THE waves don't get much bigger than on the North Shore of Oahu, in Hawaii. In fact there's a left-hand cloud break there the locals call "Himalayas”.
Some surfers spend lifetimes studying, riding and trying to survive such waves - none more so than Nathan Fletcher.
But it was at Teahupo'o, Tahiti, that Fletcher's life changed.
It was there in 1998 that he re-found his commitment to big wave surfing and where he went many years later to ride "the gnarliest wave ever ridden”.
Fletcher's story is told in the film Heavy Water, which has its world premiere at the Byron Bay Film Festival this Saturday.
Subtitled The Life and Times of Nathan Fletcher, Heavy Water takes a close look at the child prodigy's relationship with big wave surfing.
Fletcher came from surfing royalty, with a brother, father and grandfather all famed for their talent and courage. He had a lot to live up to and sometimes found the public pressure and judgment too much to bear.
He was spectacular at 11 and burnt out at 16, focusing on skating, snowboarding and motorcycle riding to try to escape the limelight.
But at the age of 23 he got back into the surf in a big way, scoring two perfect 10s at Teahupo'o. Later he set his sights on waves that could only be reached from the air.
Heavy Water is the work of renowned South African filmmaker Michael Oblowitz, who has directed many critically acclaimed films and videos, including the surfing documentary Sea of Darkness (2010), which won at film festivals throughout the world, Byron Bay's among them.
He will be in attendance for the world premiere of Heavy Water.
Another surfing Nathan - Byron Bay's Nathan Oldfield - also has a feature-length film in the festival this year.
The Church of the Open Sky is the latest release from the creator of Lines from a Poem, Seaworthy, The Heart and the Sea and Gathering.
Novelist Tim Winton described Oldfield as "a filmmaker who wants a surf movie to say something important, to move us and make us grateful for the sea around us and the life within us”.
Church does that. Shot on location in Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea and Sri Lanka, the film features Dave Rastovich, Lauren Lindsey Hill, Tom Wegener, Belinda Baggs and many others in an endearing and uplifting representation of the surfing experience, where all participants are worthy and welcomed.
BBFF 2017 runs from October 6-15.
Tickets on sale at bbff.com.au.
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