A chat with core surf filmmaker Justin Gane about Margo, Australian surf culture and some of his classic cuts.
If you grew up in the 80s and 90s VHS surf films where absolute gospel to discovering your favourite surfer. Yes kids, there was a time before social media killed the video star. And it was a period when Australian surfing was an absolute powerhouse, Rock ‘n’ roll was the soundtrack and a 6’4” your daily driver. Power surfing reigned supreme.
That era of Australian surfing left a lasting impression on filmmaker Justin Gane, the man behind cult classics; Tempo, PULSE, Supa Dupa, Odyssey and the widely-admired documentary ‘Wanderjahr – The Margo Project’. To coincide with the latter’s 15-year-anniversary, Gane has released a digital version of the iconic biopic. All these years later the film’s star, Brendan Margieson, and his surfing has endured. Margo was one of the first fully fledged freesurfers in the world. Gifted the golden ticket from then sponsor Billabong, Margs chased swells to some of the most exotic locations around the world and along the way influenced generations.
“I think his surfing is more relevant today because with all the spins in the air the emphasis has been taken off power surfing,” says Gane. “There are plenty of power surfers out there but there aren’t many surfers that can surf like that. That raw top to bottom surfing, Occy does it, Trent Munro, Winkler, it’s just really raw top to bottom surfing. So many people have seen so much of that modern surfing that it’s kind of getting boring. It doesn’t matter what they do, you kind if expect they’ll make anything. It blows people away when you see someone hacking into a 10-foot wave like it’s a 3-foot wave. You still don’t see much of that.”
In a time where the air reverse is the new floater the next generation of surfers are putting much less emphasis on hacking, gouging and lacerating lips. John John’s surfing at Margaret River a couple of years back might have exposed the rest of the Tour’s shortcomings but it was hardly breaking new ground according to Gane.
“I kind of blew my lid when John John was surfing in the Margarets contest doing those big hacks on the right. Everyone was blowing up on the web saying, ‘No one has ever surfed like this it’s the most powerful surfing ever.’ I’m going, wait a minute. I’ve got some footage here that I reckon that’s even better. So I posted it and questioned people, ‘Do you think Margo would have beaten John John at Bells this year if he surfed like that?’ I know it’s freesurfing but everyone went, ‘Holy shit who is this guy?’ All the pros got on there and agreed, even Kelly said he’d win.”
NEW RELEASE Wanderjahr- The Marģo Project Click link in bio to purchase Wanderjahr This session at #haliewa is definitely some of the most brutal #surfing I have ever seen especially considering @margomargs was wielding his 7'6 gun around like a shortboard. It was Xmas day #1996 and a solo session until @kellyslater joined in, you can see Margo nearly take him out in the #video. And that double grab rail air just blew my mind. #surf #surfmovie #hawaii #bigwaves #surfvideo #wanderjahr #powersurfing #manhandling #instasurf #90s
The clips Gane has posted on his Instagram page ‘Pulsesurf’ (which is highly recommend a follow), are a treasure trove for power surfing aficionados or anyone requiring an antidote to the homogenised pro surf offering from the current WSL brass. From Margo tearing a hole in the universe with his rail work at Winki and Haleiwa in Wanderjahr, or a young Fanning and Parko at perfect Superbank, its Australian surf core gold. Remembering that this was surfing done some 20 years ago on antiquated thrusters, it boggles the mind.
Gane is intensely proud about Australian surfing. His 1996 film PULSE was a war cry, turning everyone’s ideas about Australian surfing on their heads. While the American New School Momentum generation ruled due largely in part to the films from Taylor Steele, Gane fixed his lens on the next generation of Aussies who went on to become international superstars.
“I knew I wanted Australian surfing to have a comeback so there was a lot of pressure on myself to handpick the right surfers to make that happen. You could see who that was going to be.”
The roll call from Gane’s films reveal the depth of Australian surfing talent at the time. The cast of PULSE for instance boasts a cast that included; Occy, Joel Parkinson, Rasta, Neal Purchase Jnr, Dean Morrison, Trent Munro, Simon Robinson, Will Lewis, Taj Burrow, Jay Phillips, Beau Emerton, China, Lee Winkler, Mike Rommelse, Shane Wehner, Guy Walker, Damon Nicholls and Munga Burry.
With that generation now left in the wake Australia’s surfing future is languishing with only a couple of hopefuls on the QS. All this despite millions of dollars poured into high performance centres and coaches nationwide. Ironically all eyes are fixed on a tattooed, mullet flapping mongrel named Mikey Wright, tipped as Australia’s saviour. Wright seems unmoved by trends and walks to the beat of his own drum. You could call him a throwback but it’s his unfiltered approach to life, power hacks, gravity defying rotators and many, many middle fingers that’s made him a cult hero.
“I’m looking at what Hoyo has done to young Wrighty there and he’s instilled that Aussie mongrel,” says Gane. “You look at his surfing and there’s no one surfing like him. He will probably be on the Tour next year. He looks like an 80s surfer and he’s the best Australian surfer we’ve got. He’s our Dane.”
Much has changed from the days when the surf industry had huge budgets and the brands liked to spend big on their films. Though Gane is still upbeat, working independently as he did in his heyday. He wants to see Australian surfing prosper and help by unearthing the next generation who share the same qualities as the likes of friends Margo, Parko, Occy, Trent Munro and Neal Purchase Jnr.
“It’s been stirring me for a few years. I get so many texts saying, ‘We want another PULSE. Just straight up no bullshit surfing.’ Older crew in their mid-thirties to mid-fifties, they just want some power surfing. I know there are a new generation of surfers out there that are powerful, maybe not sponsored or coached that could crossover three or four generations with their surfing.”
Follow Pulsesurf on Instagram to stay up to date with Justin’s projects and keep Australian power surfing alive for generations to come.
Click here to browse or purchase all films from Gane Productions.