The chillaxed vibes of Northern California's beaches and inland crags set the tone for Brian Solano's new film, Spray ($29.95; spraymovie.com). The movie opens with shots of beach bouldering and surfing in Humboldt County, an area that serves as a sort of base for the climbers (the film is broken up into geographic segments, and the climbers continually return to the mellow, sandy area). Humboldt is also the inspiration to for the movie's title, as the air surrounding the boulders there is suffused with moisture from sea-spray. Shot after shot of dark gray blocs on stretches of hazed out beach make the case for Humboldt as a destination.
From there, the climbers - the focal points of the film, Joe Kinder and Chris Lindner, together with Vanessa Compton, Colette McInerney, and Luke Parady - make their way to Trinity Arêtes, The Promontory, Mickey's Beach, and a spate of other beautiful areas, with varied rock types and tones. The aesthetic of each section of the film shifts with these locations - whereas Humboldt scenes are muted and misty, with nearly monotone color palettes, Mickey's is blue-sky bright and the climber's wardrobes and gear are vibrant to match. Music ranging from hip-hop, to clubby pop, to folk and spaced out electronic matches keys with each of the locales it accompanies.
Though the film is mostly about the climbers on a mellow summer trip "Taking it easy" and "Climbing what looks nice," as Kinder puts it, there are two clear objectives that create momentum and direction in the otherwise desultory trajectory of Spray. The first objective centers on Kinder's interest in Surf Safari, a 5.14 Chris Sharma sent when he was only 14 years old. Sharma's precocious send inspired the also-young Kinder to explore the limits of his own abilities. The climb, though not near his limit, holds palpable nostalgic value for Kinder, and his send leaves him beaming. The second objective belongs to Lindner, who wants to put up something new, hard, and classic on the trip. He finds his muse in the form of a towering, kicked-back spike of black rock launching from the sands of Humboldt County beach. The movie's closing scene, and the most forceful, is Lindner working and then sending the climb as the surf pounds around the feet of Kinder at the belay. Linder names the climb Window of Opportunity.
Spray is not climbing porn; it is a movie about place and feel, rather than numbers (the other possible meaning of the title). Crisply shot, truly scenic panoramas surround both the climbers and the viewer throughout the film, and beg the question - with all the perfect rock, sun, and sand sitting pristine in Northern California, what am I doing in front of my TV, watching other people climb there?