By most measures the 2011 Quiksilver Pro New York in September was a surprising success. A hurricane moving up the coast caused Long Beach, N.Y., officials to cancel the event — concerts, skate and BMX demos, even the marquee draw, the ASP World Tour contest. Only the contest was eventually salvaged, and resuscitated by four days of solid surf, including a stellar final morning in overhead waves.
The transformation of Long Beach from a quiet beach suburb of New York City into the center of the action sports world is the subject of "Stacked," a new 15-minute documentary set to premiere in April.
"As surfers, when we heard the contest was coming to New York, we were stoked," said Patrick Cummings, who conceived of, and directed, the movie with fellow New Yorker E.J. McLeavey-Fisher. "And as filmmakers, our second thought was we got to get out there, got to shoot."
Cummings and McLeavey-Fisher studied the Long Beach surf community through its most recognizable and most marketed talent: Balaram Stack. "He's one of the best local surfers out there and the most high profile one. So we started putting ideas down," Cummings said. And when Stack scored a wild-card seed into the contest, he became their main character. (Stack is one of Quiksilver's young guns; with an event of such magnitude in his back yard, his inclusion was all but certain.)
The directors didn't know Stack personally. So, they networked through Quiksilver, connected with eventual producer Veronica Balta, and turned their cameras on. "We rented a house [near the contest site] for two weeks and began shooting," explained Cummings, who conducted interviews with Stack, local stalwarts such as Will Skudin and co-founder of Unsound Surf shop Mike Nelson, and World Tour surfer Owen Wright after he won the highest prize purse in competitive surfing history.
With few resources, the team called in favors where they could. Cummings acknowledged, "we didn't have any money, so we had three other friends come out and help us." Now, the post-production phase of "Stacked" is nearing completion. Festival submissions will follow, including the 2012 Newport Beach and the New York Surf film festivals.
Unfortunately, "Stacked" won't benefit from the hype generated by a subsequent Quik Pro New York; the event was scrapped in December, after only one year. "It's getting attention," Cummings claimed, "but the contest would've been a calling card for the film."
Instead "Stacked" will have to stand on its own, atop the story of Balaram Stack, of Long Beach, of the odds stacked against the home-grown hero and his modest beach town that, for two weeks last fall, was taken over by the world's best surfers.