 days around some of France’s best surfing areas, such as Biarritz and Hossegor. We have a few people we are meeting with there as well - scientists, surfers, and organizations. From Biarritz we go to London, and spend three weeks in Southern UK, meeting with people from the surf industry, university researchers, and founders of well-known non-profits - as well as spending a few days with relatives of Taylor’s.
Finally we get to Western Ireland, where we will be staying at the farm of the famous Irish surfer and farmer Fergal Smith - pitching a tent, growing some food, and interviewing and filming Fergal (and friends) ride the Cigarette Surfboard. And we’re home July 24th, presumably very low on funds. We’ll put together a prototype video from the trip, representative of the style and structure we intend for the full length documentary. We believe this will help in applying for grants and attempting to obtain sponsorships. And of course we’ll share this video with you, and we will be open to any feedback.
Check out our most recent article by Santa Cruz Waves: http://www.santacruzwaves.com/2018/05/a-smokin-film/
All in all, it’s a good time for the Ciggy Butt Board Boys. It’s also a lot of hard work. But we have momentum, support, and unwavering ambition and dedication to the project. Most important, it truly feels meaningful and unquestionably useful of our time to be making this film. As always, lots to do, and lots to learn.
Thanks again for your support, and don’t hesitate to reply, inquire, or offer suggestions of any sort.
Ben and Taylor