Many of you may have stumbled across Justin Gane’s Pulse Surf Insta account in your daily scroll. The account, which features lo-fi flashbacks from a mixed bag of 90s and early noughties rippers, has become a favourite amongst pro surfers, 90s nostalgics and curious new generation surfers. On Pulse Surf you will find Kelly Slater and Taj Burrow chiming in with comments and guys like Jay Phillips and Brendan ‘Margo’ Margieson blitzing the likes. The footage is riveting because it showcases distinctly different lines, boards and styles – often prompting you to wonder if there weren’t a few things that were actually done better back then.

The Insta clips have been painstakingly ripped and digitised from the eleven VHS films and hours of B-roll tape Gane shot in the 90s and early 2000s. Back then Gane emerged as a kind of surf-reel saviour of an Oz scene that was in danger of being ignored as Taylor Steele and his star-spangled Momentum Crew snatched the spotlight. In the same way Steele helped launch a host of US bands, Gane was also conscious of using surfing vids to promote underground Oz rock acts. Below Gane talks about his helter-skelter years capturing footage and why he has brought it all back on his Pulse Surf Insta account.  

How did you get into filming and making surfing movies? What year?
In early 1994 I broke my big toe and borrowed my Mum’s handycam to kill the boredom. I filmed Dbah each day with NPJ and all the local crew and decided to buy my own camera with 3k I had saved in super (back before superannuation was a thing) to film my circle of friends hoping it would improve our surfing. Myself, Neal Purchase, Brenden Margieson & Craig Holley spent the next year taking it in turns filming every day.

At the end of the day we would go back and critique each other’s surfing over a few cold beers. Also Jay Phillips, Will Lewis, Parko & Dingo started tagging along amongst others and I started filming more and surfing less as the stockpile of good footage grew. I gathered those guys had more talent than myself and I could see a niche in the market and a future beyond just surfing.

In September ’95 I released my first film Unleashed.

Check out Justin's archive of films at https://gumroad.com/pulsesurf#mjwsI

When you started out filming were you still competing?
I always competed on a club level since I was young and when I moved north I joined Kirra Boardriders which was next level with world-class surfers. In 1995 I was coaxed in entering an ACC event (Australian Championship Circuit) called the XXXX Pro Cabarita Classic by good friend Dave Davidson. He was super supportive and I thought why not give it one a crack. I said to him, “If I go in this thing I’m making the quarters.” Dave chuckled and said. “That’s the spirit”. Somehow I battled my way through nine rounds to the final but best of all was coming up against the crew I filmed with. That’s what spurred me on most. I competed in a couple more events in ’97 and travelled with Trent Munro, Phil & Ant Macdonald, Drew Courtney and good mate, Shane Wehner. I progressed five rounds with Trent at a WQS on the Sunshine Coast; Occy was coming back and won that event. In that event kids greeted us at the shoreline to have their Pulse gatefold posters signed, I got more of a kick out of that than winning any event. Pulse’s popularity grew fast after its release and I knew that was where my future lay rather than competing. After that I entered QS events in New Zealand and Tahiti with little success but it never mattered to me as I was there filming with the boys for PULSE 2.

 
 
 
 
 
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@markocchilupo destroying a wave back in 1996. #occy #surfing #90s #surfmovie #surfvideo #surfclip #freesurfer

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Was it pretty raw and unscripted? Just show up, shoot the session and keep the edit simple?
Yeah, it was all about getting away with the boys, finding good waves to ourselves and capturing the action. I was inexperienced and in hindsight wish I had shot more cutaways and interviews that would be fantastic for the future. Nothing was scripted, just film from November to July, then edit for two months and release September holidays each year. A few of the cast would come around to my studio and help pick waves and a track for their edit – such fond memories of late nights with the boys.

Justin going upside down in the days when he was a sponsored surfer.

Did you invest much time in music or work with bands that ultimately became much bigger with a little help from you?
Bands and music have always been my biggest obsession so I knew if I wanted to make popular surf films I needed to find music that would hook the viewer and bring the best out of the surfing I had captured. Music is 50% of what make or breaks a film.

