Lesley Choyce---writer, educator and surfer---moved up here from the United States in the late 1970s. He purchased a farmhouse near Lawrencetown Beach for $15,000.
"The dream was to leave teaching at university in New York City behind and live in an old house on the coast so I could write my books and surf the waves when they're good," he says.
And that's exactly what he's done. Now something of a local legend in the surf community, he surfs all year around, enjoying the bigger winter waves and smaller winter crowds.
He's one of the subjects of an upcoming episode of the CBC's long-running Atlantic Canada documentary TV series Land & Sea about cold-water surfing, directed by Eva Madden-Hagen and shot in late January. Winter Wave Riders airs nationally on CBC TV, Sunday, March 14 at noon.
Greg Hemmings of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick-based Hemmings House Pictures approached Madden-Hagen after having seen her award-winning short film Eastern Shore, a drama about a Halifax couple where a passion for surfing and the ocean lifestyle comes between them. Hemmings had been asked by CBC to produce a couple of episodes of Land & Sea and thought Madden-Hagen would be ideal for the project. She was the one who suggested winter surfing.
"I was very excited about that," she says. "I grew up watching Land & Sea and I'm from Newfoundland, so I was stoked. For your viewer at home who's watching TV in March, they're hiding out from old man winter and they see somebody brave enough to get in the ocean with snow all around, I don't think a lot of people have seen that before. Visually it's really interesting and we thought it was a challenging subject."
New challenges are what Madden-Hagen regularly seeks out in her professional life. She's in the midst of editing a new short film created from her Bridge Award-winning script, What Remains, and she has another documentary subject---well, mockumentary is probably the best way to describe it---on the DVD of the second Trailer Park Boys movie, Countdown to Liquor Day. It's about the "doc crew" that follows the boys around, entitled Sunnyvale Stories.
The Winter Wave Riders shoot was at Lawrencetown Beach, officially over five days, but as Madden-Hagen explains, you can schedule crew and you can schedule interviews, but you can't schedule waves, so the shoot went a bit longer than that.
Aside from Choyce, Madden-Hagen's other surfer interviews are Nico Manos, Nova Scotia's first professional competitive surfer and Janine Strickland, one of the founders of One Life Surf School and a competitive surfer herself. Madden-Hagen spent days with each surfer, including road trips around the province, looking for the best waves.
"I really wanted to find three people who loved surfing in the winter," says Madden-Hagen. "They also represent three different kids of personalities that are drawn to surfing. It's really about the characters. We learn what motivates them to get up in the winter, in the dark, and throw on a Neoprene suit and paddle out into the wintry ocean."