The Other Venice Film Festival will celebrate its eighth year as a community supported event dedicated to screening films, presenting musicians and showcasing art that embody the spirit, energy and diversity of Venice Beach.
The festival will take place from Thursday through Sunday, Oct. 13 through 16 at Beyond Baroque, 681 Venice Blvd., Venice. Information, www.othervenicefilmfestival.com.
Presented as part of the festival is a bio documentary and surf lifestyle film, “Work to Surf,” featuring Allen Sarlo, a Venice native who is considered one of the surfing world’s most skilled and dedicated participants. The main story is an inspiration for all generations – how education, focus and commitment with much passion can make dreams come true. The footage was shot in popular surfing haunts around the world and includes many top notch professionals.
“Work to Surf,” directed by Dave Ogle is scheduled to screen at 5 p.m. on opening night, Oct. 13.
A Venice Beach native born in 1958, Sarlo spent his formative years playing in the sand with his brother, Mike, while their father worked as a lifeguard near the Venice breakwater. A photo in his portfolio, taken when he was 3, shows a smiling toddler paddling on a Styrofoam surfboard close to the shore. At the age of 6, he advanced to fiberglass and never looked back. When Sarlo was 13, he won his first competition in the boys’ division of an amateur event held in El Segundo.
As a student at Venice High School, Sarlo was a classmate of Nathan Pratt and Stacy Peralta, who were part of the Zephyr team that began as a young surfer group. Their favorite place to surf was the infamous “Cove” at POP (Pacific Ocean Park Pier), which had been abandoned at the time and was run down. The area was known for its danger and was attractive to the young surfers. Some of the Zephyr members turned to skating while Sarlo mainly concentrated on surfing.
“It was the evolution of surfing and how we know the sport today” says Sarlo. “Venice was the first place of extreme sports and the surf culture – the clothes, beach activities and the Southern California lifestyle.”
Peralta’s film “Dogtown and Z-Boys,” made in 2001, tells the story of a group of teenage surfers and skateboarders and how they influenced the culture of these sports. Segments document Sarlo’s youth and capture on camera a preview of his athletically aggressive surfing style.
The film “Lords of Dogtown,” made in 2005, chronicles the surf and skateboarding trends that originated in Venice during the 1970s. Sarlo earned his Screen Actors Guild (SAG) credentials as a stunt double for the late actor Heath Ledger, whose character was board designer, Skip Engblom, a co-founder of the Jeff Ho Surfboards and Zephyr Productions shop in Santa Monica.
Ten years after his initial ride on a wave, Sarlo took first place at the prestigious Malibu 4-A contest, beating older, more experienced surfers. He was a newcomer on the scene with a new style of surfing showcasing the strength and intensity that became his trademark.
“Malibu was the premier surf spot on the whole West Coast,” says Sarlo. “Malibu is important because the way the coast is structured makes the wave so perfect. When surfers think of the perfect wave, they think of Malibu.”
That same year he went on to win the West Coast Junior Championships and his pro surfing career was off to a good start. By 1977, he earned the media-coined nickname “Wave Killer” and surfed around the world on the pro circuit. He finished in a tie for 15th place in his first event, a competition in South Africa.
In the 1980s, after surfing on the world tour for three years, Sarlo limited his surfing to local events so he could finish his education.
“When I was young and striving to be a professional surfer there wasn’t much money in the sport,” he says. “I figured I will work to surf. Not everybody is a Kelly Slater (a professional surfing champion). You have to figure out how to do it your own way.”
A graduate of Venice High School, he earned a degree in business from Pepperdine University. Sarlo’s goal became “work to surf” and he joined his family’s business where he started a successful real estate career. He credits his father, who in addition to working as a lifeguard during the day, was a Culver City police officer at night, with instilling in him a strong work ethic.
Age hasn’t slowed Sarlo down. The June 1998 cover of Surfing Magazine showed him setting new boundaries with an unprecedented fearless action, performing a bottom turn on a 20-plus-foot wave that amazed the surfing world. He was at the bottom of the monstrous curling arched form and, rather than dropping out, he rose up to attack it.
“It was like turning into the jaws of a gigantic wave that definitely could be deadly,” he recalls.
Until then, big wave surfing was all about taking the drop and getting out alive. His powerful style made the dramatic feat look fluid and graceful. In 2000, Sarlo placed fifth in the Quicksilver World Masters in France. He won the Malibu International competition in 2008, 2009 and 2011.
Sarlo continues to surf at the age of 53. “The greatest thing about surfing is that it is a natural progression that you can keep getting better at,” he says.
He likens the ocean to the Fountain of Youth.
“I think you are younger when you come out of the water than when you go in,” he says. “The ocean is like a great salt water bath. You feel rejuvenated with a combination of salt, sun and exercise. That is just one of the reasons we need to protect our beaches and oceans.”
Now Sarlo enjoys experiencing surfing with his children, 18-year-old son Colton and 21-year-old daughter Sophia.
“I’m passing surfing and the work ethic on to the next generation,” he says. “It’s important for them to get a good education, go to work, be responsible adults and continue the positive healthy surf lifestyle.”
Sarlo acknowledges that he is blessed and his balanced lifestyle is largely due to his wife, Deborah.