Shakas and surfing comes to town

3 minutes read
Posted 15 March, 2024
Markisa Studios Josh 18 copy

The 12th annual Aotearoa Surf Film Festival (ASFF) will roll into Queenstown and Wānaka next week. The event celebrates the best of surf culture and cinema, as well as connections to the environment. A curated selection of 10 local and international surf feature films, documentaries and short films will be showcased.

A panel of judges will decide on the winners of the award categories, which are Kiwi Filmmaker of the Year and NZ Grassroots Award, Most Environmentally Conscious Film, and ASFF People’s Choice Award. It’s not all about the awards though, the festival fosters creativity within the surf community and actually started out in Wānaka 12 years ago.

Louis Murphy-Harris owns and runs the festival and says there’s some great films included in this year’s line-up. Of the 10, five are international and five are local, offering a diverse selection including female surf films, shortboarding, longboarding and some fun stories throughout.

“Wānaka local Nick Stephenson started the festival to celebrate surf media and surf culture within New Zealand and get filmmakers from NZ enthusiastic and pumped to create some awesome surf films,” Murphy-Harris says. “I’ve been involved for the past five years and we tour the country in autumn, which is the best time of the year for surf, and this year we’re going to 21 spots around the country over two-and-a-half months. It’s basically a massive road trip showcasing the best films that were submitted for the film festival.”
One of the Kiwi films that will be shown is Over the Undertow by Kiwis Cassia Walton and Laura Crerar. It follows the story of young semi-professional surfers and shows their breakout from 18-year-olds enjoying themselves to the athletes they are now, “It features four really amazing wahine surfers.” Another Kiwi film is Wai is the Yang, which is a short documentary about mental health and surfing based around the West End Wiggle, a longboarding competition in Ōhope. Internationally there’s Wall of Skulls – The Story of Teahupo’o. It showcases surfing culture in Tahiti, French Polynesia and how it intertwines with Tahitian culture.

While the split on local and international films is 50/50 this year, it hasn’t always been that way. In earlier years ASFF didn’t see a lot of Kiwi films coming through, so Murphy-Harris is happy to see an array of local films these days with this year actually seeing the most submissions yet by a landslide.

“Kiwis just weren’t putting it as a priority, or maybe just weren’t making surf films that often. There were only half a dozen filmmakers in the country. Now we’re getting heaps of really high quality films produced by Kiwis and in NZ, which is really cool because we’ve been the only real showcase of it. That’s what it’s all about – celebrating surf culture in NZ and also celebrating that on film – making films about Kiwi surfing and culture.”

Support for the festival has grown over the years, too, even down here in Queenstown and Wānaka where the beach is a wee ways away. Murphy-Harris says the festival is always received so well here because there’s a lot of surfers living around our region as well as people who love the outdoors. Each year the shows sell out in this area, something many of those living on the coast don’t expect.
“It’s pretty amazing to see surfers and non-surfers coming along and enjoying the films. I think people like to see a mix of some high-quality international films, that are often of countries that people have never seen, as well seeing their homegrown flavour and seeing waves that they’re familiar with for surfers, or beaches they’re familiar with,” Murphy-Harris says.

The Aotearoa Surf Film Festival will be at World Bar in Queenstown on Wednesday, 20 March, and at Wānaka Community Hub on Thursday, 21 March. Tickets, a list of the films and more information on the event can be found at



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