During the 90’s to the mid-noughties I really pushed plenty of upcoming Oz rock acts such Thumlock, Bodyjar, Beautiful Girls, Fort, Pete Murray, Mark Of Cain, Giants Of Science, Screamfeeder, Load, Pollen and many more.

I really wanted to push underground Oz rock in the hope that the surf films would help with their popularity and help sell albums.

In 1998, while producing my fourth surf film Odyssey, I decided to fund a then unknown band Rollerball into a studio for the first time to record theme music and some rockin’ tunes for my new surf release. It also ensured the band was able to release debut album “Lost In Space”.

Last year I started my own record label Volcano Vinyl and launched with the 20th Anniversary Edition of Rollerball’s debut album. It was always a dream of mine back then to have a record company but making films left me little time for such endeavours.

In the 90s Taylor Steele had his massive push with the Americans and the so-called “Momentum Generation”. Was there a sense that he was only telling half the story and the Australians needed to respond with someone creating and pushing content for them?
Taylor busted on the scene a few years before I did and I was a huge fan of both his work and the phenomenal new school surfers of that generation, which also happened to be the same age as me. Pre surf psych-ups to the Momentum films in the early 90s were standard.

Once I moved north from the far south coast in late ’92 and started surfing Duranbah I soon began to realise how deep the talent pool was up here and there was a younger generation of groms coming through, which I could see had endless talent.

It annoyed me that the majority of young Australian surfers looked up to the Momentum generation for inspiration and our country was waining with this huge push coming out of the States. I had to do something!

Taylor’s films were the driving force for me to capture a new batch of young, Aussie underground surfers in the hope that we would once again become patriotic about our own surfers and in turn put them in the limelight so they could make a living doing what they love best. I learnt to surf in the early 80s when Australia ruled the world with legends like Tom Carroll, MR, Rabbit, Occy, Kong, Barton Lynch, Damien Hardman – the list goes on. I wanted future generations to have legends to worship like the ones I grew up with.

The Pulse Insta posts have been wildly popular? Are you pleased with the response?
Hell yeah, I’m surprised.
I have been digitising all my old tapes for a few years and I’m still going through the huge back catalogue I captured over the years. Funnily enough Margo & Purcho insisted I should get on the platform a few years before I did but I was stubborn and uninterested – that was until I started watching all the content. I’m pretty late to the party but Pulse Surf has started to kick into gear recently and stir up a bit of interest.

What gives you more of a fizz? The comments or maximising the likes?
Oh the comments for sure, I love seeing all the crew featured reconnecting and talking with old friends and rivals, reminiscing about days of old. Also younger generations weighing in on subjects such as the longer boards and power surfing and being able to chat with each other – narrowing that generation gap.

It’s humbling to see stoked followers sharing the content with friends and talking about each post. All in all it’s been a positive experience that seems to make people happy and have something to look forward to each day.

How much time do you spend unearthing the archive and converting to digital bites? What drives you to do it?
I post a clip once a day around 7am. I have spent a few years on and off capturing about half my content and am now going through the process of cutting each hour tape into about 15 minutes of cream. This has been time-consuming but at the same time enjoyable and rewarding, especially finding good waves and faces that didn’t make the cut back in the day. I am driven to do this as I think the surfing world needs to see what was happening back in the past and it would be a shame for its relevance in history to disappear forever.

Also more than anything it is stoking out the surfers and for some of them their family has never seen footage of them surfing, this gives me warm fuzzy feeling when I get that feedback.

 Who generates the most interest?
It’s more what than who I think but obviously the usual suspects with good styles and unique approaches. Margo of course as I worked closely with him all my filming life, Occy, Parko, Fanning, Jay Phillips, Neal Purchase, Trent Munro and any other of the featured crew from my past films. Power surfing gets the biggest hits but that’s what I specialise in, that’s what I’m into so that’s what I push.

Also surprise guest stars that didn’t make the films. Oh and Kelly, the GOAT is always a favourite, as he should be!!

