What's On

Flotsam Festival rides again

April 28, 2023

Image by Rob Layton

The southern Gold Coast’s celebration of surf film and photography is back for its second year and the program is as packed as the Snapper line-up on a six-foot cyclone swell.

What started as a post-Covid thought bubble has grown into a vast, sprawling celebration of surf film and photography across one of the most storied stretches of surfing coastline in the country.

The Flotsam surf film and photography festival is the brainchild of local surfer and creative dynamo Carolyn Riding-Emge, ably assisted by a flotilla of passionate volunteers and artists.

Flotsam emerged in the creative vacuum at the end of Covid restrictions in 2022 to help local surfing creatives get their work back out there and find new audiences, while helping them earn a bit of extra income.

The inaugural Flotsam festival rolled out a dazzling array of surf film and photography events across the southern Gold Coast in May 2022. Working on a shoestring budget and tight deadlines, sweating on arts grants coming through, Flotsam director Carolyn did a phenomenal, job calling in favours from her broad network of surfing friends and curating a festival that the community warmly embraced.

From outdoor coastal surf photography exhibitions to workshops, film screenings to live music, Flotsam has something for everyone, whether you’re a surfer or not. At its core, Flotsam celebrates the rich surf history and culture of the southern Gold Coast and the astounding concentration of talented creatives, film makers, photographers, surfers, writers and storytellers, who call the Gold Coast home.

With resounding proof of concept in its first iteration, this year’s Flotsam Festival offers an expanded program of cultural events from Coolangatta to Burleigh Heads across the first two weeks of May.

“The festival was set up in response to the effects prolonged pandemic border closures had on local creative and tourism industries,” says Carolyn. “I asked a few photography and film co-conspirators for their input, and they loved the idea. We formed a not-for-profit association to get it all up and running. Inspired by the ethos that a rising tide lifts all ships, Flotsam was named after the 17th century Anglo-Norman word meaning ‘to set afloat’.”

Focal point installation.

Mobile photography photo walk.

Focal point installation and Flotsam cube lightbox.

Caz began her creative career as a women’s surfing magazine writer and has 20 years international experience in media, events and workshop development. She is co-founder of Soul Arch Media, which for 15 years has partnered with the Gold Coast’s most iconic events to shape positive perceptions of our city.

Among the many highlights of this year’s Flotsam Festival are photo exhibitions by celebrated local photographers, beach clean ups, short film competitions, photography and animation workshops, and a media makers forum to discuss the future of surf media.

Local filmmaker Justin Gane will be staging the Queensland premiere of his latest surf movie epic Repulse (a sequel to his ‘90s classic Pulse) and celebrating the 20-year anniversary of his homage to talented local surfer Brenden Margieson, Wanderjahr.

Celebrated digital artist Craig Walsh is presenting his innovative digital sculpture Drift, which uses real time wind and wave data to represent the shifting sands of Coolangatta Bay.

The Focal Point exhibition will turn the Coolangatta foreshore into an outdoor photo gallery from Kirra to Point Danger, highlighting great moments in local surf history and stunning surf photography. (Surf) Girls On Film celebrates women’s surfing with a range of short films, photo projections and panel discussions.

“Flotsam aims to raise the profile of Gold Coast’s ocean-inspired creatives, lift the fortunes of southern Gold Coast traders, buoy the spirits of festival goers from all corners of the globe, and ensure the southern Gold Coast is awash with creativity for years to come,” says Carolyn.

Find out more here.