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Matt Mays’ surfing movie at the Canadian Surf Film Festival 

Beach boy: Local rocker trades guitar for board and pays tribute to Lawrencetown

click to enlarge Matt Mays trades his guitar for a surfboard.
  • Matt Mays trades his guitar for a surfboard.

It doesn't take much to get Matt Mays waxing philosophic about surfing.

"These perfectly formed waves have been crashing on our shore for thousands of years," he says over the phone from New York. "It's something that's so untouched...such a beautiful thing. I think every day I wake up glad that I know how to do it."

The veteran rocker loves his wave riding so much in fact, that he recently took time away from recording a new album to try his hand at filmmaking, directing the short Surfer's Road for the Canadian Surf Film Festival.

"It's based on a skit my friends and I have," says Mays. "We've always joked about controlling the road to the beach. It's a play on that. A window into a world where surfers have the utmost freedom. Free reign of the planet."

The 10-minute comedy, which journeys through an alternate surfer-run universe, was shot a month ago with a guerrilla crew and only the basic outline of a script. Mays admits he decided to make the film on a whim and was really just having fun with his friends in front of the camera. Ironically, one directorial choice he did make was to avoid any shots of actual surfing.

"The Surf Film Fest, the majority of films have footage of surfers surfing waves," he says. "And I love those, don't get me wrong, but I thought it would be great for a change to have a story instead of just surf porn."

Only in its second year, the Canadian Surf Film Festival runs from September 29 to October 2, and features a jam-packed lineup of films and events, including hip-hop hustlers Three Sheet opening it with a gala party tonight at The Palace, while Mays will hit that stage on Saturday night. In between will be environmental documentaries, art shows, parties, experimental films and a short film contest that Surfer's Road is a part of. The contest, which takes entries of any format, style, and topic, features a first place prize of a trip for two to the Kandui Resort in Indonesia.

"It's pretty much a skate park for surfers," says Mays of the fabled resort. "The waves are so perfect. It's just a paradise."

Having been fortunate enough to visit the area in the past, Mays isn't planning to take the trip should his short pull out a win.

"If in fact my short film wins I've decided to auction the tickets off for charity. Just because I've been there a few times," he says, adding with a laugh, "I really doubt we're going to win."

For Mays, who has been surfing since he was a teenager growing up in Cole Harbour, the real joy of the festival is being surrounded by the friends and community he's loved being a part of the past 15 years. Surfing has provided a clarity and joy for the rocker on par with his musical accomplishments.

"What's great about music and surfing is that the learning process is almost just as fun as doing it," he says.

"I don't feel like I'm a great guitar player, or a great surfer by any means, but it's still fun," he continues. "Surfing a windy day at Lawrencetown when I was beginning was just as fun as learning [Tom Petty's] 'Free Fallin.' It's funny how that works."

CORRECTION on Thursday, September 29. An incorrect day and location of the Matt Mays concert this weekend was originally reported in this article. We apologize for the mistake, and have made the correction here.

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