Inaugural Flotsam Surf Film and Photography Festival Triggers Culture Waves


The southern Gold Coast's newest festival, Flotsam, has completed a successful pilot debut attracting thousands of spectators across its multi day film and photography program. Across twenty locations over sixty surf filmmakers and photographers had work showcased, with many exhibiting for the first time.

Flotsam was developed to support local creatives and businesses in the border region, and was positioned to overlap the week between three major surfing events, the Gold Coast Open, the Gold Coast Pro Junior, and the Boost Mobile Gold Coast Pro. With last of the inaugural Flotsam Festival's major events now completed and the final handful of the festival's partner exhibitions wrapping up tomorrow, Flotsam featured artists and collaborators have been unanimous in their praise for the promising new additional to the Queensland cultural calendar.

Delivering innovative ways to showcase works in public space, Flotsam Festival unveiled several unique and locally procured purpose-built photo displays.

Flotsam: Focal Point outdoor photography exhibition placed images back in the vantage points they were taken from. Reproductions of iconic shots from some of the region’s top surf photographers were presented utilising large steel frame bases holding transparent prints – allowing viewers to peer through the images as if they were overlaid back onto their original backdrop. Curated by three-time Surfing Australia Hall of Fame Culture Award winner, Tim Baker, this series of ten installations was spaced from the top of Kirra Hill along the Coolangatta beachfront, traversing Greenmount headland and on to Rainbow Bay, Snapper Rocks and Point Danger. Informative captions told the stories behind the images, and scan-able QR codes provided extra content like video captured at the same location or interviews with the featured photographers.

Images from Andrew Shield, Simon Williams, Ted Grambeau, Peter Joli Wilson, Fran Miller, Tony Harrington, Mal Sutherland, and the late Marty Tullemans were featured, with surfers including Stephanie Gilmore, Joel Parkinson, Bede Durbidge, Ivy Thomas, Jason Buttenshaw, Michael Peterson and Peter Townend immortalised in the installation series.

  • jpg

Flotsam outdoor movie nights and music events also saw the debut of Flotsam Lightboxes. The giant photo cubes were up to two metres by two metres is size, and lit from within like lanterns. All featured the stunning water-inspired photography of Ted Grambeau printed on fabric, with the lightboxes built to shimmer in the breeze and glow after dark to give the images an other-worldly feel.

  • jpg

The festival also enjoyed four major outdoor film events atop Kirra Hill and Burleigh Headland.

Flotsam's open air programming commenced with a 50th Anniversary screening of Morning of the Earth featuring a panel of guests and a performance by Terry Hannigan, a composer of one the film's original tracks, and Rusty Miller, one of the film's original surf collaborators. Commencing with one of the oldest and most revered surf films of all time, Flotsam's outdoor programming fittingly ended with the area's newest content. Dedicated to supporting the local creative community, Flotsam: Homegrown hosted a night of local short film debuts and a surf clip comp featuring content starring local surfers, filmed by a local film maker, or filmed in the southern Gold Coast region. Surf lensman Lachlan Mckinnon took out the top prize and $3000 worth of flights from Scoot, film maker Jesse Little was awarded Runner Up and won $1000 cash and $500 worth of prizes from Sobah, and Cooper Lowns won the Best Up and Comer award from RBR Holidays, walking away with $1000 cash and a $500 holiday voucher.

In conjunction with the Gold Coast Open surf event, Flotsam debuted content from a mentor photography program based around the art of boardmaking. Called Flotsam: Foamo, the project matched up and coming film makers and photographers with established creators, and each team was assigned a topic within the board shaping community. This documentation was shared at a free open-air screening at Burleigh before feature documentaries, and then introduced via a panel talk at Surf World Gold Coast.

  • jpg

The festival ulitilised over a twenty different site locations to deliver programming across the southern Gold Coast, including pop-up film installations, photography exhibitions, movie screenings, workshops, and photo meets.

This included internationally-acclaimed ocean photographer, Trent Mitchell, performing a site takeover of Coolangatta’s iconic Pink Hotel featuring a jaw-dropping series of black and white images set against their outdoor fence line, while Ted Grambeau released a series of never prior released images taken at big wave location across the globe called BIG.

Film programming also included (Surf) Girls on Film, with a forum and screening of female-led surf content, Flotsam's International Surf Film Marathon, and a live music, film and photo collaborative experiment, Flotsam: Lightwaves, featuring an all-star cast of surf film and photo luminaries.

Flotsam Festival was steered by newly-formed not-for-profit arts incorporated association, Flotsam Arts Inc.

The association's Peter Joli Wilson was both a protagonist and a featured artist. "As someone that has been working in the surfing industry for most of my life, I’m excited to have the opportunity to be involved from the ground up. In my work over the last 40 years I have travelled and photographed surfing locations around the globe and am firmly convinced that the Southern Gold Coast region, centred around its world famous surf breaks of Snapper Rocks, Kirra and Burleigh is unique in the world in the way it embraces all facets of the surfing lifestyle and culture. The area has produced numerous professional World Surfing Champions, world renowned surfboard brands and major surf wear labels. However the Southern Gold Coast is also home to acclaimed surf photographers and film makers as well as artists and musicians who all embrace the surfing culture, and the Flotsam initiative is a way to showcase and celebrate their work."

Flotsam Festival was supported by the City of Gold Coast, Major Events Gold Coast, and the Queensland Government through Arts Queensland.


Images from these events and an EPK with interviews and footage are available for media use.

MEDIA ENQUIRIES: Carolyn Ridings Emge, Soul Arch Media

E: P: 07 55595551 M: 0415301913


Officially running from Sunday 1st May to Sunday 8th May 2022, with partner events running either side of this window, the first annual Flotsam Festival offered Gold Coast visitors an exciting season of sea-inspired cinema amidst a whirlwind of short film premieres, workshops, in-depth discussions with film makers and photographers, and photographic exhibitions staged both indoor and out.  Flotsam Festival’s 2022 iteration was a pilot, with the goal to become a premanent annual fixture on Queensland’s cultural calendar. Flotsam Festival was supported by the City of Gold Coast, Major Events Gold Coast, and the Queensland Government through Arts Queensland.

About Flotsam Arts

Flotsam Festival is a multi-site film and photography celebration inspired by surf culture. The third annual Flotsam Festival will run from Wednesday 1st May to Sunday 12th May, 2024. Flotsam Festival is presented by Flotsam Arts Inc., a not for profit association formed to create pivotal events that showcase the Gold Coast’s iconic surf culture through photo and film, and to create opportunities for photographic artists to extend their practice through mentorships, workshops and exhibition opportunities.

Flotsam Festival is supported by the City of Gold Coast, Experience Gold Coast, and the Queensland Government through Arts Queensland.

Contact details

Receive exclusive news

Are you a journalist or do you work for a publication?
Sign up and request access to exclusive news.

Request access

Receive Flotsam Arts news on your RSS reader.

Or subscribe through Atom URL manually