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Invisible surfers

Posted: November 30th, 2013 | News, Sports & Fitness, Top Story | No Comments

New film to explore taboo of homosexuality in surfing

Morgan M. Hurley | GSD Editor

“San Diego houses one of the largest communities of gay surfers in the world,” said Thomas Castets, founder of GaySurfers.net and the driving force behind OUT in the Line-up, a new documentary that he hopes will uncover the taboo of homosexuality in surfing.

(l to r) Thomas Castets (founder of GaySurfers.net) and ..... (of Santa Barbara, Calif.) prepare for a surf at sunrise in Sydney, Australia. (Courtesy GaySurfers.net)

(l to r) Thomas Castets (founder of GaySurfers.net) and Riley Hermann (of Santa Barbara, Calif.) prepare for a surf at sunrise in Sydney, Australia. (Courtesy GaySurfers.net)

Castets, an Austrailan, launched the GaySurfers.net community in 2010, when it became clear to him surfers around the world needed a safe place where they could connect with other surfers, be it online, or at surfing destinations around the world.

The website, which had firewalls and allowed members to be anonymous if they chose, grew to 500 members in just its first six months and continued to grow exponentially. Today the site hosts 5,000 members.

“We talked about our surf spots, our boards, our surf trips and what it was like being the only gay surfer in our small towns or cities,” Castets said of the website’s early days. “It was amazing. I received many thank you letters; men and women were stoked they had found the site and suddenly we were not alone anymore.”

A large group of San Diego gay surfers met up with Castets at Black's Beach in Sept. 2012 for filming. (Courtesy GaySurfers.net)

A large group of San Diego gay surfers met up with Castets at Black’s Beach in Sept. 2012 for filming. (Courtesy GaySurfers.net)

Castets began traveling to cities around the world meeting with members. It was during a visit to San Diego in 2011 that inspired him to make the film. He returned to Australia and in April 2012, preparations for production on “OUT in the line-up” began.

“Speaking with other gay surfers on that trip [to San Diego], I realized that many of us felt quite isolated and were scared about being rejected from our surfing communities if we were open about our sexuality,” Castets said. “I vowed to return with a camera crew to document some of these stories and when I did in September 2012, we were welcomed with open arms.”

Some local surfers had organized a surf session at Black’s Beach and Castets was thrilled to see almost 50 surfers show up to meet him and learn more about the film. Carlsbad resident and three-time women’s world champion long boarder Cori Schumacher was also in attendance.

“The welcome from the community was overwhelming and really inspiring,” he said.

Schumacher, who has long been a very outspoken catalyst for change against the discriminatory culture that exists against both women and gays in professional surfing, will be prominently featured in the film.

Three time world champion Cori Schumacher takes a wave in Carlsbad. (Courtesy Cori Schumacher)

Three time world champion Cori Schumacher takes a wave in Carlsbad. (Courtesy Cori Schumacher)

“The precedent that has been set is that if you are gay, or we think you’re gay, then you’re out,” said Schumacher in a press release announcing the Kickstarter campaign. “And that social coercion is the most powerful coercion that exists within the surfing world.”

Castets said the first round of filming in San Diego “established their foundation and momentum” for the production and since then, he and his team of Sydney-based filmmakers have travelled to other surfing locations in California, Hawaii, Mexico, Equador, the Galapagos Islands and his native Australia, filming the stories of other gay surfers for the film.

The main goal of the film is simple: reach out to those who feel alienated in their communities.

“Obviously it will particularly resonate with members of the gay and surfing community who feel pressures to conform to stereotypes but we feel this will be an inspirational tale for anyone who has felt like an outsider,” Castets explained. “Through the film we want to demonstrate the freedom and joy that can come from ‘being yourself.’”

On his travels, Castets has heard stories from people who have quit surfing, fearful of the rejection that would surely come should others in their local line-up find out they were gay.

“I hope that this film will make gay surfers from remote areas realize that they are not alone and that there are all types of people in the line-up,” he said. “The more visible homosexuality becomes the more it will be accepted as an undeniable part of our society. This film paints one part of this picture and a very colorful one at that.”

Although the surf industry has stated that being gay is a non-issue, Castets and his team could get no one to go on record to say that, and weren’t able to secure any sponsors in the industry to assist with the making of the film.

“I hope that by getting the topic out into the open, the film will provoke discussion and hopefully create a safer platform from which the surf industry can embrace the diversity that exists within the surf community,” he said.

The film is almost complete, but tens of thousands of dollars are still needed to secure a 2014 release of the film. To meet that need, Castets recently launched a Kickstarter campaign with the hopes of raising the money by a Dec. 13 deadline. He goal is to submit the film to 30 independent film festivals around the world and ride the 2014 circuit.

“An amazing group of volunteers have donated their time, resources and creative expertise to make this project happen,” Castets said. “But to share this film with the widest possible audience and make it look the best it can, there are some hard costs we can’t avoid.”

He identifies things such as the need to hire a professional “colorist” to prep the final film for big and small screens; a sound mixer to make sure the music and the dialogue is just right; and paying for music and surfing film clip rights. The money will also allow them to share the film with audiences on multiple platforms and languages, to expand the reach of its message to its full potential.

With a Kickstarter campaign, if the identified monetary goal is not met within the days specified (30 in this case) no transactions are processed and the campaign is not funded. However, if donations meet or better yet exceed the goal, all money will go to the cause.

Those seeking the funding set incentive levels that include bounty each donor will receive based on the amount they pledge. Castets is offering everything from copies of the film on DVD to surfing lessons to sweeten the pot.

Castets has set a monetary on Kickstarter at $30,000 AUD, and as of press time, they have $22,875 AUD pledged so far. On the Kickstarter page is an inspiring trailer for the film.

If “OUT in the line-up” gets the funding and is made, San Diegans can expect to play an important part in the making of the film.

“I would say the gay surfing community in San Diego is very special in its vibrancy and diversity,” Castets said. “I think this is representative and a wonderful testament to the city’s thriving gay and surfing communities.”

For more information or to make a pledge, visit Kickstarter.com and search for “Out in the line-up” or visit their website, outinthelineup.com.

Related stories: Learn about when GaySurfers.net first launched.

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