Among the many festivals that take place in Orange County throughout the year, one of the most anticipated is the Newport Beach Film Festival. I made a quick trip down to The OC on April 20 for the opening night of the 18th annual event, which would go on to screen 590 films from 58 counties over 8 days. It was pure SoCal at its best. For starters, the opening film was Take Every Wave: The Life of Laird Hamilton, a documentary about the life of a California icon who changed the sport of big-wave surfing, by filmmaker Rory Kennedy. Hamilton and his wife Gabby Reese, who is herself an icon in the sport of volleyball, were in attendance, looking radiantly healthy and casually chic. Laird in flip-flops and the 6’3” Gabby in ballet flats, posed on the red carpet outside the Edwards Big Newport Theater for the professional photographers and the scores of fans snapping shots with their cell phones.

After the film, which includes extraordinary archival and contemporary surfing footage from Maui, Bermuda, Tahiti and Malibu, we were whisked away by luxury coach to a roving gala taking place on the adjacent Fashion Island plaza. The bar was hosted by Tito’s Vodka and Lagunitas Brewing Company, there were tastings from 30 Orange County restaurants, and performances by Cirque du Soleil’s “O” and Side Deal, a band that featured several local musicians. Then, it was a five-minute Uber ride back to Hyatt Regency Newport Beach and my very comfy guest room.

Paparazzi, waves, a high-end shopping desitnation and outdoor dining—it doesn’t get any more Southern California than that! And, the night illustrated just how seamlessly a multi-faceted event can be pulled off in Newport Beach.

Mark your calendars: The 2018 Newport Beach Film Festival will run April 26 to May 3.

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