On Sunday October 24th, I had the opportunity to watch First Love. The title alone conjures up images of hand drawn hearts, long walks in the park, and first kisses. This documentary does not disappoint. In this film, however the object of desire is not another person but a desire to make it to the upper echelon of surfing. Claire Gorman directs the film and does a spectacular job of keeping the feature just under an hour.
The film takes place partly in Australia where the main characters live and attend school. It features amateur surfers Jess Laing, India Payne, and Nicki Van. Though the girls are still in the pubescent stage of development, their skills on the surf make them appear much more mature. The documentary goes to great lengths to cover the struggles, triumphs, and challenges each of the girls face.
After some time, two of the three girls make the pilgrimage to the Mecca of surfing on Oahu’s North Shore. The young surfers have an opportunity to hang with pro surfers Alana Blanchard, Stephanie Gilmore, and Coco Ho. By mid trip, they each summon the courage to tackle the waves. While all of their attempts were not successful, I certainly enjoyed the journey. Their joy from surfing and life is infectious. I left the theater feeling like “anything is possible”.
In my opinion, this documentary does a great job of showing their stories in three dimensional ways. They are not simply surfers but teenagers who enjoy shopping and lament homework. The film is an intimate look what it takes to chase after the dream of pro-surfing. For example, there are setbacks to one young lady that forces her to reaffirm her commitment to the sport. Like a fly on the wall, the audience gets a glimpse of the painstaking process of rehabilitation and recovery.
Overall the film offers a subject that would appeal to anyone because everyone has had a dream. I would recommend the film to the young, old, surf enthusiasts, or just anyone who has had a dream. J