CARLSBAD — Carlsbad local Nathan Apffel didn’t want to make just another surf movie — he wanted to tell a story. He strayed away from the standard surf film formula of big waves and flashy tricks to focus on those surfers who are steering the sport back to its roots.
“Everything that surfing was founded on has been pushed out the window,” Apffel said.
His award-winning film, “Lost Prophets — Search for the Collective,” has made waves around the globe, earning accolades for its in-depth look at surfers who are reconnecting with the sport as it was established, Apffel said.
“Surfing started as a very spiritual sport,” he said. “It was about having a connection and this sense of adventure.”
A surfer himself, 25-year-old Apffel’s film highlights surfers from around the world who are doing more than striving for a sponsor. They’re environmentalists, nonprofit organizers and spiritual people performing selfless acts in a typically selfish sport.
“These lost prophets — these key figures in the industry — are going to help guide our industry in a new direction,” Apffel said. “It’s an alternative way of living as a surfer.”
Apffel put all he had into the film, self-funding nine months of travel to coveted surf spots around the globe to catch these surfers in action. He used equipment that he had on hand to record surfers like Reef McIntosh and Brian Conley in the most beautiful places, surfing the way it was originally intended.
“It’s wild — remote surf travel is one of the last adventures,” he said. “You don’t know what’s coming next.”
Apffel could have never predicted some of the trip’s hardships. He suffered various bouts of illness, including dengue fever, due to the constant traveling. In Indonesia, he had gear stolen by surfers who didn’t want their secret spot filmed. Despite the challenges, Apffel completed filming what would later become a surf film unlike any other.
“We wanted to bridge the gap between just surfing and ‘look how artsy I am’ films,” he said. “Something 100 percent different.”
After 11 months of planning, filming and editing, Apffel’s film went on a 15-stop tour around the United States to gain exposure. Although limited on funds after months of travel, several companies appreciated his effort to shed an alternate light on the industry and sponsored the tour.
“Kona has long supported aims that celebrate a love of water,” said Sally Murdoch with Kona Brewing Co., one of the tour’s sponsors. “It would help a local surfer and filmmaker, so this fit right in.”
Since the film’s whirlwind cross-country trip, it has been nominated for and won awards at several festivals, including X Dance, the action sports portion of the famous Sundance Film Festival.
“Lost Prophets — Search for the Collective” is currently circulating the globe, premiering in Japan, Germany and New Zealand within the upcoming weeks. Trailers of the film can be found on YouTube and the full-length version will be released on iTunes on April 13.
“You never want to have to say that ‘I wish I did this,’” Apffel said. “I can really hang my hat on this film.”