Tarp Surfing


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First documented in July 2010 by Robert Brady in California, tarp surfing is a pursuit that culturally uniforms several loves of the casual internet viewer; slow motion footage of skateboards, relaxed summer vibe, and a DIY ingenuity for creating fun.


This activity has been picked up and tried out by thousands of landlocked surfers (or those without swell) since becoming a viral hit online. So How do you tarp surf?


When there’s little wind, lay out the tarp, weight down one side, grab one of the other corners and run towards and across the weighed down side. This makes the tarp billow up like a standing wave and gives something the tarp-surfer something to ‘ride’ through. The actual timing of when to start to running and when to start skating through is something that comes after a few tries and leads to a number of hilarious bails  (especially if the tarp happens to be wet). Add a skateboard or indeed and device with wheels and Hey Presto, your a Tarp Surfer!


The ‘surfing’ part really comes alive once you start filming it. You have to picture the tarp-wave as if it was an actual wave and how it would be film as if in the water – this leads to footage that temporarily fools the eye into thinking the tarp is actually moving with force.


Our friends at The Observatory had been wanting to try out this activity for a while, but had never really had an excuse to do so, until The Collections Group asked them to look out for something special to announce the opening of their new Quiksilver store in Queen Street. This married with the fact that there had been absolutely no waves for 8 weeks made for a no-brainer for the video making crew. The tarp surfing event at the drop of a hat and we at Gallery even got involved in creating some waves.


Within 24 hours the video was online a makingwaves. After putting together a quick edit of just the tarp surfing, we quickly realised that this had the potential to do incredibly well online by itself. A day after it being online it was picked up as a Vimeo Staff pick (followed by 73,200 subscribers) it was quickly featured on many other websites / feeds and blogs leading to the amazing stats and to the global reach of countries that have viewed it.


So many businesses develop online promotions and seek a ‘viral’ campaign success. The tarp surfing project shows that a bit of creativity is what you need to truly elevate a campaign online. The tarp surf producers have already been inundated with requests for a follow up and other such tomfoolery to consume online. Fancy keeping abreast of the happenings?


Subscribe to https://vimeo.com/channels/visualculture and watch that space. The guys will be holding another Tarp Event later in the summer but this time with props and more comedy value. Contact them if you would like to get involved studio@beobserved.com


The Observatory would like to thank all Jersey based folk who saw it via Facebook and Twitter and shared it onwards!



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