Blue Water High: articles

Tahyna Tozz and Kate Bell

Riding the wave… Tahyna Tozzi (left) and Kate Bell from Blue Water High

Blue Water hit

LIKE most teenagers on television, the students at the surfing academy at the heart of Blue Water High boast blemish-free skins and seem to have a maturity beyond their years.

Take actor Kate Bell, who in reality is 22 but plays a 15-year-old on the beachside drama.

“It is strange, I just mentally go backwards,” Bell laughs. “But the Americans are notorious for hiring 30 year-olds to play 15-year-olds with a five o’clock shadow. Maybe it’s because they don’t have pimples and they haven’t just hit puberty.”

While the cast may be older than their fictional counterparts, Bell believes the class of 2005 at the Solar Blue Surf Academy are a more realistic portrayal of teens than exists on many rival programs.

“These kids are highly ambitious and I hope that’s what we’re coming out of schools like,” Bell says. “There are shows out there that are portraying kids as these really messed up, conflicted young people and hopefully we’re not all like that.”

The formula has worked. It only airs once a week (at 5.25pm Wednesday), so it has higher production values than five-night-a-week soaps. It has been found by a legion of fans with between 420,000 and 500,000 tuning each week—and sometimes beating commercial rival A Price Is Right. Filmed on Sydney’s northern beaches, the seaside setting and fresh-faced stars saw Blue Water High often compared to Home And Away when it first aired in May.

But unlike a traditional soapie, the series focuses on the intensive training of seven would-be professional surfers at an elite academy and does not end each episode with the mandatory cliff-hanger.

Executive producer Noel Price says: “It’s not like soap where things roll across a flat plain forever—every episode is selfcontained and the stories are all very tight and dense and well-written.”

Bell agrees. “We’ve got similar characteristics like the beach, surf, sun and the young people—all those iconically Australian things but I think the nature of the stories that are being told is our biggest difference,” she says.

“And just the demographic alone separates it from your Home And Away type shows—we really are reaching out to a younger audience.”

It’s an observation that’s confirmed by the ABC does not see it as a direct competitor to its timeslot rivals, the show dominates among its target demographic—viewers under 17 years old.

Which is not to say that older viewers are excluded from tuning in to the surfing serial.

“I have friends that are nearly 26 who sit down and watch it and that’s a real crack up,” Bell says. “What are you doing watching this show? Then again the actors are all around 22 so I guess it makes sense that older people want to watch it.”

Even more satisfying to the producers is the number of countries which have snapped up Blue Water High with the series already sold to an eclectic group including Israel, France, Belgium, Germany, Lithuania, South Africa and New Zealand as well as Latin America and the Caribbean.

While undoubtedly its oceanic backdrop caught the eye of international networks, Price believes the storylines are responsible for the program’s universal appeal.

“It’s not drowned in hedonism or suffering from angst,” he says.

“It’s got an innocence and energy in a really lucky situation. So it’s positive and aspirational without being saccharine and sentimental.”

Blue Water High’s international sales means the show will be broadcast in countries the young cast have barely heard of, much less visited.

“It’s really weird,” says Bell.

“I consciously try not to think about that.

It is a really odd sensation to think that many people will be seeing us.

“It will be strange to see Bec Sanderson (her character) speaking in German—that will definitely be odd.”

Having grown up in a country town after spending five years of her childhood in Hong Kong, overseas audiences would probably be surprised to learn Bell does not share Bec’s affinity with the beach.

“When I got the job they sent us to surf school for two weeks. I’d say I’m passable now… I can get up but once I get up on the board it’s not long until I’m straight into the reef or something.”

By Sarrah Le Marquand
September 28, 2005
The Daily Telegraph