SBIFF’s ‘To the Maxxx’ loaded again

From monster waves and the deep depths to the most shredtastic streets and slopes, the 26th annual Santa Barbara International Film Festival’s “To the Maxxx” series has it all.

The 11-day festival begins today and runs through February 6th.

“To the Maxxx” was put together eight years ago as the brainchild of festival director Roger Durling and local filmmaker Russ Spencer. “Roger and I wanted the festival to be more inclusive than it had been in the past to attract a more general audience in Santa Barbara, and since Santa Barbara is a very ocean-related town, it would be a series centered around surfing,” Spencer said.

"A Deeper Shade of Blue" is making its World Premier on Tuesday at the Arlington at 8 p.m. It is filmmaker Jack McCoy's 25th film. (Deeper Shade of Blue Photo)

While the series primarily features surf films, the category has grown to incorporate a number of other adventure sports. This year’s 10 films include surfing, skating, skiing, paddleboarding and motocross.

“We get more and more submissions every year,” Spencer, the series’ director, said, “And the quality of films gets better and better every year.”

This year’s headliner is world premiere “A Deeper Shade of Blue” directed by long-time surfer and surf filmmaker Jack McCoy. The film explores the historical and spiritual roots of surfing, following the growth of the sport to its present day popularity. “A Deeper Shade of Blue” premiers Tuesday, February 1st at the Arlington Theater at 8 pm.

“Jack McCoy is one of the legendary surf filmmakers of all time,” Spencer said, “He could have premiered this film anywhere in the world, but chose to premier it here.”


“Way of the Ocean” directed by Matt Kleiner and “The Still Point” by Taki Bibelas are two other surf films premiering at the festival that deal with the spiritual side of surfing. “They are both extremely beautiful, pensive, poetic films—kind of an experience unto themselves,” Spencer said.

The Westsiders documents the story of the Santa Cruz surf scene through the story of a group of professional surfers.

For a view into the darker side to surf culture, check out “The Westsiders” by Josh Pommer, which tells the story of a Santa Cruz-born tribe of surfers and the highs and lows of their lives and careers. “The Westsiders” will be showing Friday, February 4th at the Arlington Theater at 7:30 pm.

The remaining two surf films include the world premiere of “Stoked & Broke” by Cyrus Sutton, which describes itself as a “staycation surfari on zero dollars” and documents the minimalist surf journey of two San Diego surfers, and “Hollywood Don’t Surf!” by Greg MacGillivurnay and Sam George, a film about the history of the sport as seen through Hollywood’s eyes.

Chris Aguilar’s “Destination 3 Degrees” tells the story of two female paddleboarders who set out to traverse the nine open-ocean channels separating the islands of Hawaii.

If boards with wheels are more your thing, this year’s arrangement includes the excellent skateboard film, “Destination Orcas” by local filmmaker Eric Hatch. Premiering Saturday, February 5th at the Arlington Theater at 9:30 pm, it follows four Santa Barbara skaters on their journey from California to Seattle.

Wrapping up the series are two slightly more eclectic films, both world premieres. “On the Pipe Six” by local Santa Barbara director Jay Schweitzer is a freestyle motocycle epic that spans five different countries as an elite crew of riders seek out the best new riding spots.

Bill Johnson rose to fame as the United States' first downhill Olympic Gold Medalist in the 1984 Winter Sarajevo Games. (Bill Johnson Story Photo)

Downhill: The Bill Johnson Story” explores the troubled life of America’s first gold-medal winning downhill skier. “It’s this amazing story of a guy who had everything at his fingertips and then it slipped away,” Spencer said.

The series presents a grand total of seven world premieres.

“Because of what Roger and I have done, at least in the surf world, the Santa Barbara International Film Festival is the best place in the world to premiere a surf film,” Spencer said, “Everybody who has a great surf film wants to bring it [here]. I don’t think Santa Barbara understands how truly influential the ‘To the Maxx’ series is.”

Said director Zeke Piestrup of getting “Downhill: The Bill Johnson Story” chosen for the
lineup, “I’m just amazed that I got through the front door. Santa Barbara is a hugely credible film
festival, and because of it I’ve already had several other festivals reach out to me. I’m beyond