Learning to Float

The Byron Bay Film Festival recognizes that surfing is the No. 1 passion for many of its local audience and this year is screening 11 films on the sport, hobby, obsession, lifestyle that capture some of its joy, exuberance and madcap adventurousness – and its ability to bring positive change to disadvantaged corners of the globe.

Joy illuminates the World Premiere of Learning to Float, about an overweight African American boy from South Central LA whose life – and waistline – are transformed when he discovers a love of surfing. He now mentors the sport for others from the same background.

Similarly, exuberance spills out from the Brazilian feature-documentary 1970 Something, which is having its the Australian Premiere. This “ode to the surfing, music, fashion and counter-culture scene of a romantic period” shows how Brazil has come to the attention of the global surfing community.

In the follow-up year to Gabriel Medina’s historic win in the final year of the ASP before its World Surf League (WSL) rebranding, this is a film that shows one view of just how Brazil has come to the attention of the global surfing community. Self-described as “an ode to the surfing, music, fashion, and the counter-culture scene of a romantic period”, it truly is an expose` of “the surfing and beach culture in Brazil during the 1970’s, as seen from the perspective of the present generation”.

With a mixture of unseen film and photo archives, present-time action video clips and exclusive stories from the main players of the day about surfing between the oppressive political atmosphere and the environmental degradation of the day, it’s a quick lesson in Brazil’s rapidly rising surf status.

Sally behind the smile
Sally: Behind the Smile

If evidence is needed that surfing can bring a surfer joy, then look no further than Sally Fitzgibbons and the World Premiere of Sally: Behind the Smile. Everyone in the surf community knows Sally’s smile can light up a small continent, but this film also shows her tears and her unfailing determination to be the best.

The driving inner spirit of Ms Fitzgibbons, one the brightest lights on the 2015 WSL Women’s Championship Tour, can’t help but be inspiring as she challenges herself again and again, pushing her limitations as she attempts to overcome some of the biggest hurdles of her burgeoning career in pursuit of that all-encompassing goal, a surfing championship world title. This is a film that every aspiring and professional athlete can take something from

Similar but different is Nothing Too Serious, about Dean “Dingo” Morrison’s love of the big waves. Morrison won the Gold Coast Quicksilver Pro a dozen years ago but chose a different path – and here we see some breathtaking footage of him doing what he does best: charging.

So surfing can change the mindset of those who surf, but can it change the world? One film shows how the international surfing community can bring financial aid and hope to those who need it most. A Surfer’s Legacy, another World Premiere, follows an Indian girl born into child slavery with one arm, one leg and a dream. Her life is changed forever when surfer and prosthetist Pete Farrand and his team of Australians create a limb for her, a “new leg” using recycled parts from Pete’s workshop bins.

Grass Roots is another demonstration of how surfing and surfers can change the communities of remote places, when surfers set out to bring hope to a village in Papua New Guinea. It happens to have an awesome surf break, and in collaboration with the elders and with financial investment from ecological sensitive surf tourism, this village feels the positive ripple effects surfing can bring.

Oney Anwar
Oney Anwar

In the Australian Premiere of Oney Anwar Chasing the Dream, we see how Rip Curl, through its sponsorship of Indonesia’s first professional surfer, influences his life and community. Anwar grew up in a remote and impoverished area where no one went surfing – – not because of a lack of waves, but due to a lack of basic infrastructure – things like housing, sanitation, and a reliable healthy food supply. As he chases his dream of becoming the first Indonesian to qualify for the world championship tour, his village feels the benefits of that sweet surf break at its front door, now being visited by a major international surf company and a bunch of folks keen to surf at his local. It’s a transformative experience for everyone involved.

Similarly, What the Sea Gives Me is a gorgeously filmed love affair with the ocean. It explores our incredible relationship with the sea and dives into our hopes for the future. It’s not just about surfing. Every one has a unique and valuable perspective – the artists and fishermen featured, the people doing research on massive great white sharks, as well as those riding the waves.

