La Paloma Theater hosts inaugural Solento Surf Festival

The inaugural Solento Surf Festival took place at La Paloma Theater.
(Colin Leibold)

The inaugural Solento Surf Festival raised more than $30,000 for charity during its three- day run at the La Paloma Theater from Sept. 22-24.

The festival featured film screenings, conversations with athletes and filmmakers, and other events.

The screenings included the California premiere of “Girl’s Can’t Surf,” the world premiere of “Color of Winter,” “Reckless Isolation,” “Save This Shark” and “Drive Thru.”

The festival was started by Taylor Steele, a filmmaker in the surf genre for about 30 years. Steele had been living internationally and then in New York before returning to North County.

“When I moved back here, I was missing some of the culture and community of New York and how you know your deli owner and you know the butcher,” Steele said. “It feels really small. And then I was missing some of the art and the music and the vibes.”

He started surfing at 12, growing up in and around Encinitas, then started making his own surf videos at 15.

“I was such a surf fan that I loved watching surf movies, so I just started creating my own,” said Steele, whose career has taken him into the music industry and commercial work with brands.

Along the way, he met some of the top professional surfers, such as Rob Machado and Kelly Slater.

His recent works as director include two episodes of “Save This Rhino,” a mini-series documentary; “Proximity,” a documentary that follows eight of the best surfers in the world; and “Missing,” a short that follows surfer Mick Fanning around the world.

Proceeds from the festival were donated to the Changing Tides Foundation, Rob Machado Foundation and SurfAid. Steele added that the COVID-19 pandemic accentuated the need for an event to bring everyone together.

“We needed something to come together and celebrate and be a tribe, a community and connect everybody,” Steele said.