Reviewed by GREG KING
Director: Craig Griffin.
Most surfing documentaries are full of big waves and surfing action that will appeal to its target audience, but are of limited appeal to a broad audience. However, this warts and all documentary looking at the life and hard times of Australian surf champion Wayne Lynch should have more mainstream appeal.
Uncharted Waters traces the journey of Lynch, one of surfing’s most iconic figures, from his teenage years through to his later years as a revered elder of the surfing circuit. Born and raised in the Victorian seaside town of Lorne, Lynch was something of a reluctant superstar who shunned the spotlight. A teenage prodigy and progressive surfer who revolutionised the sport in the late 60s and early 70s with his radical new vertical style of riding the waves, Lynch was admired for his freakish abilities on the short board. He was recognised and respected by his peers as one of the best surfers in the world. But as a youngster Wayne spent more time in the water than at school, and his supportive mother willingly wrote sick notes for him. Now Lynch seems more content to sail the waters rather than surf the waves.
Drawing upon plenty of archival footage, photographs from the Lynch family album, footage from early surf documentaries, and some revealing interviews, former teacher turned filmmaker Craig Griffin teases out a fully developed portrait of Lynch in this film. Griffin also interviews many of Lynch’s contemporaries, journalists and photographers to assess Lynch’s impact on the burgeoning sport.
There is plenty of surf action and big wave footage for surf fans, but the personal revelations and insights into this reluctant idol and hero will also be of interest. The big coup was in getting the normally reticent Lynch himself to open up on camera and talk candidly about his passion for surfing and about his private and personal life.
The film explores in detail Lynch’s complex and volatile relationship with the media circus, the corporate sponsors and the whole structure of professional surfing. His healthy disdain for the media circus was formed at an early age, as a couple of clips of him being interviewed by reporters illustrates.
It is obvious that Griffin is an unabashed fan of Lynch, but Uncharted Waters is not a hagiography. We learn about his bout with malaria, his years as a conscientious objector during the height of the Vietnam war and the toll that decision took on his career. We also learn about his heartbreak after his daughter was seriously injured in a car crash and his mental anguish over the uncertainty about her chances of survival for months of intensive treatment.
The film also offers up a revealing cultural snapshop of Australia in the 60s and 70s – a time of Vietnam, great social change, youthful rebellion – as Australia slowly emerged onto the world stage. Griffin has also drawn some footage from Jack McCoy’s documentary A Day In The Life Of Wayne Lynch.
The wealth of footage has been deftly edited by Sara Edwards, who has worked on documentaries such as Not Quite Hollywood as well as features like Patrick, Careful He Might Hear You, etc.
Uncharted Waters has screened in sell out sessions on the film festival circuit, and was, fittingly enough, chosen as the opening night attraction for the inaugural Lorne Film Festival late in 2013. You don’t have to be a surf fan to enjoy the personal revelations and insights offered here.