The footage is epic.

The Cradle of Storms is a very cool Australian Premiere about a few dudes going for a surf in a wildly remote location in Alaska. Why? Because they can. It’s a high performance surfing adventure with no one else out there.

The journey continues with the Australian Premiere of Tierra de Patagones, an Argentinian film about two brothers wandering through Patagonia to surf in one of the southernmost areas of the world: the Isla de los Estados. With a ute, a tent, six months and not much to do, they leave their urban lifestyle behind and discover new surf spots, new people, and a whole new way of looking at the world. They meet “gauchos” (cowboys), algae workers, and old-school farmers.

They eventually climb aboard a boat to sail across one of the most dangerously narrow seas in the world, never losing sight of their goal: To surf in the freezing waters off the coast of a little uninhabited island at the southern most tip of South America. It has something to do with ‘the journey being more important than the destination’. Full of subtle power, their gentle quest and brotherly surf adventure is alluring and illuminating.

Lastly, there’s the World Premiere of Journey On about Shane Herring – a hugely talented surfer who gave it all up 20-odd years ago. Amazing archive footage and close-up interviews with Herring and those closest to him make for a complex and candid portrait.

Byron Bay Film Festival runs from March 6-15 in Byron Bay, Murwillumbah, Ballina and Lismore.

Program and tickets available at

Tickets also at the venue


Wild Honey produces dynamic, cultural dance & music events in Byron Bay, Australia’s alternative lifestyle capital. From workshop intensives and community events to Gypsy inspired dance floors with live music, Wild Honey is for everyone!



Over 10 workshops in various dance & movement styles including
international guest Ashley Lopez (Portland, USA).

For MEN & women
Family Friendly!
Entry price includes ALL workshops


$33 Adults +bf
$9 kids under 15 + booking fee (proof of age required)

$40 Adults $12 kids under 15 (proof of age required)

FULL PROGRAM available soon at Wild Honey Events
Enquiries 0420 398 590

For further information and tickets visit

Some swell, photo Jake Morgan

Byron is not only very photogenic, it’s full of great photographers. We post to our Facebook page over 100 times each month, often sharing the best images we can find. On our page you will notice we give the regions photographers full credit by using the ‘Share Button’ and encourage all our fans to click through and follow the photographers directly.

Here’s a sample of what was posted in January this year!

New Years Day at Falls Festival, photo


Wategos Beach, photo Graham Nixon


Lightening storm, photo Sean O’Shea


Please take the time to check out these photographers’ own Facebook pages;

Plus, be sure to join the conversation, share your photos or just enjoy our posts… Byron Bay Facebook page.

A scene from Best Cinematography and Best Experimental Film nominee, Gaia.

The 9th Byron Bay International Film Festival, March 6-15, Australia’s independent showcase for the edgiest filmmakers on the planet – announced its official program selection for 2015 and list of award nominees.

The highlights include:

  • A Special Presentation from actor David Wenham and director Paul Cox about their latest collaboration, Force Of Destiny, with selections from the film.
  • Frackman, the topical documentary tracing the journey of an everyday bloke wanting to build a home in Tara, Qld, who finds himself in a stand-off with CSG miners and is forced to become an activist, finding romance along with the radicalism. Nominee: Best Film. Best Environmental Film. Festival Premiere.
  • Will And Testament, a full-length and intimate portrait of firebrand British MP Tony Benn, a politician of great integrity who fought tirelessly against privilege, inequality, the Bomb and Thatcherism. A timely reminder of what integrity politics looks like. Opening Night Film. Nominee: Best Documentary. International Premiere.
  • Zen And the Art of Dying, Broderick Fox (The Skin I’m In) made this film after he met Northern Rivers marriage celibrant and “deathwalker” Zenith Virago at BBFF 2012. An uplifting documentary about empowering the dying. Fox will be at the festival. Closing Night Film. World Premiere.
  • A Fighting Season, tough US feature drama telling the story of two Army Recruiters who face the daunting pressures of recruitment while their own deployment is on the line. Nominee: Best Film. Best Dramatic Feature. World Premiere.
  • Cut Snake, Tony Ayres (The Slap) returns to the big screen with a masterful crime thriller with depth and a unique twist in its tail. Set in 1970s Melbourne, this nail biter will have you questioning your loyalties. Starring Sullivan Stapleton, Alex Russell and Jessica De Gouw. Nominee: Best Film. Best Dramatic Feature.
  • Dying To Know, a fascinatiing study of Timothy Leary, mastermind of the psychedelic revolution, and his inner-space exploring soul-mate Richard Alpert, who went East and became Ram Dass. It details Leary’s dying days, still the hedonist and seeker, comforted by his spiritual side-kick. Special Sneak Preview.
  • Bereave, romantic thriller starring screen legends Malcolm McDowell and Jane Seymour in a taut drama about a man facing death who is shocked back into life to protect those he loves. Australian Premiere.
  • Sunday, a full-length showcase of the many talents of NSW North Coast star (McLeod’s Daughters, Underbelly, Spartacus) Dustin Clare: writer, actor, co-producer, in a mature romance examining how our freedom to choose can make commitment difficult. With Clare’s off-screen partner Camille Keenan. Nominee: Best Dramatic Feature. Australian Premiere.
  • Cabras, Where Fables Are Born, a magical place on the west coast of Sardinia, famed for its natural beauty and the creativity of its people, some of whom even use the natural features to make music. Nominee: Best Film. Best Documentary. World Premiere.
  • There are surfing films aplenty at BBFF 2015 but the gloriously-shot What The Sea Gives Me also looks at fishermen, divers and researchers, in an effort to define their fascination, even obsession, with the world’s oceans. Nominee: Best Surf Film. Byron Premiere.
  • Take Me To The River celebrates the soul-filled music that has moved millions. The Stax sound is recreated and made fresh when a new generation of musicians join the legends to record an album – cutting across age, race, gender, as in the studio’s heyday. Australian Premiere.
  • They fly through the air with the greatest of ease … the Flying Gaonas were the trapeze masters of their day and the doco The Flight Fantastic shows them in all their glory. Nominee: Best Film. Australian Premiere.
  • Lethal epidemics are in the headlines, but none so sinister as that in horror masterpiece III, nor demanding entry into the victims’ deepest subconscious to cure them – or to just practise playing God. Nominee: Best Cinematography. Australian Premiere.
  • Jalanan (Streetside), documentary about three buskers working the buses and clogged streets of Jakarta, living on their wits and meagre donations. Full of life and courage. Winner of the Best Documentary award at the Busan Film Festival for its study of life on Indonesia’s margins. Nominee: Best Documentary.
  • Into The Void, a docu-drama in which real-life journo Emily Siu searches for ghosts in the clouds of incense fume and firecracker smoke in Macao.
  • Secret Sharer, a seductive mystery set on the China Seas, in which a young captain embarked on a dodgy mission rescues a beautiful woman from a storm-wrecked boat. He hides her, but there are consequences. Australian Premiere.

Click here to see full program. 

Byron Bay International Festival Director J’aimee Skippon-Volke says, “This year’s Official Selection is of an exceptionally high quality, with superb films in both the dramatic feature and documentary feature categories and an exciting range of shorter films.

“Our theme this year is “Magic happens in the dark” and we’re urging film lovers to ditch the downloads and celebrate the unique collective experience we only gain in front of the big screen. BBFF2015 is a call to leave the comfort of the couch and dive deep into all that the festival has to offer.”

With solid year-on-year annual growth and a record of more than 1,000 films submitted for entry this year from 72 countries, Skippon-Volke says BBFF is now the country’s biggest regional film festival and is fast becoming a ‘must do’ for independent filmmakers the world over.

A record number of filmmakers are on their way to Byron Bay, from such far corners as Azerbaijan, Ireland, the US, Britain, Canada, Italy and also New Zealand.