Kelly comments often suggest they’d like to see him back on the longer boards? He is still a good sport though and chimes in with a comment or a like?
Kelly is so proactive online and his comments are well appreciated. I think crew give him a bit of a hard time about not riding a longer board or experimenting with new equipment. I get it, he has been surfing a very long time and to stoke the fire you got to have new wood. He has nothing to prove and dares to dream big and I am supportive of him trying to reinvent himself and his surfing. Shit, I haven’t ridden a conventional thruster in 20 years so can relate to why he wouldn’t want to ride the same style of equipment forever. The past is the past and Kelly rips on whatever he rides anyway.

It seems like a lot of the pros who surfed in that era enjoy the flashbacks.

Yeah, I suppose one of the great things about getting old is reflecting back on good times you had in the past. I don’t think the 90s generation would have thought in the past that we would have had such a distinctive identity in the future. Isn’t it funny how that era has suddenly become what the 70s was for us in the 90s. We made history.

We did have a look, we did leave our mark, it was the birth of a new style of progressive surfing while maintaining that 80s power.

People even like the low fi vibe. What were you shooting on back then?
Yeah, it certainly had its own distinctive look about it and I always used the shittiest low- end equipment, not so much because I was a tight ass but I wanted to remain low key at filming locations. Big lenses angered locals back then and I never liked upsetting people.

Also those tiny handycams I chose has a 20 x optical zoom and with a 2 x attached there wasn’t anywhere I couldn’t film. It was all about shooting tight to make it action-packed and for the surfer to appear fast and aggressive. Back then the legends in surf cinematography were still shooting film and I couldn’t afford to go down that path and I wanted to create my own look and niche.

You have also unearthed some more obscure surfers who still absolutely ripped? I saw a clip of Matty Shaw where he looks silky and Josh Fuller performing a slick carving 360 that you termed the 241 manoeuvres?
The talent pool of the 90s was arguably the deepest in Australian surf history, there were literally hundreds of surfers that could have had a crack at the tour if they so wished. Each week I try and uncover a lesser-known talent that the newer generations might not have heard of before. Guys like Matt Shaw, Josh Fuller, Dru Adler, Corey Ziems, Jarrah Tutton, Navrin Fox, Craig Holley, Jamie Kasdaglis – the list is endless and each of these guys are world-class in their own right.

‘241’ was just shorthand for 2 for 1, a way of explaining a double manoeuvre with no apparent break in- between.

Your clips raise the question as to whether or not the surfing was in some regards better then. At least the rail surfing? Surfers were doing airs but the focus was still heavily on the rail, particularly with the longer, leaner boards?
I was obsessed with power surfing from the 80s but beyond that style too. Tom Carroll, Occy, Brad Gerlach, Tom Curren, Dane Kealoha and Martin Potter were my heroes. When I started filming I wanted to film those kinds of surfers with those two qualities. It’s always debatable which generation surfs better and also having to take into account the equipment being surfed in that era. The boards in the 90s were definitely not the easiest to ride – longer, narrower and thinner with more rocker than now; they certainly kept you on your toes.
But with the extra length (approx 6’1 - 6’4 shortboard average) and longer curves it was conducive for modern-day power surfing close to the pocket.

The modern-day surfer invests much time above the lip, perfecting the strike rate and perfecting that technique which is expected of them. In turn, this must-have some effect on the time spent on the face and working on rail turn right?

Back when I was producing surf films I certainly put no pressure on surfers nailing air moves for their sections, instead the focus was on ticking all the other boxes first with every combo imaginable done with as much power as the wave would allow.

I remember Trent Munro trying airs when we filmed and wasting lots of waves trying them. I requested he just do what he does best and when it comes to rail surfing not many are any better. He carved out a name for himself with his ability to use his rail and not rely on his fins. The new generation are the best we have ever seen, a great blend of both power and innovation.

