If your path to enlightenment begins as a young man with Morning of the Earth, where does it lead you 50 years later? These are big issues to discuss at 8am on a Friday morning. Albe Falzon is on his verandah in the coastal hinterland, the property he bought soon after the film was released in the early ’70s. In the years since the surrounding forest has moved toward the house like Birnam Wood. Albe loved Tarzan as a kid, and he now lives in the trees. He ponders a day when the forest takes over completely; when he’s gone, when we’re all gone. A future civilisation hacks through the bush to discover Albe’s library, 3000 books unlocking the secrets of an ancient race. Maybe Albe is still there, in some other form. Albe’s opus has just been re-released 50 years on to a very different world. A hungrier, more anxious world than it was in 1972. But there is hope. When asked if he thinks it’s the right time for his conscious-shifting surf film to be put back out into the world again, Albe replies, “I think it’s the only time for it.” – SEAN DOHERTY
SW: Are you a morning person, Albe?
Yeah, my cycle moves around so I’m up at five most mornings. I think the most important thing is to get a good, deep sleep. You don’t really need eight hours… four or five hours is enough if they’re deep.
SW: Quality over quantity.
Yeah. You know when I’m surfing sometimes, I feel when the good sets are coming. You don’t see them, you just kind of feel them. It’s another sense you pick up. I’ve noticed that when I’ve been in the water a few times with Dave [Rastovich]. Here’s a funny Dave story. This time I was surfing Lennox Head… I didn’t know Dave was out, I just went surfing. I’m paddling out and there’s this board upside-down and there’s a guy underwater with his legs wrapped around it. I thought, what the fucks going on here? I paddled over and the guy has popped up and it was Dave. I totally cracked up. He looked at me, I looked at him. He didn’t expect to see me there. I asked, “What are you doing?” He said, “I’m listening to the whales.” You’ve got to love it.
SW: He’s bought some underwater audio gear and has been out wide in his boat recording them. It’s haunting. If you listen carefully no two calls are the same.
It’d be really interesting to ask him to interpret what he thinks they’re saying. Intuitively. That’s a really big ask because we live in different dimensions, but it’d be really interesting to get his take on that. He’s so tuned to those elements in the ocean, it would be really interesting to ask, “Well, what’s the whale saying?”
SW: I read an interesting piece yesterday where an animal behavioural scientist had been studying cats and had a theory that the “meow” call a cat makes isn’t actually for other cats, it’s for humans. They’ve been domesticated for so long they’ve developed a way to communicate with people.
Isn’t that interesting. It’s like humans. If we look at it, as humans we take care of those lower kingdoms like the animal kingdom, the vegetable kingdom, and the mineral kingdom in some way. They’re all contributing to our life. With the animal kingdom, we get some of those animals and lift them up into the human kingdom through domestication. If you think about it then, what’s the kingdom above the human kingdom? And what’s the connection between us and that kingdom? If the cat created this meow to talk to humans, how do we communicate with the kingdom above us? What even is the kingdom above us?
SW: It’s a big question for eight o’clock on a Friday morning.
[Laughs] We’re just starting to wake up. It’s really important when you wake up because most of the time humanity’s asleep – awake on one level – but…
SW: … sleepwalking through life.
But that’s the beautiful thing about surfing. We’re a bit more awake than most of the population because we go out into the ocean, we jump in and paddle out, and whatever’s going on outside of that is just wiped out straightaway. Most people can’t do that. They’re just going from moment to moment, travelling down the road, they’ve got things to do and they’re always on a mission. When we get in the ocean, we’re not on a mission. We’re just there. And that’s the beautiful thing about it. I think surfing is one of the great gifts that’s been given us. And that’s why I’m so grateful for it. It’s a blissful state without me realising that it’s a blissful state. When you go into that state, it’s a perfect form of meditation without realising it’s meditation. You get on a wave and what do you think about when you’re on a wave?
