Huck catches up with Nord/Nordwest Skate Surf Film Festival director Jens Steffenhagen.

Huck catches up with Nord/Nordwest Skate Surf Film Festival director Jens Steffenhagen.

Growing up in the 80s, Jens Steffenhagen loved to pretend he was carving waves as he surfed the concrete jungle of his landlocked hometown on his skateboard. Flash forward three decades and there’s no surprise that Jens has continued to fuse his two passions together with Nord/Nordwest Skate and Surf Film Festival. The annual festival takes place in Hamburg’s gritty St. Pauli district and on top of bringing surf and skate together in one place, it also includes photography, live music, shaping and illustration. Huck caught up with festival director and editor of rad German surf mag Blue to find out more.

Why did you start Nord/Nordwest Surf Skate Film Festival?
Actually, I have to credit Tyler Breuer from SMASH New York for that. One night during the Quik Pro NY in September 2011, we were drinking at Saint Vitus Bar in Brooklyn and I told him about our recently started surf movie nights and how the audience was surprisingly open minded. So Tyler said: “Why not run a festival in a big city like Hamburg?”

The idea stuck with me and I told Sancho from the Surfilmfestibal in San Sebastian about it and he pushed me, too. He said: “use it to your advantage that you are in Hamburg, miles away from the ocean and make it special!” We did, by not only screening films but rather incorporating concerts and exhibitions and spreading the urban vibe that Hamburg is known for.

We ran the first edition of NxNW Surf Skate Film Fest Hamburg in 2012, right in hamburgs night life district St. Pauli. It was a huge success, so we went on to create the NordxNordost Festival in Berlin.

Why did you chose to bring surf and skate together?
I started skateboarding in the 80s; the good old days when you spent hours imitating surfing at a bank or in bowls and halfpipes. We always dreamed about surfing, but the closest we got to that dream was skimboarding the nearest lake. When I finally hitchhiked down to Hossegor, France in the early 90s, I found a surf culture that was still very underground and raw, just like the skate scene. Both scenes provide an alternative lifestyle, so I think the connection between surf and skate is still very strong.

How do you hope the festival will have an impact?
We concentrate on two goals: firstly, showcasing northern european cold water surfing, because this scene is still a paradise for explorers and peace seekers. And secondly, highlighting renowned international artists, filmmakers, photographers and shapers, who do their own thing and create an alternative to the big brands’ marketable vision of surfing and skating.

How can people get involved/show support?
Send in self-made films or spread the word by posting our videos or webflyers around in webland. If you paint, take photos, play music or shape and want to share your work then get in touch.

What have been the challenges in bringing the festival to life?
I work with a great group of people and we do it for fun but it can be very exhausting at times. Coordinating around 40 films (long and short), 4 concerts, 8 exhibitions and lots of international visitors per festival takes month of relentless, steady work. But I am always able to squeeze in a surf between the hours at the desk, so it’s all good.

What’s your favourite short from this year’s festival?
Black & Blue by Eugenio Barcelloni is a winner for me. The film showcases Bali’s beauty and the pollution that comes with civilisation and surf tourism. Great edit!

What’s your favourite film from the lifetime of the festival?
Forgive me, but it’s impossible to pick one film out of more than 100, so here are my top five. Stephen Jones’ El Mar Mi Alma  and Andrew Kidman’s Spirit Of Akasha for their approach to capture surfing’s pure beauty in the most unique and stunning way and for the perfect chemistry between picture and music. Inge Wegge’s and Jørn Ranum’s North Of The Sun for their crazy talent in filmmaking with the smallest equipment. Spike Jonze’s Pretty Sweet for its creativity and the mindblowing edit and Justin Mitchell’s and Vince Medeiros’ Rio Breaks for its earnestness and the filmmakers respect for their protagonists.

Who is your favourite bright new talent?
Johannes Rausch, who won the NxNO Berlin Festivals International Shorts section last year and was selected in this years Hamburg Festival with his short Morocco ‘N’ Roll is an 18-year old kid that has already developed a great style. Give him a budget and some good surfers on hand and he’ll come up with something unique.

What’s the future for Nord/Nordwest?
With the amazing support from all these renowned artists like Kidman, Cyrus Sutton, Chris Burkard, Kai Neville, Chris McClean, Alex Laurel, Gato Heroi and many others that are part of the festival, we’ll keep bringing surfing and skating’s avant garde to a very cool audience.

Find out more about Nord/Nordwest Surf Skate Film Festival or check out the roundup vid below: