Interview with Filmmaker Dayla Soul | It Ain't Pretty

IT AIN'T PRETTY was selected for the 4th Annual NYC Women's Surf FIlm Festival 2016, directed by Dayla Soul.  The documentary is about the Challenges and triumphs of Female big wave surfers fighting sexism in the Water, in competition, in the media and in the surf industry with the support of a closely-knit community of like-minded women. featuring ocean beach surfer bianca Valenti’s journey from childhood phenom to world-class big wave charger, This probing, incendiary and thought-provoking film takes you Inside a growing movement of women that are shattering the shallow and sexualized images of female surfers in the media.

nyc womens surf film festival it aint pretty lava girl surf
nyc womens surf film festival it aint pretty lava girl surf

Where did you grow up and where do you call home now?

I grew up on the North Shore of Kauai but call the Bay Area home now. I learned to surf at Pinetrees.

How did you get started in filmmaking and why?

I am a new filmmaker and have only being doing it for 3 years since I started IAP. I decided after a surf session back in 2013 that I would do a local surf film on women. Then it just grew and grew into a full length doc. I filmed the first 6 months with a small $150 Fuji camera with extendable lens. When the winter season came I soon discovered I need better equipment.

How did It Ain't Pretty come about?

The film came about because I wanted to make a film that hadn't been done before. I wanted to see my local female Ocean Beach chargers in a surf movie. As well as discuss the burn out on surf media portrayal of women.  

How did you come to meet the surfers featured in the film?

Mika and Caroline were the very first ladies I interviewed but soon the word got out about the film. I would walk up to women getting out of the water and they would say yes Ive heard of it! So just by introducing myself and asking how they felt the current state of women surfing was, they would want to share. We talked about climate change, the conditions at OB and sexism in the water as well as Big Waves. It wasn't long before I realized it was a much broader conversation that needed to be documented. I also started realizing the short list of names I needed to talk to who rode Large waves. This is where I met Bianca Valenti when trying to get an interview with Savannah Shaughnessy. They had been surfing together the day I heard Savannah was out. I told Bianca I would love to get an interview with the both of them and she responded by saying yes and I think you should follow me in the film. So it was a little serendipity that Bianca and I had met at that particular time. I then started following her and the content took off. We ran a Kickstarter campaign that earned us money for the right equipment. As well as getting my first real winter season on film with Bianca at the center. We travelled up to Nelscott where she won an 8 women heat and became the first ever official female big wave champion. Then shot her at 25 foot Ocean Beach dropping in on critical and inspiring waves. She introduced me to many of the Big Wave chargers in the film such as Keala Kennelly, Andrea Moller and Paige Alms. As well as her OB crew called the outer bar babes. Bianca became the eyes through which you see the film.

What was some of the challenges in making this film?

There were a number of challenges just as there are in every film made. The biggest one was financing and being able to budget post. Im still dealing with how to make it work and become sustainable while I tour the film. The second challenge was being a women filmmaker in a mostly male dominated trade and juggling not burning to many bridges while I held my ground. Wether it was submitting video to the XXL awards competition or being yelled at and threatened at particular local held surf spots while I filmed. There was never a time when I thought I would quit. I always had my mind on getting this film out there. As a personal journey its been one of the biggest highlights of my life to complete it and now have it on tour. The conversation and message of the film is so relevant to the world at this time!

Where was the film shot? Tell us more about the breaks?

Mainly the film was shot at Ocean Beach and Mavericks. Yet there were many other secret places filmed that I have kept undisclosed. Ocean Beach was shot from the dunes and pretty much solo. At Mavericks on a big day there were always dozens of photos that you would have to share a small area with. Paparazzi all the way! I would also have someone on a boat in the water and a drone operator. So way more planning went into the Mavericks shoots. Well worth it however.

Tell us more about the surf culture and scene in San Francisco?

Surf Culture is present out near the beach but as you head into the city it dissipates. I think as surfers that has always been something we appreciated that it was cold and foggy and a little bit unknown. However in the past 10 years climate has warmed and more people have made their way out to the beach. More shops more surfers higher rents and culture shifting to techies. Which pisses most of us off. However we all need to embrace change. The cool thing about Ocean Beach is nature always wins with natural selection. So when its pumping there are still areas with empty lineups and 3 miles along the beach to choose from. I am a little old school so when we talk about surf culture my nature is to reject it! I don't buy my clothes at surf shops and I shape my own boards so the idea of having a culture that is surf related feels inauthentic to me and manipulated by the media to sale product. Thrusting female perfect shaped asses and men to look like water warriors on the pages of magazines while insurance companies televise surfers on standup paddle boards in commercials. Most of the culture is what I would call FooFoo. True surf culture to me is someone who wakes up at the crack of down and goes out before anyone has awoken. They surf because they love the sea and are one with themselves in their connection with the waves. That which can not be sold, only experienced.

Is there a discrepancy with the number of women and men that surf in the water in SF/California?

I wouldn't say discrepancy because that gives the thought there should be more women surfing. However with many sports the ratio is usually 70/30 men being more. I think whats important to note as in other sports male to female, would be the discrepancy in competition pay. 

Do you feel that women’s surfing has improved over the past decade? If so in what ways?

Well if your talking ability then yes women's performance surfing right now is off the chain! In terms of power surfing, tricks and tube riding in competition the bar gets raised every day! However there is still a discrepancy in comp money. The area of female Big Wave riding is slower to the game. being that there are only a handful of ladies pushing those boundaries that we know of. All the usual suspects like Bianca Valenti, Keala Kennelly, Andrea Moller and Paige Alms. Yet there were a few in the 80's to like Rell Sun and Jericho Popplar. Long before we had youtube. So there have always been ladies knocking on the door riding big waves. Its just yet to be allowed to grow. So that these women can be seen by the next generation and inspire them to the challenge. I have a glimmer of hope that its all changing with the new WSL announcement of 2 locations on the mens tour where the women will compete in a big wave contest.

Where has been your favorite places to surf and shoot surfers?

Sloat Blvd at Ocean Beach and Mavericks. 

What can't you live without when you travel?

My 600mm lens. 

Where do you find your personal inspiration?

Women like Sarah Gerhardt and Rell Sun. Anyone who has fought difficult obstacles to work towards something big in their life and never let it stop them.

Whats next for Dayla Soul?

Big Plans for the second film.