Exactly. Nothing. It’s perfect Zen. That’s what’s beautiful about it. And I think that’s the key in the door to the next kingdom. Surfing opens up that door, because the only way we can tap into anything outside of our own consciousness is if we have nothing going on inside our brains. You’re totally open and surfing allows us to be open. It’s why we keep going back to it, riding more waves, because it taps us into that natural energy field. It’s such an incredible place to be. Once you get down the path a bit, consciousness expands, and surfing helps that in a lot of ways. You can reflect on things down the path a bit and go, cool. It brings you into the purity of the moment. And that’s how we should live our life. If everybody on the planet lived their life like that, this planet would be a completely different place. But we’re all focused on the past or the future; very rarely do we live in the present.
SW: You don’t get enough chances to lose yourself.
Everyone’s travelling somewhere, but very few people arrive. They just never get there. I see people zooming up and down the highway all the time… where are they going? They get to wherever they’re going, then they’re going somewhere else. They’re just missing everything right around them. On a wave you don’t miss it, because when you paddle out you’ve left it all on shore. Then you get out there and take the high line, you find that point of least resistance on the wave and that’s where you stay. It’s so incredible to watch people that have the ability not only physically but spiritually, you know, Dave, and Torren [Martyn] and various other people, it’s just effortless because they’re totally in that space. I mean, when I watch Torren surf, it’s like he’s not surfing. He’s just kind of almost invisible. He just kind of there, totally in harmony. He and the wave are kind of one. I mean, I just love to watch him surf.
SW: Just that languid kind of energy to it.
I was watching some film of him not too long ago, where he was surfing at Nias. And it was like – fuck me – it was huge and thick and gnarly and he’s paddling as if it was a two-foot wave. He’d just let go and fall down into the barrel. It was effortless. The wave just took him to the spot. Perfect harmony.
SW: I watched both movies last night – the remastered Morning of the Earth and the lost outtakes. It was nice to see the original film all tarted up and sparkling, but the lost footage really got me thinking. I started thinking of what an alternate Morning of the Earth edit might have looked like, and would it have had the same influence?
It’d be really interesting, if you had all the same raw material now and restructured the film for the first time… for this point in time. I was so into surfing when we made the film originally and I wanted to make a film about the beauty of surfing and the love surfing, that surfing was the foremost consideration. So, the key point of the editing process was to try and pick out the surfing highlights. So, all that material was there – the cultural material in Bali, for example – and all the peripheral stuff. I just moved it aside because I was always looking for the dynamics of the surfing. When we got the outtakes last year, I looked at it and it was like looking at the film for the first time. I don’t even remember filming most of it. I was so engrossed in putting Morning of the Earthtogether and making the best surfing film I could make that the cultural aspect of it was secondary. I didn’t even think about that, you know. For me, culture was riding the wave.
SW: You were a young surfer yourself.
Totally. I was into it, and I just wanted to share the beauty and excitement of surfing, so I made a surfing film. So, all that cultural material we shot as we were travelling through those places, just got put aside. I only looked at it once, thought, that’s not surfing and pushed it to one side and never saw it again. Then Adam Eden phoned me up last year. He left a message on my phone and said, “You don’t know me, but my father was Jack Eden and I’ve got something here that might be of interest to you.” I called him back and that’s when he told he had the footage. I fell off the chair.
SW: Had you had you ever given it a thought over those 50 years?
I had. I’ve got all the outtakes from Crystal Voyager, because I shot 20 hours for Crystal Voyager, and we used what? One hour? I’ve got all the 16 mill outtakes. We didn’t have as much footage from Morning of the Earth, we must’ve shot only 10 hours or even eight hours because we didn’t have a lot of money to buy film. So, there must have been at least six hours of unused footage lying around. And because the thing took off and we were young we weren’t filing everything you know, so it just got scattered. It disappeared. Over the years I always wondered where it was.
SW: So where did it end up?
What happened is I think is that Nat was making Fall Line and he got the Morning of the Earthfootage and took what he needed for his film and that was the end of the line. Somehow Jack Eden found it. It was thrown in a corner or on its way to the tip or whatever happened, but Jack thought no, this is valuable. He put it in storage with the intention of trying to find the owner, but that never happened. Jack died two, three years ago and Adam, being the beneficiary of the estate came across three cans of film with “Morning of the Earth” marked on the outside of them. That’s when he called me up. I’d completely let it go but then it came back. This was the same time Justin [Misch] was in the last straight of the restoration work of Morning of the Earth and all of a sudden, we’ve got 90 minutes of original, unseen footage. Both of us nearly fell over.
