The last days of Castles in the Sky
Taylor Steeleâ€™s next travel epic is almost ready.
By Nathan Myers
Taylor Steele has to shield his eyes. â€śMy god, what is that light?â€ť he says.
â€śThatâ€™s the sun,â€ť I explain. â€śThatâ€™s where God lives.â€ť
â€śIs that what it is?â€ť he says. â€śItâ€™s so bright.â€ť
Taylorâ€™s flesh is moldy. His eyes are bloodshot. He stinks of taurine, glucuronolactone and Bintang. And the movie is finally finished.
Wellâ€¦not finished finished, but finished enough to go surfing. So thatâ€™s what weâ€™re doing. Taylor grabs a Slater-shaped Wizard Sleeve, jumps onto a motorcycle and heads down to his local reef a few hundred yards away while the computer screen where his eyes have lived the past five weeks blinks with that magic/awful word: â€śRENDERING.â€ť I grab a Gary McNeill â€śBollywoodâ€ť board â€” inspired by watching Rasta surfing one in India â€” and choke on his dust.
Iâ€™m afraid he might drown.
The title â€śCastles in the Skyâ€ť refers to dreaming of something unreachableâ€¦ which pretty well describes Taylorâ€™s recent workload. Castles has been three years in the making, including extensive travel to Iceland, Vietnam, Africa, Peru and India with surfers like Dave Rastovich, Rob Machado, Craig Anderson, Dane Reynolds and Jordy Smith. The film is a natural evolution of his Sipping Jetstreams vision, but (having just sat in on a preview) Iâ€™d say this one comes off a bit edgier and has better surf. Thereâ€™s great wipeouts, magnificent indigenous beauty and an over-all ambience of travel stoke.
Everything youâ€™d expect from Sippingâ€¦and a bit more. The movie will come out with copious behind-the-scenes materials, a soundtrack recorded by surfers like Timmy Curran and Dan Malloy, and travel journals created by Dane Reynolds, Rob Machado and Dion Agius.
If all that wasnâ€™t enough to do, Steeleâ€™s also been finishing another film withÂ called Melali: The Drifter Sessions, which basically revives all the surfing not used in The Drifter with an original score by Machado and Jon Swiftâ€™s new Drifter-tour band The Moldy Manatees. Turns out, an amazing amount of great surfing was cut from Drifter to maintain Robâ€™s â€śsoloâ€ť vibe in that movie, including sessions with Dan Malloy, Shane Dorian, Timmy Curran, Kelly Slater and Dane Reynolds. The DVD contains a few versions of the film, one with the band playing the score live (like a concert vid) and one with lots of dreamy Indo footage that fell onto the hard-drive floor during Drifter edits.
While Iâ€™m aware this is starting to sound like a Poor Specimen commercial, I should mention that Steeleâ€™s also been running Innersection in the midst of all this edit madness. The next round starts a few days before the first Castles premier. Fun fun.
You should see his office. Maps and hard drives. Cameras and tripods. Mags and energy drinks. Souvenirs from Africa, Peru and India. Surfboards from Taj Burrow, Dane Reynolds and Andy Irons on the wall. Travel books. IPods. Maps. Journals. Photos. A grease board on the wall lists sections, songs, edits, alongside a bunch of Taylorâ€™s signature cartoon doodles. The place is chaos. A full-on war bunkerâ€¦after the bomb hit it.
Thatâ€™s why his skin all peels off when he finally hits the water. His arms are wobbly little noodles and he forgot to put wax on his board. All the boys in the lineup say, â€śHey Taylor, youâ€™re back. Where did you go?â€ť
Taylor says, â€śGo? Huh? What?â€ť
â€śYouâ€™ve been out of town, right?â€ť
â€śTown? Huh? Where?â€ť
The bright light is still confusing him. All the colors. The feel of real-life ocean water. Heâ€™s not used to being outside. And maybe he shouldnâ€™t get too cozy. The film still needs to be color corrected, sound engineered, box-setted and premier partiedâ€¦the first of which is on May 4th in New York, â€śthe city that never sleeps.â€ť (Wonder why he chose that place?)
Despite his edit atrophy, Taylorâ€™s muscle memory is still pretty good. He bags a set wave right away and goes flying down the line. As he runs through a series of turns and carves, itâ€™s clear his edit-brain still back in the studio: Off the lip = â€śdid I get Dionâ€™s voice-overs yet?â€ť Cutback = â€śdid we remember to swap out Losnessâ€™s train scene?â€ť Floater = â€śhas Dane turned in his journal yet?â€ť
Then the wave closes out and I see a glimpse â€” just a brief flash â€” of Taylor starting to dream up the next project. The guy clearly canâ€™t help himself.
Heâ€™s almost done, and heâ€™s just getting started.
Taylor Steele in India.