Beyond the Surface: An Interview with Crystal Thornburg-Homcy
“Beyond the Surface” is a documentary film shot throughout southern India which stars Ishita Malaviya, the woman now known as India’s first female surfer. Ishita is joined by an amazing group of ocean lovers and wave sliders: Crystal Thornburg-Homcy, Liz Clark, Lauren Hill, Emi Koch, and Kate Baldwin, as they travel, surf, practice yoga, and interact with the local communities.
More than just another surf film, “Beyond the Surface” reveals the unique challenges which currently confront the people of India, while giving a message of hope through friendship, compassion, charity, and surfing.
I caught up with the film’s producer and director, Crystal Thornburg-Homcy, to get the lowdown on the upcoming film.
Zappo: It seems as if the ocean and surfing have been a part of your life since you were born. Can you describe your early childhood years growing up in Hawaii and how surfing helped define your path in life?
Thornburg-Homcy: Growing up in Hawaii, it almost seems inevitable you will become an ocean person. Surrounded by water there weren’t a lot of options for activities to do besides swim, sail, surf and paddle. But, it also had a lot to do with my family. My mom and dad are both surfers, and have enjoyed every type of water adventure possible, so I was just thrown into the mix. All of our family time was filled with savoring the ocean together. As I grew older I started to compete in a number of water sports including surfing, canoe paddling, bodysurfing, paddle boarding, water polo, swimming and kayaking, which later turned into a career with the outdoor company, Patagonia, as one of their Ocean Ambassadors.
My whole life has been revolved around the ocean. Every morning and throughout the day I’m always looking at the ocean’s conditions, and diving in with water craft that suits the conditions. I guess you can say that the ocean is the center of my universe, because without it I’m not sure where I would be.
Zappo: With a strong foundation connecting you to the ocean and nature, you have become a voice of environmental and social consciousness in the surfing world. What do you think some of the major issues are facing the world, and how do you think the surf community as a whole can help?
Thornburg-Homcy: I’ve always had a strong connection to the natural world and a passion to protect it. I try to share what I know about environmental issues with friends, hoping to inspire someone to examine their connection to the world we live in. We all want to protect something we love, and when we love nature, I believe more people will want to fight for its safety. There are so many issues the world is facing and it can really be overwhelming. I try to focus on the things I can do different at home, in the garden, and at the store that can help to leave less of an ecological footprint. I’m not saying I’m perfect or going to save the world, but I think if we can all band together and think about our future here as humans on this amazing planet, it’s time we all do our best one step at a time. I believe that all environmental issues effect the ocean in some way, so I think surfers and all ocean enthusiasts should really come together as a community to challenge major companies and governments that aren’t doing their best to protect it.
Zappo: Can you tell us a bit about your formal education background and how that plays out in your everyday life and works?
Thornburg-Homcy: I decided to stay in Hawaii and study at Chaminade University where I received a bachelors of science degree in environmental science with an emphasis in eastern philosophy and religion, along with a minor in fine arts. I went into collage thinking I was going to be an art therapist. I ended up really enjoying diving deeper into the studies of my surrounding environment and the ways in which people connect with their environment in different cultures and religions. After graduating, I’m now still living with those same topics of interests. I still enjoy investigating these connections and through the medium of film, I want to share these stories with the world.
Zappo: You run a home-based organic garden operation called “Crave Greens” with your husband, Dave. How did you initially get started, what is the philosophy behind it, and how does it serve your community?
Thornburg-Homcy: Seven years ago, my husband Dave and I started an organic garden with the desire to bring fresh organic produce to the tables of friends and family. From then on, the business of greens took off. Now called “Crave Greens”, the name was inspired by the combination of Crystal and Dave. Our love for the natural environment and passion for cooking has inspired us to get our hands dirty by growing as much of our own food as possible. Our back yard garden on the north shore of Oahu is a simple example of how easy it can be, with just a small space, to produce an abundance of food. Crave Greens, provides local registered clients, private chefs, as well as local CSA-community supported agriculture (Meleana’s Farm), Opal Thai Truck, Bonzer Front, Cafe Haleiwa, and Luibuenos, with a variety of vegetables, fruits, herbs, and spices.
Zappo: Your husband has worked in the film industry for quite some time and has been involved in the creation of some of the best surf films out there. You came together for your new upcoming film entitled “Beyond the Surface”, what is the film about and how was it working together with your husband on the project?
Thornburg-Homcy: My husband Dave and I have worked on various projects together such as, Sliding Liberia, El Mar Mi Alma, Come Hell Or High Water, and Dig It, to name a few, but none of which we had full creative control. This being a dream of ours, we made a commitment that we would only shoot using film, first and foremost. Dave and I had so many ideas of what our first film was going to be, and of course, this film was nothing we could have planned. We teamed up with Freetheo Productions to make the whole project come to light. Beyond The Surface is about Ishita Malaviya, India’s first female surfer, joined by a unique and talented group of women – Crystal Thornburg-Homcy, Liz Clark, Lauren Hill, Emi Koch, and Kate Baldwin. With unshakable determination for a better world, they traveled through Southern India documenting the ways in which surfing, yoga, and ecological creativity are bringing hope and fueling change for local people and the planet.
