Welcome to the second instalment of our Seminal Cinema series, where we hit up iconic longboarders from around the world to ask about the surf movies that shaped them. Consider it a great way to stack up your ‘watch later’ list with timeless classics and to learn more about the influential loggers whose lives they shaped.
Today, our guest is West Java’s Husni Ridhwan, a free surfer extraordinaire and one-time Indonesian longboard champ. Since the early 2010s, he’s been drawing global admiration for his silky style and excellent footwork, showcased in various films including Temple, I Had Too Much To Dream Last Night and South To Sian. Born and raised in the small seaside village of Batukaras, he started surfing as a kid with a group of his schoolmates, just as a way of “killing time,” he says. His was only the second generation of local surfers to put down roots at the beach, trading a few boards left behind by tourists in the late 90s. As you’ll see, his story rings with the romance of the pre-internet era, when chance encounters, magazines and borrowed VHS tapes represented the sole line into global surf culture for those growing up away from the sport’s industrial epicentres.
His film of choice was the charming One California Day. Released in 2007, it chronicles the richness of Golden State surf culture through the stories of seven esteemed wave riders who live scattered along the coast. Here’s Husni’s take.
When did you first get your hands on a longboard?
There was an old Australian guy who moved here and started paddling with one on small days. There were no longboarders before that. One day I was struggling to get the waves on my shortboard and he offered to lend me it. I had a go and straight away was like ‘Oh fuck I get so many waves with this, this is great.’ I went to his place in the afternoon to try and give it back and he told me I could keep it. After that, I kept taking that board out, because most of the time the waves are small at the point, but I’d just be having so much fun.
Did you figure out how to ride it straight away?
No, I had no idea. But one day the old guy invited us for dinner and he put a surf movie on, I think it was Endless Summer. Then he showed me all these different magazines and I saw that you could go on the nose and I thought, oh sick I want to do that.
Was it also him who showed you One California Day?
Yeh. One day he said, “I’ve got a new movie for you, it’s a good one!” He’d just ordered it from somewhere. I went round and watched it and it blew my mind. I thought everything about it was just amazing; the way it tells the stories and how much everyone in it loves surfing and being in the ocean. Especially the Malloy Brothers section, where they go out and explore. It showed me the idea that there are always fun waves around the corner and that we actually could do that here too, because there’s so many places to explore. I also loved how they rode all kinds of different boards, always choosing the right one for the right waves, because I grew up shortboarding and I still loved to do that too when the conditions were right.
Did you want to keep watching it after that?
Yeh, I went back to the guy’s house the day after that and said, ‘Man, I want to watch that movie again.’ He said, ‘Sure put it on,’ so I just kept watching it. It gave me all these ideas about how I wanted to surf and how I wanted to get out and find more waves.
So did you discover some new spots off the back of that?
We did! Back in the day we didn’t have cars or bikes because they were a little bit out of our budget. So every time we saw a tourist with boards and a car, we’d suggest going somewhere to check the waves. It was great, because they were happy to explore, and we were happy to finally get a car to go to find some new places.
How long was it until you got the chance to try a traditional single fin like those being ridden in the film?
It was actually a while, at least six years I think. Getting boards here is really hard, because we’re just a small village and not too many people came back then. It’s not really the sort of ‘Indo waves’ most travellers are after. It’s just sand-bottomed point waves. Sometimes big, but most of the time small. So most of the people back then would go to Bali, or Lombok. We’d just surf whatever boards we could get.
But then I got the chance to meet [legendary Noosa-based shaper] Thomas Bexon, who was over here on a trip and try his board and it just blew my mind. It felt so different to what I’d been surfing and I’ve been riding his boards pretty much ever since.
Finally, beyond the Malloys, were there any other people or sections in the film that you really remember connecting with?
To be honest there were so many. Watching how Jimmy Gamboa surfed Malibu, watching Devon Howard surf San Diego and of course, Joel Tudor. Because I’d never really seen how to ride longboards properly before that, the whole thing was just pretty ‘woah’ for me. Every night before I’d sleep, I’d just picture myself surfing like them and say ‘I’m going to do that tomorrow’.