Almost unintentionally, documentary filmmaker Joshua White has captured a sweet piece of Australian skateboard history in new doco, An Australian Skaterboarder.
The 16-minute film focuses on Newcastle skater Sean "Gravel Burns" Mussett. While it includes drone footage (shot by drone master funk) of Mussett skating down Jetty Point Drive at Murrays Beach in Lake Macquarie and skating footage at Empire Park skate bowl, the film features significant interview footage with Mussett talking about his long history locally in the sport.
White, an urban and public art leader at Lake Macquarie City Council, made the film as part of a digital video course while completing his masters degree at the University of Newcastle. It can be seen on YouTube.
White, who lives in Newcastle East, is not a skateboarder - "my son who is three is better on a scooter than I'll ever be," he says.
The film opens with Mussett answering the question, "What would I say to 10-year-old me about skateboarding?"
His answer: "Go on this road and discover and stay with it, and it's gonna hurt, but everything positive in your life is going to come from this stupid wooden toy."
Go on this road and discover and stay with it, and it's gonna hurt, but everything positive in your life is going to come from this stupid wooden toy.Sean Mussett
"There is a rich skateboarding history in Newcastle and 'Gravel Burns' is an important part of that history," White says. "We got some pretty cool drone footage of 'Gravel' bombing a hill in Lake Mac. He did it three times hitting speeds over 55km/h, which is pretty amazing for someone of 54 years old. It's a killer opening scene but what is really amazing is his lifelong relationship with the sport."
The project was shot in two days: a Friday night interview session and a Saturday morning run down Jetty Point Drive and then a shoot at Empire Park skate bowl. It took three trips down the road to get the necessary material.
"He had no helmet, no knee pads," White says of Mussett's wild downhill skate. "He did it on a borrowed skateboard from a 10-year-old girl.
"I was pretty dubious about it when we showed up on Saturday. But he was cool as a cucumber."
White says he was also shocked at how easy the run was for Mussett, who is blind in one eye and has had multiple knee and hip surgeries.
Mussett began skating in the mid 1970s when the sport was still in its infancy and has skated for over four decades. "I started skateboarding on my uncle's really dodgy clay wheels, plate metal trucks," he says in the film.
"My first true love of my life was a Steve Olson Santa Cruz. 1979. Red dot. Most punk board ever," he says.
He got more seriously into the sport in 1986, at a home-made ramp in Merewether - he quit uni to skate every day there. "I was learning new tricks every day," he says in the film. "The only thing that slowed me down: we had no one in Australia that we could learn from."
Mussett is an important part of Australian skateboarding history and in this documentary he gives insight into his career, his passion and how the sport has changed and developed over four decades.
"This dude has skated with Tony Hawk [who is 51 now], Steve Caballero [who is 54], Mike McGill and Christian Hosoi, these are world champions. He is a national legend and lives right here in Newy" White says.
"I enjoy it as much now as I ever have, it's crazy to still be able to do it. It's how I express myself. I feel good on a skateboard. I can't walk very well, but I get on a skateboard and I am 25 again and that's a good feeling" Mussett says.
White didn't know Mussett's background before he started the project. He was keen to do a documentary on the skateboarding scene, and knew of Mussett through a mutual acquaintance.
"I knew Sean knew all the skateboarders. When I started talking to him about who I should interview, I realised it should be him," White says.
Mussett had a wealth of photos and history about skateboarders and skateboards in Australia, which are also shown in the documentary.
Armed with a new perspective, White is keen to see somebody, possibly himself, research and document a longer history of skateboarding in Australia.
"I don't know if I have the skills, ability and time to do that, but it's a good concept," White says.