SW: It was like the universe returned it to you right at that point in time.
It was mind boggling. Then we looked at it and thought, don’t touch it. Don’t restore it. Leave it exactly as it is. It’s the raw footage straight out of the camera and it’s got a charm to it and a beauty to it. It went into the hands of a young guy over there who makes surfboards, Jonah. He loves film and he’s real mellow and he put it together. And when I saw I just went far out. Too good.
SW: It takes you somewhere different to the original film. That was stylised and saturated and felt kind of timeless, whereas this footage felt very like it marked that point in time.
You know what I found was incredible about it? Since then, we’ve advanced light years with technologies, right? You can do just about anything with technology now. Most of the surfing films you see today are digital and so sharp you can almost cut a piece of cheese with them. And to me, I think it’s fantastic but at the same time its lost something and the thing that’s lost for me is the softness. I don’t like edges; I’d rather things be round and soft, and when I look at that film with all its faults – it’s out of focus and it’s got holes in it and scratches – it’s got a certain element of charm to it. It’s real… it’s not polished in any way. There’s something about it that was so beautiful for me personally. I mean, I watched it six or seven times.
SW: There’s an innocence to it as well. It feels like it’s an innocent time. Coastlines are empty… I’m watching Winkipop run off with nobody in frame.
It’s kind of like a home movie. It’s like, oh, here’s the camera, press a button, the camera wobbles, it’s a bit out of focus. You just happen to be at a place where there’s no one around. It’s got that sort of quality. It’s so easy to lie and make something that’s perfect, technically, but it’s no use having the most technical film in the world that’s got nothing to say. I think there’s something in there. I’m not quite sure if I put my finger on it. I showed it to a girlfriend of mine who surfs. She’s an artist and I just showed it to her. She just went, “Don’t touch it. Leave it exactly like that.” That was the first comment. Don’t try and do anything with it, just leave it as it is, and I had the same vibe about it. So I went back to Jonah, I said, “Jonah, the most important thing when you’re editing is to just give it space. Don’t be frightened of opening it up.” Most things are concertinaed in today’s world; we’re cramming in way too much information. When you’re putting the pieces together, don’t be afraid of the space, let it breathe and he did that perfectly. Like there’s a long shot of Bells in there with just a faint sound of waves breaking. It’s beautiful.
SW: We spoke a couple of years ago now about how when Baddy Treloar passed away, you’d gone back in and dusted off the original Morning of the Earth master to watch it for the first time in decades. How pivotal was that moment to where we are now… and how important was Baddy to the legacy of the film?
Well, I mean, Baddy was hugely influential in many ways. Apart from being a friend and a great surfer, just to have him and Steven [Cooney] alongside when I was making the film was incredible. We were all young and innocent, but there was something there that resonated perfectly between the three of us as. This little triangle of energy. I related to the simplicity of Baddy’s life and the truth of his life. I thought that was really beautiful. When he passed over, I watched the film, and it brought that truth and that reality back home. Your life is like a dream, you know, it’s like a brief moment in time and then before you know it, you’ve gone. But in the process if you’re lucky you’ll discover a reason for your being here. I think the reason for our being here – the three of us – without us realising it at the time, was made clear to each of us while we were making the film, no more so than with David. Subconsciously I think, the film had a huge effect on all of us. I had time to reflect upon that after David passed and think about his transition. He made that decision a long time ago to just stay true to that way of life he’d found. He’d found where he wanted to be at Angourie. I stepped out of it. Steven went his own way, and I went off and made films. But David didn’t. I respected that, and it was almost like he became a quiet master in my life without realising it. Then, just like David had come into my life when I was making the movie, Justin [Misch] came into the picture recently and infused it with a new energy. That was a godsend in many ways. People come into your life at certain times for a reason. I didn’t recognise that with David when we were making the film because we were just little grommets having fun and making this film, but now I can see the purpose of it and understand how the connection with people like David and Justin is not serendipitous but meant to be.
SW: It’s happened at the right time.