Zappo: When people think of surf destinations, India would probably not be on the top of their list and, as I understand, surfing is fairly new to India’s culture. How is the surf in India, how is surfing viewed amongst the locals, and has surfing impacted their culture in a positive way?
Thornburg-Homcy: Right now is a very exciting time in India to witness the up-and-coming surf culture. It’s so new and fresh, and was a great reminder of why I love to surf: just for the pure joy of riding waves. The surfing culture is starting to sink in with surf contests happening around India for surf clubs to come together and compete. Some find it an opportunity to possibly become professional and gain sponsors, while others just do it for fun. It’s becoming very popular and has been a great thing for their community. Surfing has brought a positive impact on tourist beaches due to the fact that locals can rent out surfboards or even give surf lessons, as well as offer ding repair. Surfing has also been a great outlet for people to enjoy nature and it gives an opportunity to wash away the day’s worries. I believe that the more people that gain that bond and respect for the beach and ocean, the more will want to keep it clean and protect it.
Zappo: The team behind “Beyond the Surface” is a strong one, an assembly of a core group of people, all with interesting and diverse backgrounds. Can you give us a who’s who and how each individual came to be part of the project?
Thornburg-Homcy: I basically wanted to gather a group of like-minded friends from around the world to experience all the beauty and diversity India had to offer. I asked if they were all interested, and everyone seemed to be excited to travel to a place we had all been curious about in some way. We are all travelers at heart, and we share a deep respect for nature and a love for humanity. None of the girls had ever met before, so I found this also really exciting for everyone to meet and create an unforgettable bond.
Zappo: The film is obviously more than simply a surf film. There is a strong social and environmental component to “Beyond the Surface” that I’m sure will reach much farther than just the surfing community. That said, how did you find a balance between the surf content and, for lack of a better term, the “serious” educational content?
Thornburg-Homcy: The film is basically a documentary about our adventures traveling down the Indian coastline, meeting different people, and enjoying the culture and environment
along the way while also touching upon eco-tourism, youth and women’s empowerment, biocentrism and personal growth. We have integrated these causes with the pursuit of India’s waves, highlighting the undeniable power of joy that surfing brings.
Zappo: Beyond the Surface International is a non-profit organization that is connected to the film. What is the origin and mission of the organization?
Thornburg-Homcy: We are teaming up wit Emi Koch from Beyond The Surface International, A Non-Profit organization whose mission is to use surfing as a highly effective tool to assimilate underprivileged, homeless, and orphaned children into society. They have been able to strengthen and create communities to promote social justice and peace.
Zappo: What was the most memorable experience you had while working on the film in India?
Thornburg-Homcy: Every day was so action packed, and we all often caught ourselves saying to each other, “This is such an incredible moment”. Those moments just kept happening, it was all meant to be, and everything kept falling into place, one unplanned incredible moment after another. It’s really hard to pinpoint the greatest. I think just the natural process of the adventure and all the stories we experienced each had their own value and place in my heart.
Zappo: What are your hopes for the film’s impact on surfers and other viewers?
Thornburg-Homcy: I hope that this film encourages people to dream about traveling to different places in the world and maybe even visit them and become interactive with the culture and people in those places. We wanted this film to be a platform for asking yourself questions about life and relationships with nature and mankind. Also, we wanted to create a film that makes the viewers want to know more about what is happening around the world and want to research on their own and dig deeper into the topics we brushed upon.
Zappo: When will the film be released and where can we expect to see the film?
Thornburg-Homcy: The film is in the editing stages at this point and we’re aiming for a Spring 2014 release. We will be screening at various film festivals worldwide, along with future online and DVD sales.
Zappo: What future projects do you have in the works?
Thornburg-Homcy: Currently we are focused on Beyond The Surface, but hoping to start planning for our next film project sometime next year. I do want to spend more time on my artwork and enjoy the company of family and friends here in Hawaii.
Zappo: Any last thoughts or words of wisdom you would like to share?
Thornburg-Homcy: My number one words of advise would be to follow your heart and don’t just sit there and dream, make them happen. I guess I’ve always dreamt of making a film. I never would I have thought I would actually do it, but with a lot of blood, sweat and tears, I did. I’ve worked day and night, not giving up or taking personal any negative remarks about the project and why we shouldn’t do it or how it couldn’t be done. I just took small steps with the right intensions and an open mind and heart, and of course, the rest would follow.
Photos: Crystal Thornburg-Homcy, Dave Homcy & Eric Knutson
More about “Beyond the Surface”: http://www.beyondthesurfacefilm.com