The relationship between the mountains and the waves runs deep. From surfers to climbers, skiers, and every adrenaline-inspired pursuit in between, the folks that pursue the highest heights or the ultimate ride are all cut from a similar cloth. Driven by a love for the outdoors, nature, and the freedom of it all, whether it's paddling for the horizon or climbing to the heavens, the thrill remains the same.
It's this thrill, this pursuit, this driving force that inspired Enich Harris and Ben Warner to launch the Coast Film and Music Festival in Laguna Beach in 2019.
"We saw that nothing like this really existed," Harris explains. "There are a lot of film festivals, and there are a lot of different events for mountain people, or surfers, or what have you. We wanted to bring them all together and cross-pollinate the cultures. There are so many similarities, and so many surfers also love the mountains and vice versa, so why not do something that celebrates all of it in one place together?
"I saw an opportunity to create an event in Laguna Beach that spoke to the next generation while reflecting some of the DNA of Laguna–art, and nature," Warner adds. "A prior history of working with media, brands, filmmakers, and professional athletes in action and adventure sports gave awareness of the need to put a spotlight on films, creators, and athletes that are so important to driving the sports and culture. A partnership with Enich created a deeper network and creative ideas and execution. We have fun working together and have big ideas for the future."
While Harris and Warner have both lived in Laguna Beach for years, and their paths had crossed here and there, up until their mutual friends at Teton Gravity Research (TGR) in Wyoming suggested they do something together, they largely existed in two different worlds.
Harris grew up a hardcore, dedicated surfer. Carrying that passion into his professional life, with the surf industry absolutely booming, he was an integral member of the team at surfwear giant Billabong in early August. Leading the marketing department, he reckons he had a hand in producing more than 20 surf films featuring the brand's top surfers–including world champions Andy Irons, Joel Parkinson, and Mark Occhilupoo.
In November 2010, three-time world champ Irons was found dead in an airport hotel room in Dallas, Texas. Devastated by the tragic loss of one of his best friends, Harris transformed his grief into a celebration of Irons' life and accomplishments, producing the documentary "Kissed By God." Released via TGR in 2018, the film cut straight to the heart of who Irons was, what made him tick, and why he was so feared by competitors as well as loved by friends.
Meanwhile, Warner took the high road–quite literally. At the helm of Powder and Bike magazines, while Harris was at Billabong, he played a huge role in growing the culture of mountain sports and sharing some of its most inspiring stories. A savvy media professional, as the days of print magazines faded, Warner would go on to launch more regionally-focused publications, including Laguna Beach Magazine and the Laguna Beach Independent newspaper.
"With my surf experience and Ben's mountain relationships and media talents, the TGR guys insisted that we get together and talk," Harris says. "We'd never really worked together before, but those guys saw something, and as we got into it, the concept of Coast came up."
"Laguna is the perfect place for the Coast Film and Music Festival," Ben adds. "With its colorful history as an art colony and history of conservation, vision and execution by visionaries backed by the community that ultimately protected the land and waters surrounding the city amongst one of the largest urban sprawls in the country. And to add, we are 60 miles away from the Hollywood film scene, which makes us hopeful that we will be able to connect some of these up-and-comer creators to the big business in Hollywood."