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Uncharted Waters

A movie about surfer Wayne Lynch's commitment to live his life on his own terms despite his professional milestones.
Uncharted Waters

Australian surfing has its fair share of stars that have become lasting household names both here and around the world, with Mark Occhilupo, Mick Fanning, Layne Beachley and Stephanie Gilmore among the most recent. One local champion of the water who didn’t earn such recognition and longevity – but easily could have – is Wayne Lynch, perhaps the best Australian surfer you may not have heard of. Lynch was among the nation’s surfing pioneers in the 1960s and 1970s, snagging a wealth of lofty nicknames to reflect with his wave-riding fame. Who was this “golden child of Australian surfing”, and what did he become? Uncharted Waters wades through the answers.

In his more than competently compiled first feature effort, director Craig Griffin’s documentary – as appropriately subtitled The Personal History of Wayne Lynch – charts a tumultuous journey for its titular figure. From missing school to slip into the sea in the solace of Victoria’s Lorne, to living like an outlaw after conscientiously objecting to his conscription to service during the Vietnam War, the ups and downs of Lynch’s life are unravelled, winning competitions in the global spotlight and choosing to drift off the radar included.

Though fame and fortune were seemingly at his feet, his prodigious talent thrusting him to attention as a teen, Lynch’s is not the typical tale – and nor is Griffin’s relaxed, well-researched exploration of his exploits and enduring enigma in surfing circles a typical film. Uncharted Waters essays its unusual subject as much as his context, in the sport as boards got shorter, the culture as lifestyles relaxed, and the politics in the wake of conflict. The wider focus is reportedly at the somewhat reluctant Lynch’s request, standard biographical content combining with a savvy portrait of the times in its understanding of the man, his relationship with the ocean, and his standing as an icon.

His feats on the board, of the type many an interviewee declares had never been done before, speak for themselves, as captured in classic early surf movies Evolution, Sea of Joy and A Day in the Life and excerpted into the documentary. An array of talking heads enthusiastically expand into areas the images can’t convey, surfers Sam George, Rusty Preisendorfer, Duncan Campbell and Maurice Cole among them; however it is truly the sight of Lynch riding on and over the sea with passion and precision that remains the centrepiece of the film.

A look of unrelenting determination adorns his face in such moments, and it is this resolve that resonates; Uncharted Waters is as much a movie about Lynch’s commitment to live his life and enjoy his surfing gift on his own terms, as it is about the milestones, professional and personal, happy and not so, that have filled his years. Wayne Lynch may remain an unfamiliar name to most, but that’s just the way he likes it. Thankfully, Griffin’s film forms part of his legacy.

Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

Uncharted Waters

Director: Craig Griffin

Australia, 2013, 89 mins

Distributor: Madman

Release date: Now showing at Cinema Nova

Rated: M

Sarah Ward

Monday 6 January, 2014

About the author

Sarah Ward is a freelance film critic, arts and culture writer, and film festival organiser. She is the Australia-based critic for Screen International, a film reviewer and writer for ArtsHub, the weekend editor and a senior writer for Concrete Playground, a writer for the Goethe-Institut Australien’s Kino in Oz, and a contributor to SBS, SBS Movies and Flicks Australia. Her work has been published by the Australian Centre for the Moving Image, Junkee, FilmInk, Birth.Movies.Death, Lumina, Senses of Cinema, Broadsheet, Televised Revolution, Metro Magazine, Screen Education and the World Film Locations book series. She is also the editor of Trespass Magazine, a film and TV critic for ABC radio Brisbane, Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast, and has worked with the Brisbane International Film Festival, Queensland Film Festival, Sydney Underground Film Festival and Melbourne International Film Festival. Follow her on Twitter: @swardplay