"Signatures" from Sweetgrass Productions Coming this Fall
It was a snowy February night as I sat up in my bed staring at pictures of Mary-Kate and Ashley, dreaming of sunnier days. Ben stormed into the room, one hand gripping a microwave pizza, the other running through his golden locks. "Ok man, I've got it. We call the movie Signatures. The seasons, the individual, the snowsurf style, the turn – they're all connected." He handed me a napkin with a treasure map to the hidden temple of McDonald's and a couple notes he'd scratched on our film-to-be.
[Editor's note: Today's post comes from Nick Waggoner of Sweetgrass Productions, director of the beautiful ski film Hand Cut and the soon-to-be-released Signatures. Visit the Sweetgrass blog for more tales from Nick and the crew.]
Hit with divine inspiration, Ben penned the plan at the helm of our late automobile on a six-hour drive back from Tokachidake – central Hokkaido. After buffing out the idea for some four more months, here you have it folks, the title of the new Sweetgrass Productions film: Signatures. At the heart of this lovely tale of deep powder mystery: the seasons.
[Above: Kenichi Miyashita and his cutback art. Photo: Sweetgrass Productions]
[Shunichiro Kikuchi in the February deep. Photo: Sweetgrass Productions]
In Japan there is a cultural connection to the different Signatures of our terrestrial home – a sense that the rhythm of fall, winter, spring, summer, influences the rhythm of the person, their energy, their riding style, and the lines they choose. One of our main characters Yoichi Watanabe explains, “As a photographer, the change in season brings a change of subject. I have to be ahead of this change in nature, like I have to be thinking about flowers before they actually bloom in order to capture what really goes on. I can say the same about the snow as well.”
[Hokkaido wildflowers. Photo: Sweetgrass Productions
As film folk living in this reality, where there is such a deep connection between man and mountain, we listen to our own rhythm in a much different way. We notice our shoulders open up under the spring and summer sun, how our riding style changes, how we look differently at a slope of corn snow that used to be bottomless. Monochrome woods under 20 feet of snow have melted into emerald forests, and the quiet blanket of winter has been replaced by a chorus of cicadas, frogs, and birds. "The vivid miracle of life," as Ben says.
[Jamie Laidlaw above the Pacific Ocean. Photo: Sweetgrass Productions]
In the big city of the western world, rhythm revolves around holidays and department store sales, around school and vacation time. Here in Hokkaido, the Signature of the season influences the Signature of the person, from the golds and oranges of fall to fly fishing and the green of summer.
[Under the shadow of Mt. Yotei. Photo: Sweetgrass Productions]
Each rider also has their own influences, whether they grew up racing or skiing bumps, skating, surfing, or dropping the knee in the backcountry. Their style is uniquely their own, and the "brush stroke" they lay down, as Taro refers to it, is their Signature, and the expression of their life leading up to that moment in the turn. That said, here's a taste of what to expect from the coming flick:
- 100% human powered riding
- Atrociously deep, mind-numbing snow from the Niseko backcountry in January and February
- Hand-carved "yukita" bindingless, ropeless, noboarding from Atsushi Gomyo
- Deep winter freestyle and night segment in the Niseko backcountry with Matt Philippi and folks
- The art of the snowsurf turn with Taro Tamai and the Gentemstick crew, the connection of rider and slope
- Cold water surfing off the Hokkaido shores
- Pillow lines in Tokachidake with Jess McMillan, Sonja Lercher, and MC Larivee
- 50 degree spines and MASSIVE sloughs in early spring with telemark specialists Nick Devore, Will Cardamone, Jacqui Edgerly, and Lorenzo Worster
- Jamie Laidlaw skiing golden corn snow above the Japan Sea and the setting sun
- Snowsurfboard shaping by Taro Tamai, carving solid wood into Gentemstick boards
- Fall and winter Hokkaido fly fishing
Riders: Taro Tamai, Lorenzo Worster, Nick Devore, Will Cardamone, Jacqui Edgerly, Matt Philippi, Jamie Laidlaw, Jess McMillan, Yutaka Takanashi, MC Larivee, JT Robinson, Adam Mosynski, Caroline Gleich, Forrest Coots, Jake Sakson, Orry Grant, Mike Coletti, Shunichiro Kikuchi, Ommu, Sheesa, Nobu, Kenichi Miyashita, Hayato "Bubbles" Maruyama, and Atsushi Gomyo.
Signatures is premiering September 18, 2009 in Montreal at the IF3 festival; on tour in the US, Canada, and Japan, and available on DVD this fall. Check back for updates:
www.SweetgrassProductions.wordpress.com and www.Sweetgrass-Productions.com
Editor's side note: As someone who's witnessed the re-evolution of alaia surfboards in the Ventura/Santa Barbara area, I'm fascinated by these photos of Atsushi Gomyo and his handbuilt wooden noboard. They illustrate a convergence of all-natural, handcrafted simplicity between the beaches of California and Australia (where Tom Wegener started the alaia resurgence) and the mountains of Japan. If you have the will, the tools and the desire, you too can design and shape any number of boards right in your own backyard. Definitely looking forward to seeing this section of Signatures when it's released.
[Carving the Yukita noboard. Photo: Sweetgrass Productions]
[Surf-style paddle-in. Noboarding in Sorel boots. Photo: Sweetgrass Productions]
[Atsushi Gomyo riding his hand-carved noboard. Photo: Sweetgrass Productions]
[And here's Chadd riding an alaia in Santa Barbara. Same spray, same stoke. Photo: Branden Aroyan]