A giant rooster swiping surfboards will take the spotlight in the premiere next week of an independent movie by the Cherry Grove Pier Surf Club in a fundraiser for the Adaptive Surf Project, a local endeavor that gets surfers with spinal cord injuries and other disabilities back on the waves.
“The Darkness of Light” will light up the screen for about 45 minutes after a party from 4-7 p.m. Tuesday, featuring live music, a silent auction and food and beverages for sale in the Carolina Room at House of Blues, at Barefoot Landing in North Myrtle Beach.
The surf club’s Luke Sharp called the film a “mockumentary.” About 40 people collaborated on this “funny little show” over several months at Cherry Grove Pier and at home with Paul Blenis, the chicken on screen, for sheer fun and originality, but they soon realized its value for a cause.
Through the year-old Adaptive Surf Project, a network is expanding locally for helping former surfers who “broke their back” and can’t stand on a board, Sharp said, “but they can still surf,” thanks to specially made boards that have ramps, straps and other accessories for safe, secured access.
“We push them into the waves,” Sharp said, “and they ride the waves like anybody else.”
The Cherry Grove-area surfing community willing to help these comeback adaptive brethren also has grown, Sharp said, because if such individuals voice their request to get out and surf on whatever, “people show up.”
The same outgoing nature prevailed from the surf club in the filming of “The Darkness of Light,” an idea hatched by Rob Sutton. Sharp said James Samaha got resourceful with filming through such means as making boom microphones with fishing rods, and that many people showed up to help make scenes work. With inspiration from “early 1970s surf films,” the crew wove in interviews and flashbacks to help carry the plot, Sharp said, and also included a 78-year-old who looks back on his prime surfing days way back when.
Asked whether the late comic Benny Hill or 1960s surf film star Annette Funicello would have appreciated this movie, Sharp said the surf club applied a style that includes “a cross between Benny Hill and Wes Anderson,” among others.
Folks and businesses also have donated goods such as art and a specially shaped guitar for the silent auction for the evening at House of Blues, Sharp said. The Adaptive Surf Project needs about $1,000 to make every specialty board, depending on the level of injury and modifications necessary for each surfer.
Sharp also said work on designs for a wetsuit that has one zipper “from all the way in the back” continue, for more innovations in adaptive surfing.
Back on the board
Brock Johnson hasn’t let being paralyzed keep him from riding the waves again, thanks to Adaptive Surf Project amenities.
The sport, he said, “gives people so much joy that it’s really easy to spread,” and he loves helping share the access to this activity with other folks with disabilities, such as cerebral palsy or autism, “who never even thought about” trying to surf or those who wanted to get back on a board.
“It gives people with disabilities something to look forward to in life and enjoy it more,” Johnson said. “We have a whole new family now. … Everybody’s just come together, and it makes for a great new community that supports surfing, but in different ways.”
Johnson said local “Wheel to Surf” events this year also got more than 40 individuals with disabilities out into the water, with many volunteers on hand to help, and that plans are under way for more such beach days next year in May, September and a third one in Charleston. (Call 333-0489 for more details.)
Among a local contingent involved with Eastern Surfing Association Northern South Carolina District ( nsc.surfesa.org) events, Sharp said another season of competition just ended, but an awards banquet is forthcoming, and a new year of meets will begin about April, but surfers in general pursue their pastime “year-round, no matter how cold” outside.
“Even in the ice storm, we were out there,” said Sharp, 45, who has surfed “as long as I can remember.”
Sharp said ESA districts in the Carolinas were “the first in the world” to have adaptive divisions for competition.
The Cherry Grove Pier Surf Club already has plans to make this party and surf movie premiere night an annual event for the the Adaptive Surf Project. Possibly with Halloween still fresh in his mind, Sharp said that next year, “zombies are going to invade the pier.”
“We just want to have fun and make a difference,” Sharp said. “It’s all about laughter, fun and stoke.”