Yeah, totally perfect. It was Justin who brought that flash image to the surface, the one on the cover of the book. People ask, what was that about? I go back and try and think why I shot that and put it in the film. What was the reason for doing that? Part of me wanted to make a really beautiful film, but the other part of me wanted to make something more abstract. I was interested in European filmmakers at the time, and that’s why the editing is step-cut. Like the scene of Baddy running out the point at Angourie step-cuts to a flashback and then back to Baddy again. I was thinking, how can you have people in the audience connect more with the feeling of surfing, how can you bring them into the picture more? And that was the flash. I think I’d shot it up in the Haleakala crater on Maui. I just went, okay, I’ll use that because it’s an abstract that maybe pulls people in on a subliminal level. And then all those years went by, and I didn’t think any more of it. Then Justin pulled it out and wanted to use it. I just went, that’s perfect. Fifty years later, the symbolism of it remains because you can interpret it any way you want. And people will. For me it’s about the Earth, it’s about consciousness. It’s about light and life. People will look at it and something will resonate. You can relate to it on a personal level, or you can look at it on a planetary level, or you can look at it as on a cosmic level. I think we’re going into an incredible period of time, and I think that circle – as a symbol – is reflective of that. When the movie originally came out, we used that quote: “We are the measure of all things, and the beauty of our creation, of our art is proportional to the beauty of ourselves, of our souls.” That was put on the film 50 years ago and that mantra was really important. It was saying there’s more to your life than your physical appearance. We’re the shadow of our real selves and that’s the beauty of surfing because when you go out in the water, you leave that shadow on the land, and your real self surfaces. So that mantra was really important, and now we’ve moved into this beautiful circle with a light coming from it. And you get that point of light and look beyond it and go, well, maybe that is the soul, maybe that is the spirit of the planet… maybe that is the birth of consciousness.
SW: The Mata Hari. The eye of the day.
It’s timeless and it’s beautiful and it’s representative of where everything’s at at the moment on a personal and planetary level. You can look at things that are right and wrong in the world, but a shift in consciousness is what’s needed. And that’s the beautiful thing about Surfing World, because when I go through the magazine now, it’s reminding people there’s more to your life than just the glamour of having the latest and greatest. It’s almost like we’re leaving the personality behind and we’re looking at the deeper level and the magazine reflects that. I think in a way Tracksreflected that when we first started it, down to a grassroots level. I was thinking this morning, my first photograph was published in Surfing World all those years ago. You think of your own life, the opportunities, and the great experiences you’ve had along the way, and the different cultures you’ve mixed with, and all the waves you’ve ridden and places you’ve been. And I can see all of that in that photo of the sun. I’ve got it sitting right in front of me now. It’s like its winking at me.
SW: What do they say, the universe on a pinhead?
I’ve actually got a book here called, The Consciousness of the Atom. It’s a pretty far out book. It’s a bit of a mindfuck. It’s like trying to describe infinity. But the beauty of the flash is that it’s not about you and me. It’s about life, and the planet is part of life. It’s a body in our solar system and there’s like, fucking hundreds of millions of solar systems. Who knows how many civilisations have come and gone out there and been more intelligent than us? We’re here and we have a purpose, and I think part of that purpose is to contribute towards the spiritual development of this planet. Every single human being that exists here now will be gone in 50 or 60 years and replaced. They’ll be gone but consciousness remains and that’s what Morning of the Earth is about.
SW: How do you feel about your movie being re-released into this day and age? This point in time? Culturally it prompted a huge shift first time around, but what about now? Is this the right time for it?
I think this is the only time for it. I think it’s more important now. A lot of people have lived with it, and it’s been an important part of their life along the way, but a lot of people have never seen it. I’d like to see it shown in Russia. People don’t even get to the ocean there. Since we made the film, the population of the Earth has doubled. There’s a greater demand on resources and I think we just have to wake up and not get caught up in this gross consumption and materialism that’s been forced down our throats for the last 50 years. That’s caused great disruption in the planet just so that we can have the latest car and the latest this, the latest that. We’ve got seven billion people and growing.
SW: How’s a 50-year-old surf movie going to change the consciousness of seven billion people?