“We’ve been blown away by the buzz and support the festival is getting from film communities overseas,” says Skippon-Volke. “Word has spread pretty fast that Byron Bay is fearlessly creative and expressive. And they love that our audiences are film-savvy, very passionate, receptive and laid-back.

“We’ve got a lot of filmmakers heading here for the first time and they are very excited about coming to Australia and being part of this unique festival that they’re hearing so much about. ”

“Our festival-goers are in for a treat,” Skippon-Volke said.

BBFF2015 will screen across six venues in four towns: the Byron Community Centre, Palace Cinemas and Pighouse Flicks in Byron Bay; the Star Court Theatre, Lismore, Ballina Fair Cinemas, Ballina, and Regent Cinemas, Murwillumbah.

Tickets for BBFF2015 are on sale now. For program information, trailers and news, visit or find the festival on Facebook.

We are super excited and very proud to announce that the Byron Bay Surf Festival WON the “Surf Culture Award” at the big Surfing Australia Awards last Thursday in Sydney.
It is very humbling to stand in front of some of Australia’s greatest Surfing athletes and surf community members including the hall of fame tonight, receiving the ‘Surf Culture Award’ for the Byron Bay Surf Festival.

The festival started as a small idea a little over 5 years ago with Vanessa Thomson, James McMillan and myself, Mike Jahn to gather surfers that are keen to share their passion and we would have never ever imagined to achieve such amazing recognition and honors.

It was set up not just to emphasize on surf art, film and music like many other festivals but to connect to the original spirit of surfing as a community…highlighting people’s passions, original crafts, creative thinking and innovations whilst steering away from competition.

We wanted to bring together the global surf community to exchange, showcase and Byron Bay, a very unique location rich in Australian surf history with the free spirit of surfing as a major focal point.
Contributions from local as well as overseas surf community members, sponsors that believe in the great value of the festival and a big team of passionate and mostly volunteering individuals all contributed to the great success and uniqueness of a truly community based surf culture festival…

We want to thank Surfing Australia and its members for recognizing the festival as a humble contributor to not just Australian Surf Culture but a global culture connecting and inspiring people to live their dreams and passions.

We also want to create a possibility tonight. The possibility for the surf industry to get together and assist the festival to sustain its existence. At this very point we are unsure if we can continue. We need significant help from the industry to keep this unique surf culture festival alive. Please get in touch if you want to contribute.

Thanks to everyone that made it possible to come this far!!!
For further information visit


Between March 6-15, Byron Bay will host a glittering array of talent at Australia’s largest regional film festival, a grassroots event that connects audiences with filmmakers and actors from home and abroad in a 10-day celebration of cinema.

Scary stand-off: Sullivan Stapleton and Alex Russell in a scene from Tony Ayres’ (The Slap) taut crime thriller, Cut Snake.

BBFF’s 2015 program features more than 225 films from three dozen countries, with a record number of filmmakers coming from Azerbaijan, Ireland, the US, Canada, Italy, New Zealand, Samoa, Poland and many more.

Entries for the 2015 festival have closed and anticipation is building with the final program set to be announced Monday February 23.

A preview of the highlights includes:

David Wenham is coming with the Festival’s Patron Paul Cox to discuss their upcoming feature Force Of Destiny, a tale of survival inspired by Paul Cox’s personal experiences and his recent book Tales from the Cancer Ward.

Jack Thompson will introduce us to In the Steps Of Lawrence, a film he narrated about the artist Garry Shead (and he’ll be bringing Garry with him, who will talk about his 40-year obsession with DH Lawrence).

Tony Ayres (The Slap) will present his brilliant crime thriller Cut Snake. Ayres says Cut Snake is “a kinetic crime thriller, yet still explores the moral ambiguities and complexities of the human heart”. It’s predominantly a three-hander featuring Sullivan Stapleton, Alex Russell and Jess De Gouw.

