“Keith Malloy’s debut film, Come Hell or High Water, shot primarily on 16mm focuses on the simplicity and beauty of bodysurfing. Keith explores the history and progression of the sport through its many unique characters. It’s about taking a breath, and kicking your feet, in the big blue sea.”
I tell ya, Keith Malloy is getting up there on my “people I hope to meet one day” list. I first watched him in 180 Degrees South and just saw him in Highwater (a doc that I unfortunately do not feel like doing a write up for only because I don’t know how much I could say about it, watch it if you want to learn more about the surfing world). Keith is one of those honest-to-goodness guys who says what he means and no more. His short documentary, Come Hell or High Water though, it is surely something I am more than happy to describe. It explores the community within bodysurfing, a little known sport that, due in part to its unfamiliarity, still has a purity within its following. Sprinkled amongst its gorgeous and award-winning photography are interviews with some of the big characters of the bodysurfing world, including Mark Cunningham, an inspiration in surfing. Mark explains bodysurfing as the greatest connection to the water and nature, the most intimate way to experience the ocean. The images of men and women seemingly flying across a wave, hands skimming the surface, put Mark’s love into perspective. Even beneath the waves, following the surf underwater is like a spiritual connection to earth and its greatest creation.
The spirituality of all surf sports echoes in one scene, between a father and his son. As the young boy twists and turns in the ocean’s current, he is surrounded by its simple, natural movement and sound. He is nowhere and yet in the most powerful element on earth, using it as a healing source for his autism. The A.D.A.M. Medical Encyclopedia lists the following symptoms of autism:
Be overly sensitive in sight, hearing, touch, smell, or taste
May not respond to eye contact or smiles, or may avoid eye contact
Shows a lack of empathy
Does not play interactive games
May find normal noises painful and hold hands over ears
May withdraw from physical contact because it is overstimulating or overwhelming
Shows little pretend or imaginative play
Has a short attention span
Now imagine Beau King, a young autistic boy, who struggles through life with these symptoms constantly in tow, look directly at the camera, his body being pushed through the water by the waves, and smile. And play. And be completely in a world where autism can never exist. Life in the water is inevitably different. It is of the earth at its utmost yet it is nothing that we, as human beings, realize the earth to be. As much as we try to manipulate what life throws at us, either it be nature or the environment or even an illness, we can never understand as the earth and its elements understand. We can never harness, no matter how advanced our technology and our medicine, the feeling an autistic boy feels as he is being swept away by the sea, no other noises or feelings to bother him and nothing to overwhelm him. Just nature in its purest form. He feels the most reassured he might ever feel because his father gave him the opportunity to touch the sea and experience the world.
All harnessed by a love of bodysurfing.
Kudos to you Keith Malloy.