 
 
 
 
 
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Flashback to 1995 with one of those most stylish surfers i ever seen with @jamiekasdaglis. Jamie had such a Currenish technique and could surf as tight in the pocket as anybody. An incredible artist, musician and skateboarder he is all-around freak that also appears not to age like the GOAT. The best wave i ever seen surfed was Jamie in 1992 out 6ft cove at Burleigh, 3 under the lips snaps on a drainer where any other surfer would be in the tube, the turns defied gravity and logic and the spray went sky high. Who remembers Jamie K and what are your memories? #jamiekasdaglis #freak #freesurfer #surfing #90s #powersurfing #surfmovie #surfvideo #surfclip #flashback

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Do you have a favourite surfer from the era?
Geez those kind of answers are impossible for me, just depends on the day and the conditions. Being a goofy I would probably say Occy as he was the best goofy in the 90s. Trent Munro was always the best to shoot with regards to consistency and power.

Margo was a blend of both with innovation and bizarre, contorted manoeuvres. Luke Egan, Simon Robinson & Neal Purchase were all powerful and oozing with style.

Later the Cooly kids of course, I love all their surfing and have known them all since they were micro-groms, but that’s more about the noughties than the 90s.

The industry was flush with cash back then were you selling a lot of footage to sponsors and the like?
No I wasn’t, I was stockpiling content for a production to be released each and every year.

You bank-rolled a couple of your own films? Which ones? What did you learn about making movies – creatively and in terms of economics?
I bankrolled all 11 of my films with minimal help from the industry. Billabong were great and helped with trips and some marketing posters and replication in the early days. I had been sponsored by them from the early 90s as a team rider, so it made perfect sense to band with them as the large majority or surfers rode for the company in the mid 90’s.

As time went on the budgets cost more and cover mounts DVD’s killed the sales for the independent filmmaker. While making the next few films, I lost the house I bought before I started filming. I was quite disheartened with the surf industry and sensed my end was nigh.

You also directed and shot Wanderjahr with Brendan Margieson. It’s a much-liked film but in hindsight you have suggested you would have done things differently or have learnt a lot since then?
Filming Wanderjahr - The Margo Project was the best time, hanging out with my best mate travelling around the globe and putting together that doc with him. I had never made a documentary before and also I had never edited a film fully by myself. I bought a 17- inch MacBook Pro in 2002 and learnt to edit on the go with this production. So when I watch that film now I wish I could have been more experienced at editing but it was well received and we were both happy with it at the time.

You have adapted to the Insta age but do you still dream of producing something in long-form?
Yes, I have many different productions racing around in my head that I would love to produce. I would love to get back into making a real film again but it’s a scary prospect with past losses in mind. I really regret not finishing a documentary I spent many years and money-making down in Tasmania about Shipstern Bluff titled “ The Stern Age”. But that is ancient history now, cut short by a near-death experience.

People often request that they would really like another Pulse style action psych-up movie, which would make sense but I have grander ideas about doco style films.

I’ve talked in the past with Tim Baker about collaborating on a doco about the history of Coolangatta but that was 15 years ago now. Soon after I stopped filming surfing, I moved into Motorsport full-time and worked in that field for eight years. It was awesome and taught me how not to procrastinate and to work fast and effectively.

I often question myself on why I need to make another film? I’m really enjoying my surfing and missed out on almost two decades of it working behind the lens.

But the more time I spend looking at all this old footage, so many ideas circle in my head. I had planned on a new film to be released in 2020. With COVID-19, 2021 looks more realistic.

Given a reasonable budget what would a feature-length Justin Gane film look and sound like and who or what might be the focus?
I have no idea how to obtain a budget in this day and age and don’t have the means to fund my own projects anymore but if money fell from the sky I would love to make a documentary based on the 80s & 90s surfing movement in Australia.

Also a new Pulse film featuring young underground surfers with more power and rail surfing.

I have access to the best music I have ever had and am just as excited about that as the prospect of making a new amp-up film for the younger generation starring some of our old favourites from yesteryear. Time will tell, until then enjoy Pulse Surf and I thank you all for your support and kind words.

Prolific surf filmer Justin Gane.