Dustin Clare (McLeod’s Daughters, Underbelly and Spartacus) wrote, co-produced and stars in the feature drama Sunday with his offscreen partner Camille Keenan (Underbelly, Packed to the Rafters). It’s a story of love under pressure: he’s Melbourne-based, with some kind of military work abroad, she’s in quake-devastated Christchurch and she wants him to stay.

The festival is awash with Australian and World Premieres. Oden Roberts’ A Fighting Season’s World Premiere in Byron will mark the first leg of a film which is bound to have huge festival success world-wide. Winner of the prestigious San Francisco Film Society Production Grant, A Fighting Season looks at the work of two Army Recruiters who face the daunting pressures of recruitment while their own deployment is on the line, discovering that war isn’t confined to the battlefield.

Frackman, by Richard Todd, traces ordinary bloke Dayne Pratzky’s move from pig hunter to environmental activist when the miners want to move onto his patch of land in Tara.

Opening night is Will and Testament, a documentary about political firebrand Tony Benn – a reminder of what integrity politics looks like.

Closing night is Brody Fox’s Zen And The Art Of Dying, a groundbreaking documentary about the work of Northern Rivers “deathwalker” Zenith Virago which takes a radical look at Western ways of dealing with death.

These are just a few of the wonderful films on offer, and there are hundreds more – from a three-minute gem by a 16-year-old Ballina schoolkid about his world champion Muay Thai mate (Brodie Stanton – A Film Portrait) or a feature drama starring Malcolm  McDowell and Jane Seymour (Bereave). Festival audiences are in for a great many visual treats.

BBFF 2015 is a celebration of the “unique experience we gain by leaving the comfort of the couch and attending a grassroots film festival”, says Festival Director J’aimee Skippon-Volke.

““Whether you’re in the film industry or a film lover, there’s nothing like being in the cinema with a filmmaker who has poured years of their lifeblood into telling a story.

“You’re sitting in the dark with a roomful of people, discovering a different way of life, going to the creative edge, laughing and sometimes even getting a bit misty-eyed together. And you can hear the filmmaker share the story behind that experience. It’s special.”

The remaining program includes dramas, thrillers and comedies, as well as animation, films for schools, short shorts and compelling documentaries about surfing, music, the environment, politics and indigenous affairs.

The festival’s events include sell-out gala opening and closing night parties, master classes, panels, workshops and school screenings.

The official program will be announced and tickets available on Monday, February 23 at You can also keep track of the latest news on Facebook.


Rail Explorers might like to go exploring in Byron Bay at the Lone Goat Gallery to see the exhibition “Rust On The Rails” by artists Maryanne Shea & Rick Molloy exploring in paint and pencil the deterioration of the railways and station buildings in Northern NSW.

10492566_784369258306599_1582745175917305302_nThis exhibition of paintings and drawings reflects upon the sad deterioration of the Northern Rivers railway.

The railway from Lismore to Murwillumbah runs through the dramatic landscape of the Northern Rivers. It was opened in 1894 and closed in 2004. Since the line was closed, the infrastructure has been left to fall apart. Lines are overgrown and impassable in places. Two bridges have been removed and other bridges, many of heritage significance, are being left to rot away. Many stations have been abandoned and vandalised.

A number of uses of the line have been proposed. However, the artists believe that unless a serious attempt is made to take preventative measures against the further deterioration of the railway, then the line will be unfit for any conceivable use, other than hauling off any salvageable material to the scrapyard.

The artists hope that this exhibition helps draw attention to the plight of the railway, its stations and bridges, and that action is taken to preserve this historical feat of engineering which strikes with a raw beauty, as it runs and curves through the landscape.

6 – 18 February

For further information visit

Stay informed and learn more of What’s On in and Around Byron Bay.


Byron’s traffic congestion has been suggested as one contributor to the staggering sales at Tallowood Ridge in Mullumbimby. In the past three weeks alone six sales have been made to Byron shire locals. Every available parcel but two sold over the summer period, pushing forward the release of Stage 4.

