Interview: India Payne & Jess Laing/ First Love
You can take the girl outta the surf…
By Matthew Pejkovic
For filmmaker Claire Gorman, First Love started as a straightforward ‘observational’ documentary about three surfer chicks from her home turf of Phillip Island, Victoria: Nikki van Dijk, India Payne and Jess Laing. However, after one of them was injured, the film became a testament to the sheer tenacity of these young women.
“We knew Claire, who was six years above us in school”, India explains. “Originally, she approached Nikki, and began filming her. Then she got Jess into it all, and they called me one day and asked me to come surfing with them, and it just went on from there.”
As Gorman followed the teens, the film’s scope stretched to include their daily home and school lives. “It was weird at the start having someone follow you around”, Jess confesses. “But Claire is really good with the camera. It was ok because we were friends with her, and we felt totally comfortable around her. Some of the things she did film were embarrassing, and of course she did put it all in the film!”
Passionate about surfing, and determined to find success on the professional circuit, the best friends decided to pack their surfboards and head to Hawaii, to test their mettle against its infamous North Shore. Excitement turned to tragedy, however, when Jess suffered a severe shoulder injury just days before their scheduled departure.
“It was really hard, because it was winter at home and they are going over to Hawaii where it’s summer; I wasn’t allowed to do any stuff at home, let alone surfing, so I became even more determined to get better, and had it my head that I was going to go over there, which I think was my way of getting through it. It made me appreciate surfing so much more.”
With Jess recuperating in the winter chill of Phillip Island, Nikki and India pressed on with their trip to the sunny climes of Hawaii. The experience proved invaluable, exposing them both to professional surfing culture, and the kind of waves that they had only dreamed about.
Besides being a personal document, First Love also explores the current state of women’s surfing, featuring appearances by the likes of Australian champ Stephanie Gilmore, surfing pin up Alana Blanchard, and surfing royalty Coco Ho.
“Surfing is so male-dominated at the moment”, says Jess. “But the professionals like Stephanie Gilmore and all of those girls are pushing it, so hopefully people will see the movie and see what’s going on, that these amazing girl surfers are doing just as well as the guys.”
In the end, First Love is a testament to the boundless passion these three girls have for surfing. “The feeling you get from surfing is so hard to describe,” explains Jess. “When you go out there, everything else that is worrying you pretty much just goes. You focus on just you and the ocean. I don’t know where else I could get that feeling from.”
The film is also a nice contrast to the predominant media conception of generation Y as tech obsessed, quasi-literate, and directionless. Nikki concedes that while that is certainly part of the picture, “There are still people in our generation out there, fighting to get whatever they want, and hopefully people will be able to see that.”
What: First Love, Dir. Claire Gorman
When: Opens February 23, 2011
Where: Event Cinemas Bondi Junction + George St, Randwick Ritz, Cronulla Cinema