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by Karen Pecota

Bentley Dean, Australia 2021

Filmmaker Bentley Dean collaborates with cinematographer Rick Rifici to present a phenomenal action-packed documentary of the life Kirby Brown, one of Australia's famous slab wave surfers.

To better understand and appreciate Kirby Brown's story in FACING MONSTERS we need to hear from the sport's experts and their description of slab surfing and why it's become a new frontier in the world of surfing.

"A slab is generally a shallow piece of reef that sticks out in deep water, or deep water sits behind it," says Koby Abberton, one slab rider who travels worldwide for the experience.

The independent publisher, Grom Life, features their journalists to describe slab wave surfing. They say, "Slab waves have been called the ‘world's heaviest waves’, as well as a ‘new frontier’ in surfing. Slab waves are short, heavy, immense, and unforgiving waves and they're not for the faint of heart." Continuing, "Waves [regular/traditional] usually move toward the shore slowly as they rise and break cleanly to one side or both sides. These are the waves that surfers have tackled for generations. Slow moving and predictable, in comparison to slab waves which move quickly through deep water and speed toward a shallow dry reef or cliff." Adding, "Surfing a slab wave has been likened to escaping a collapsing building, in which case the goal of a surfer is to be the cool-headed action hero who makes it through the smoke unscathed, as opposed to the villain who gets crushed under the weight of the concrete."

Joe Mozingo, featured in Outside publication says, "A slab wave moves fast, through deep water, and hits a shallow reef at full speed. It lifts out of nowhere within seconds, sucks the water out of the shallows in front of it, and then slams shut in a violent thump. The power and danger of a slab come as much from the thickness as the height."

Why surf slab waves? Simply because one can. The addiction and love of the ocean's magnificent power offers the opportunity for highly skilled surfers the never-ending challenge for the ultimate natural ecstasy. Many would consider these surfers slightly crazy, but their intense passion beckons them to the ocean's fierceness of one more death-defying adventure.

Australia's coastline is pretty much ground zero for slab-hunting, says Ryan "Chachi" Craig, surfing photographer specializing in cinematography for slab wave surfing.

In FACING MONSTERS, Dean and Rifici showcase more than a native Australian's surfer story. Though they do give the audience a thrilling view of slab wave surfing and its terrors, they more importantly relay Kirby's slab wave surfing addiction, and his intense family bond. But, most of all the film team describes with heart, what drives Kirby, what anchors him, and why he's so obsessed with putting himself in harm’s way (as some would put it), while fighting one of the most intimidating forces of nature. Kirby has always been in search of finding the biggest most dangerous waves around the world. Or is he searching for something that really isn't there?

His friends and family say that the ocean is where Kirby belongs because without it, he loses his balance. It's a place where he feels most alive. His connection to the ocean runs as deep as his love for his family; thus, in FACING MONSTERS, Dean says, "It's an unapologetic musing of Kirby's love for his family and his quest to ride a ferocious slab wave in the deep southern ocean that no one on the planet has surfed before." With any addiction, there are consequences. Kirby has gotten hurt a lot, but an addict can't help getting right back to the feeling of ecstasy. For Kirby it's the next daring slab wave; one the audience witnesses with horror.

Kirby's brother, Cortney and dad, Glenn Brown, encouraged him to enter in slab wave competitions because everyone knew he'd be a world champion due to his amazing ability to relax his body in the moment of catching and riding the intensity of a slab. Kirby couldn't do it because the rules and the schedules were too many that took him off balance to truly relax to perfect his ride. One wrong move and it's all over! Kirby says, "When you go through a wipe out you get to know yourself in a short amount of time." This mattered a great deal when he became a father and his adventures—failures and successes—forced him to contemplate what his passion would do to his family.

FACING MONSTERS is a delightfully thrilling narrative featuring one giant of a man who is one with nature, and made to conquer Slab Wave Giants.