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He's gay, he's a surfer - get over it

Thomas Castets' movie 'OUT in the line-up' explores the wave culture, which he says dictates that males be manly men.

April 29, 2014|By Rhea Mahbubani
  • Thomas Castets, producer of "Out in the line-up," screening at the Newport Beach Film Festival.
Thomas Castets, producer of "Out in the line-up,"… (Natasha Chadwick )

All it takes is one look at Thomas Castets for people to arrive at a conclusion — he must have a girlfriend.

The sun-kissed surfer is then forced to drop somewhat of a bomb on them.

"People just assume I'm straight," Castets, 36, said. "So every time I meet someone I have to disappoint them by saying, 'Actually, I'm not straight. I have a boyfriend.' We need to make this less of a drama, less of a surprise and less of something that is rare."

This shock factor is painfully evident among surfers, the Frenchman remarked. Some choose to remain in the closet for fear of being judged or isolated by their peers or dropped by sponsors. Still others, plagued by self-doubt, disassociate aspects of their lives so that those with whom they ride waves never learn about their sexuality.

A sport like tennis is more individualistic, noted Castets, a Sydney resident, whereas surfing involves a group of people who place a high value on respect, with each member taking a wave only when it's their turn.

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"Surfing, when it started in the '60s and '70s, used to be a source of freedom and showed people on the margin of society who didn't want to get a job, lived on the beach and slept in their cars, and were openly different," he said. "But over the years, it has been marketed and standardized into a stereotype in itself, where most surfers are blonde, white, heterosexual and mainly from Australia and California. If you fall outside the stereotype, you're not regarded as a surfer."

It was with this taboo in mind that Castets produced and starred in "OUT in the line-up," screening at the Newport Beach Film Festival at 8 p.m. Wednesday. The title uses common surfing vernacular — "line-up" is the place in the sea where surfers wait for waves — while "out" refers to dropping the facade, as many dream of being able to do.

The 69-minute film, which will celebrate its North American premiere in Orange County, follows Castets and fellow Australian surfer David Wakefield as they travel to Hawaii, Mexico, the Galapagos Islands and parts of Southern California, visiting pockets of surfers of all ages and documenting their experiences.

Director Ian Thompson has woven together a web of dialogue featuring big wave rider Keala Kennelly, former U.S. Congressman Barney Frank and his surfer husband, Jim Ready, surf journalist Fred Pawle and author Clifton Evers, to name a few.

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