Relatively few surf documentaries focus on Indigenous people or include them in any way. The ones that do tend to reinforce stereotypes. Indigenous people, if included at all, are represented as simplistic caricatures. These images in film represent and reinforce inaccurate perceptions that non-Indigenous people hold about Indigenous cultures.
Non-Indigenous people and non-Indigenous surf films similarly tend to misunderstand Indigenous homelands as exotic paradises, untrammeled wilderness, exciting zones for unbounded adventure. Surf travelers and other tourists visiting coastal places often do not even recognize when they are in Indigenous homelands, and as a result can unknowingly behave as disrespectful guests. Surf documentaries tend to feed into this problem by encouraging (primarily) white, affluent men to travel in search of perfect waves and insinuating that there are no behavioral rules for surf travelers in the places they are visiting.
Our film confronts stereotypes about Indigenous Māori people of Aotearoa head-on by introducing the viewer to several kaihekengaru (Māori surfers), all with different life experiences and perspectives. The film introduces Māori men and women, elders and youth, all with a passion for surfing. These are relatable people with thought provoking stories to share.
We also examine how commonly held ideas about Indigenous homelands have harmful impacts on Indigenous locals that can fuel tensions in and out of the water.