Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Inspirational Wednesdays: Thomas Castets, a mission of acceptance for gay surfers

I’ve been telling you I did a couple of nice interviews during the Surfilm festival in San Sebastian.

This movie “Out in the line up” was making a big noise at the social media, and I thought it was a good idea to interview Thomas Castets. I knew very little about him and the movie, but the few things I heard captured my attention.

I met Thomas in a very hot afternoon here in Sanse at the beginning of June. We met to take some pictures of him, and have a small talk about the movie in general.
My first impression was that he wasn’t like other surfers I interviewed. Right away he’s very proximate and open to talk about anything I’d like to know. 
His personality matches perfectly with the message of his movie and that’s very inspiring in every sense.

He seems a little bit threatened by my bulky camera at the beginning, but then he just relax, and starts to be the cool guy I thought he would be. 
All smiles he tells me what led him to found the internet site "Gay" and why this documentary is not only a surf documentary, but a mission of acceptance.

“Out in the Line Up” is the beginning of a huge change in the surf scene, and is helping a lot of gay surfers around the world to live a free full life in and out of the water. Like he says in his movie “the spirit of surfing is freedom, and every surfer should be able to feel this way”.

This is what I talked with Thomas; I hope you get inspired as I did in this short, but effective time of acquaintance. 

He doesn’t know, but he planted an inspiration seed in my head: If you want to see things change, be part of that change, proactively. If you can do it yourself, why wait for others to do it?

Merci Thomas pour l’inspiration! 

Thomas, all smiles while interviewing him in San Sebastian

- Thomas, can you tell us about the moment when you decided to create Gay What happened and what was the inspiration?
Back in 2010, I just have never heard of any other gay surfers, I thought I was the only gay surfer in the world !
When my friends started to get married and have children they had a lot less time for surfing, I ended up surfing alone most of the time, and I thought that it would be nice to know 1 other gay surfer.
I posted a blog page on the internet and suddenly I found thousands in just a couple of months! There were many gay surfers who were in the same position as I was!

- How was to fund a project like this in Australia as a foreigner? How Australians responded to that? What about France?
When I travelled around the world and met the members of the website I realized all these people shared more with me than just being gay and the love for surfing. None of them fitted in the stereotypes of being a surfer or being gay. Like me, they were stranded between 2 cultures they did not belong to. And I thought that would be interesting to make a documentary about this. When I was in Australia I met up with David who decided to travel with me, then Ian who accepted to direct the film, with Cam who accepted to edit it, etc… No one was paid and more than 60 people worked on the documentary. Everywhere we filmed we would post on the website and we would find volunteers. It was an amazing feeling to see that everyone we spoke to wanted this film being made. We raised $35,000 with a crowd funding campaign through kickstarter and also all invested our own money to pay for the post production, travelling and marketing.

Official poster of "Out in the line up". Photo: ©Gay Surfers

- What did you expect to be at the beginning and how that vision has changed during the life of the site?
I expected to meet a couple of people, but I never expected to find so many! There are more than 5000 members today and thousands of people follow us on Facebook, twitter and other social media media networks.
At first it was just a joke, now it has become my full time occupation :)

- Why a documentary was needed?
Many gay surfers I meet tell me that they were looking for a website like this for a long time and were so happy when they found it. So the documentary is important because it will reach people beyond the borders, on the internet, but also in film festivals and the press.
I think it is also important to show a different image of homosexuality than the one that is portrayed in the media. It is important to show that some of the athletes we admire so much on TV, well some of them are straight, but guess what, some of them are gay! We're just trying to make homosexuality visible so that it becomes easier to accept that some people of different.

David, part of the movie. Photo: ©Gay Surfers

- At the movie you tried to interview Dave Prodan of the ASP, but at the end you couldn’t use his interview. What was the main issue for them in your opinion?. Is the ASP changed its mind after the release of the movie?
We first started the documentary by asking people “have you ever heard of any gay surfers” ? And most people have not (until they met us)
Many people we interviewed told us “you should interview the bodies governing the sport of Surfing like the ASP and the ISA, they are the one who can help with this.”
So we reached out to them and they did not want to talk about it. I am not sure if they were scared or did not want to reveal secret stories of the past, but we could never get them on camera.
That’s when I realized that homosexuality was a real taboo in surfing, and this was part of the reason why gay people were scared of coming out, and straight people were scared to talk about it.
After months of chasing Dave Prodan, the media officer of the ASP, he finally gave us a quick interview, but 2 weeks before finishing the film he asked us to remove his interview from the documentary.
That was really disappointing, we asked him why and tried to find solutions but we never heard back from him.

- Can you tell us a memorable experience while filming?
Surfing around the world, meeting surfers, discovering new spots and cultures, the whole experience was amazing, but some of the best moments happened during the interviews themselves.
Most people who are not used to the camera are quite shy at first and then slowly relax and sometimes unveil and say a bit more than they would have wanted to. 
Craig Butler, who is six-times Irish Surf Champion, wrote us a letter at the start of the process saying that there is no way he’d ever be able to tell his parents or his surf mates that he was gay because they just wouldn’t understand. But through the course of the documentary – over about a year between when we started and when he contacted us again – he wrote to us saying that he had changed his mind and that it was important that he told
everybody who he was. If we can inspire people to be who they are like Craig, then that’s what the process is all about.

- What was the most difficult thing that you recall of putting together the whole filming project?
Money :)

Gay surfers reunion. Photo: ©Gay Surfers

- What are the next steps for this film and for gaysurfers? is still growing everyday as it reaches the most remote parts of the world.
The film just won 5 awards at film festivals around the world:
• Sydney Mardi Gras Film Festival (20th Feb. 2014) – AUDIENCE AWARD FOR BEST DOCUMENTARY
• Byron Bay International Film Festival (7th March 2014) – BEST SURF FILM AWARD
• Newport Beach Film Festival (30th April 2014) – BEST ACTION SPORTS FILM AWARD
• San Diego Surf Film Festival (9th May 2014) – AUDIENCE AWARD FOR BEST FILM
• Honolulu Rainbow Film Festival (13th June 2014) – RAINBOW AWARD
And it will be released on DVD and digitally on the 28th June on

- How people can get involved with this cause?
Gay surfers, straight people and anyone can join, it is a social network for open minded people who want to promote diversity and inclusion in the line-up.
And you can watch the film online or buy a DVD on

- Any other important info or thoughts you want to share with us??

David, enjoying a wave during their trips in the movie. Photo: ©Gay Surfers

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