It’s only a drop in the ocean, but here’s a story. I went up to Tibet with a friend, filming in western Tibet. There’s a lake up there called Lake Manasarovar that sits underneath the sacred mountain, Kailash. It’s one of the highest freshwater water lakes in the world, and it’s absolutely magic. There’s nothing around except the temple. No people, so it’s like you’re on another planet. The water is like crystal and when you walk around the edge of it, there are these amazing, polished stones. It’s like you’re walking across a bed of jewels. That’s how beautiful it is. Anyhow, David, who was with me, we both filled a bottle of water and brought it back with us. I’ve still got it in my house now. David’s a spiritualist who works checking energy fields for big corporations before they start building projects. He told me one day, he said, “If you take a single drop of this water from Lake Manasarovar, and you drop it into the Thames in London, it will change the energy field of that whole river. And whether it does or doesn’t, the concept of that is amazing. And that’s how I feel about Morning of the Earth; it’s just a drop in the ocean but that drop can change the world. We live on a sacred planet, and it’s up to us to keep it that way.
SW: I literally read a story yesterday about the Thames. It’s been declared biologically dead for decades, but scientists have found parts of it are coming back to life. There’s hope for it.
The planet is incredibly resilient. Look at Chernobyl for example. When it blew up and radioactivity went everywhere they were saying it’d be unlivable and contaminated for 10,000 years. But in that short period, 30 or 40 years, it’s now got vegetation and the animals are all coming back. If all the humans disappeared off this planet for whatever reason, life would go on. The Harbour Bridge would be gone, but nature would soon reclaim the whole city. And at my place here, imagine that. You’d hack through the jungle and walk in and find this ancient library with 3000 books. You know, it’s a gift for us to be living to on such a beautiful planet and live here for even a short period of time. There’s a purpose and a reason for that and everyone’s got to come to that realisation in some way.
SW: I wrote a piece a few mags back about an old North Coast surfer who stumbles upon a hidden sand point just down the road from his place and walks out and surfs it every day with nobody around. That old guy had been through there in the ‘60s and ‘70s and was having major flashbacks as he surfed it. People read it and thought it was fiction, but the sand point was real and so was the old guy. It was you.
That was a gift, a great gift. There were people everywhere going every which way, and we were just sitting out there with this wave right on our doorstep. I remember reading that piece and thinking you wrote it up beautifully. I walked out there some days by myself. I walked out there other days with friends, but it didn’t matter. As we walked out, it was like we were the only people on the planet. There in front of us was this perfect set-up, this perfect little bay with pandanus trees and these perfect waves. You could just sit there and look at them. You didn’t even have to paddle out; just being there was enough. We had that for three months and I went out there any number of times and rode some beautiful waves. I think there was an invisible hand involved, saying, “Thank you. Here, have this and enjoy it.” And we did. I haven’t been back there since. The sand changed and rearranged, and it hasn’t been like that again. But for that three-month period, it was heaven.
SW: It was like the universe rewarding you.
I think about why. I just kind of kept pinching myself. Like, I’d walk out there, and it was such a beautiful walk under the trees. Then you’d walk out along the edge and the water was crystal clear. And the further you got out there, the further the things were behind you. I remember after surfing for two or three or four hours, whatever, I couldn’t walk back. We’d start back as a group – there’d be three of us walking back and I’d be the last one. But I just had to sit down and watch it again. Take another 10 steps and go, fuck it, I just want to watch it one more time. Three quarters of an hour later I get back to the car and everyone’s tapping their feet. Things are so beautiful sometimes when you’re in that space. Why go anywhere else? I guess it was like David in a way when he found Angourie. He just said, “This is Mecca. I’m not leaving here.” And he didn’t, and he lived his life there and passed away under a pandanus tree on the beach. I can relate to it. You get to these points in your life where you’re so grateful for the life you’ve had and the moment is so perfect you think, you know, if I was to go now, I couldn’t ask for a better way. It was so perfect.
SW: That sand point was a gift.
And I think that’s where we’re at with Morning of the Earth. We’re making sure that most of the screenings are free. We’re not charging people, but we’re just asking they contribute to the planet in some positive way – environmentally, or spiritually or whatever. We want the audience to become aware of that and use the film in that way. You can take the film and show it in your community, and if you raise consciousness or raise some money as a result, great. And I think that’s a legacy for the film. It’s like the drop in the ocean I was talking about. If I fall off the planet tomorrow, I know that it’s in the right hands, and will make a further contribution to consciousness. What more can you ask in your life?