Tallow41 (2)With the exception of a buyer each from South Australia and Brisbane, all sales since September have been to Byron shire residents. “I think once people move into the Byron shire they don’t want to leave” outlined Adam Mangleson from Chincogan Real Estate, who has personally purchased two lots at Tallowood Ridge. “And for sure traffic issues are pushing some locals away from Byron Bay itself, although it will always be popular given its natural assets.

Ryan Clarke is a Mullumbimby local who now lives with his young family in Brisbane. “We saw an opportunity with the Tallowood Ridge development” he said. “When we had a look at it we really loved the vibe of the community and the facilities that they’ve got. The block we bought has a lovely vista over Mount Chincogan. Having lived in different parts of the Byron Shire I know that when we do come back that’s where we’ll want to be. Mullum’s a great place to base yourself”.

Byron Council has confirmed that a full sized tennis court and basketball half court will be developed at Tallowood Ridge in 2015, with a full sized football field with a cricket pitch in season to follow. Council also recently granted a revised consent for three lots on the ridgeline. The public can now access the shelter belt, an area now classified open space to preserve the native trees in perpetuity.

“As prices rise it becomes even more evident how much better value Tallowood Ridge is in comparison to other areas” outlined Adam Mangleson. “Plus you have all the other reasons to buy there. Mullum is probably a bit safer, there is less crime and it’s a genuinely unique lifestyle option. More and more serious buyers are coming looking for real estate in Mullumbimby. They just can’t look past Tallowood Ridge for amenity and value. As it keeps improving and getting more established, friends and family visit the existing residents and they realize what a great spot it is”.

Following the summer sales Stage 4 has been released ahead of schedule to meet demand. Land at Tallowood Ridge is priced from $279,000 for a 530m2 site with breezes, big views and a near level building pad.

Left Bank Road, Mullumbimby.


The Palace Cinema Byron Bay will host a special Q&A event with director, Damon Gameau, special guests and a screening of THAT SUGAR FILM.

THAT SUGAR FILM is one man’s journey to discover the bitter truth about sugar. Damon Gameau embarks on a unique experiment to document the effects of a high sugar diet on a healthy body, consuming only foods that are commonly perceived as ‘healthy’. Through this entertaining and informative journey, Damon highlights some of the issues that plague the sugar industry, and where sugar lurks on supermarket shelves. THAT SUGAR FILM will forever change the way you think about ‘healthy’ food.

For further information and tickets visit and

Stay informed and learn more of What’s On in and Around Byron Bay.


The Byron Arts Classic offers a rich 6-day celebration of inspiration, creativity and involvement in the visual arts. The community art exhibition features over 300 works and over 11 awards are distrubuted to local artists.

2011_0106_BAC42-1024x768The Byron Theatre becomes the three-tiered Dawkins Gallery with a floor to gantry central sculpture garden surrounded by paintings, photographs and works on paper. This extends to the upper level where many of the smaller works are intimately displayed. Upstairs and down the foyers and other gallery spaces are filled with artworks from emerging visual artists sitting side by side with established artists. All works are for sale.

Awards Night

The Byron Arts Classic Awards Night is all about the celebration of local artists and their work. Amidst live music and a myriad of artwork the awards are announced to an audience of friends, local art lovers, sponsors and supporters from the community. Throughout the event the Community Table Cafe & Bar is open and after the awards the ambience is strengthened by a performance of live music. Awards Night Tix: $10 entry

Save the New Arts Classic Dates

Registrations: Open Monday 2nd Feb

Close Monday 2nd March 2015

Sunday 29th March 2015- Artwork Drop off between 10am-4pm

Wednesday 1st April 6pm- Awards + Gala Night

Thursday 2nd – 8th April 10am til 5pm- Exhibition duration.

Thursday 9th April 9am- noon Artwork collection.

For further information visit

Stay informed and learn more of What’s On in and Around Byron Bay.