Between Land and Sea
Fergal Smith, John McCarthey, Pat ‘The Whale’ Conway
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…like surfing itself, you must adapt and change to suit your environment.
In the Irish town of Lahinch, filmmaker Ross Whitaker finds a community of surfing enthusiasts drawn there because of the town’s craggy rocks and killer waves. The documentary follows these folks for 12 months, and sees how they keep their heads above water, recreationally and financially, when both are dependent on the country’s erratic seasons.
Signs the locals of Lahinch are a people who have to adapt comes in the film’s first shot; a sign at the front of a milkshake bar informs its patrons of its closure and that it’ll return in the summer. As grey clouds loom over, it’s obvious to most that there’s probably not much current demand for Coke spiders.
Whitaker meets a surf teacher whose very career choice relies on tourists, and whilst they can sort of hibernate for the winter, the summer means a lot. Which is why you will feel for them when the ‘sunny’ season does arrive, bringing with it miserable weather. During these times, Whitaker never plays up their stress – and it’s clear they are – instead choosing to focus on their pragmatic nature to muscle through the days.
And that’s what Between Land and Sea is about; like surfing itself, you must adapt and change to suit your environment. Whether it be the surf teachers, the charity swimmer who refuses to let his age affect his hobby, or Fergal Smith, the professional surfer who went full The Good Life and dived into organic farming. Narration free, Whitaker lets his subjects tell their stories and for the most part it’s engaging. Even if it never feels like Whitaker is really digging deep and that he may have missed an opportunity in not talking to Lahinch’s less sporty citizens, who may have something to say about this influx of outsiders.
Where Between Land and Sea really shines is through its cinematography and the way it captures the thrill of surfing. These scenes are the strongest parts of the documentary and manage to translate to non-surfers what makes the sport so intoxicating. Definitely worth a watch.