REVIEW: Never Town

I was fortunate to attend a screening of Patagonia’s recent surf/conservation film Never Town  in Manly last week, and it was a treat to watch on the big screen with a room full of environmental frothers. The event was hosted by Take3, for whom I jotted down the following review.

Watch the film here for free on Patagonia’s website, it’s a game changer. 


Surfing’s ability to communicate the importance of community is a rare virtue.

Loving the ocean comes with the responsibility of its protection, and surfers Wayne Lynch, Dave Rastovich and Belinda Baggs stylishly articulate this sentiment with both words and turns in Patagonia’s new surf conservation film Never Town.

Never Town focuses on the proposed deep-sea drilling and industrial fish farms that threaten to destroy unique ecosystems on the Southern Australian coastline. An enormous diversity of waves and wilderness may be devastated beyond hope of recovery and local surfers feel a compulsory call-to-arms in their defense.

Filmed in vast, and truly iconic Australian scenery, Never Town documents the very real threats posed by industrial development in the environmentally-sensitive areas of the Southern Ocean. Nature provides an immense backdrop to every good surfing adventure, and this movie is no exception; from the wild coasts of the Bight to far flung serenity in King Island. These glorious landscapes provide an engaging context for a serious environmental discussion.

How can communities respond to lurking industrial development threatening pristine local ecology? Wayne Lynch sums it up best, “it’s when human beings just say no, that’s it, we’ve had enough”. Collective agency is a potent theme of Never Town, refreshing for a documentary genre where inspiration from success in the fight for conservation has become increasingly rare.

There is a genuine charm to this movie. From an uncompromisingly honest representation of the difficulty of scoring waves on a fickle coast, to the savage reality of economics unimpeded by outcry. It is hard not to feel outraged at the environmental injustices presented, and elated by defiant community action in their opposition. By the end you’re ready to fight alongside Wayne, Dave and Belinda.

Oh but the surfing, can we go back to that for a second? Some waves are a sheer treat for the eyes, the sense of discovery palpable, the glory of perfect waves enrapturing and immersive. Rolling points, slabby wedges, glassy sliders, a monstrous session at a turquoise bommie; the Patagonia crew exemplifies the endless joy to be found in the ocean, and in doing so casts a wide net to whom the film’s message of conservation will reach. In this way Never Town is a clever blend of top-shelf surf flick and environmental campaign, casually yet undeniably proving that all surfers should be leaders in the climate change movement.

So all up? Here’s three reasons Never Town is an important film that should be seen by many:

  1. There is nothing like the unique magic of a surf mission in the wilderness, and no one communicates that fact more convincingly than the always-infectious David Rastovich.
  2. The surfing is relatable, and tastefully arranged in a way that pays more respect to wave than maneuver. It also pays respect to the sheer range of surfers on the planet, all of whom experience the same sense of stewardship for the ocean.
  3. It is uplifting! And how rare is that? To walk away from an environmental movie feeling supercharged instead of depressed? This alone should merit your audience.

Never Town is available for free on Patagonia’s website, and we can’t recommend it enough.