Great Directors - Bruce Brown (Part I)

 Bruce Brown was inducted to the Surfers´ Hall of Fame
    He is the pioneer and the first filmmaker to put surf movies definetely on the map of great cinema. When, in 1964,"The Endless Summer" went mainstream with a nationwide theatrical release, Bruce Brown had already made five other respectable surf flicks. However the path to success was not an easy one for Brown. The raise from the underground scene to international recognition was done with many obstacles, setbacks and advances, but above all with great determination.

   Bruce was born in San Francisco and raised in Southern California. At that time (50´s) Surf culture was growing and Bruce was one of the many children that started to adopt the local beach as a second home. Later, when reflecting about that period of his life he had only the following words to describe it: "I majored in not going to school". Instead, he spent his days on the beach taking photographs of the best surfing moments.

    As a proof that his life was always connected to the sea, Brown graduated from High School and enlisted in the navy. While in duty, he was assigned to Hawaii, already a world mecca of surf. It was in the exotic pacific islands that he started to take the first 8mm movies. After his discharge, Brown returned to California and worked some time as a lifeguard. What Brown did not know was that his films had already beginning to gain notoriety between the community of surfers and as a result of that, Dave Velzy, a pioneering surf enterpreneur offered him 5000 dollars to make a film that would promote the Velzy Surf Team. Brown had just been offered the opportunity that would change his life.

(End of part I)

More on Dave Velzy ( Surfing Magazine courtesy) - http://www.surfingmagazine.com/news/velzy_052705/
Bruce Brown Film (the filming company) - http://www.brucebrownfilms.com/
Great insight on Bruce Brown´s career (by surfline) - http://www.surfline.com/surfing-a-to-z/bruce-brown-biography-and-photos_768/


The Living Curl (1965)

Jamie Budge captured through his lenses the golden era of Californinan surf

"The Living Curl" is one of the local classics of the 60´that kept all its charm up to the present. Much thanks to the figure of legendary surfer Jamie Budge, who also became a prominent surf filmmaker, an activity that he began at an early age. He started filming with 8 mm with only 16 years of age. The stars of those first "homemade" filmings were Budge himself and his friends. However, Budge soon earned status as a film director and great californian surfers of the time (such as Dewey Weber, Lance Carson or Miki Dora) followed to be the main subjects of his next movies.

In "The Living Curl", Budge captures the Malibu scene in all its splendor. Another reviewer summed up with great exactitude the quality of this movie: "Great shots of surfers who were the icons of the day demonstrating their trademark styles as well as some front edge progressive moves. Great footage of early contests which were won more for takeoff rights in the line-up than anything else.

Essentially what you get with this piece of history is the essence of the golden era of american surf.

TLDR: For those of us that grew up surfing in the sixties, "The Living Curl" is like having Surfer Magazine circa 1961-1964 come alive.


Castles in the Sky (2010)

Taylor Steele reached excellence... once again

..nothing so liberalizes a man and expands the kindly instincts that nature put in him as travel and contact with many kinds of people
                                                                  Mark Twain

Castles in the Sky is the incredible sequel to Sipping Jetstreams, the epic 2006 movie about Taylor Steele´s and Dustin Humphrey´s surfing travels around the world. What made that flick so appealing resided in the distinctive philosophy that both filmmakers shared on the whole concept behind the making of surf films . In their website it is written that "they decided to scrap the old surf-travel strategy of fly in, surf, fly out in a favour of true exploration of a culture - physical, spiritual, musical, and emotional. Ten-day trips were replaced with two-month sabbaticals. They gave up the `sure to score´ mentality that had dominated surf travel for decades in favor of a more rhythmyc journey into the heart of a place". You don´t get this kind of approach in many surf movies today, do you?

Because the project behind Sipping Jetstreams appeared to a larger-than-life enterprise, both filmmakers rapidly realized that the solution would be to make a new movie, where the new corners that were going to be explored could be included. For this second feature you also get a whole cast of world class surf pros. From the hottest beaches to the coldest waves, every surfer and his respective destination can even take you by surprise: Dane Reynolds in Iceland, Dave Rastovich in India, Rob Machado in Peru, just to name a few.

However, the great triumph in "Castles in the sky" (and of the duology) is the enormous talent of Taylor Steele. He expresses in his movies a sensitive look that goes behind the typical surf clip, a trait that puts is work alongside with any other masterpiece of cinema. Verdict: 9/10

TLDR: Sipping Jetstreams isn't just a film, a book or an article in a magazine...it's a movement.

To know more about the movie crew check here.


Magnificent Surf filming

Some days ago I posted this video and it was the most viewed post on Great Surf Movies. Like me, I presume you loved to watch the act of surfing from a new perspective. One of my interests in watching so many surf movies is to retain the filming techniques used by the best directors. When you want to catch the perfect ride, the use of cinematography plays the most important role in the whole process. So it is with great enthusiasm that I am happy to show you the HD super slow motion video of big wave surfer Dylan Longbottom. Just enjoy.


Shelter (2001)

 There is just something about 16 mm that makes it the perfect film for every surfing movie. The light takes on a nostalgic tone and makes the flicks look like the great classics of the 60´s. But not only the type of film used takes us back to the past. The objective of joining a bunch of great surfers in an isolated house on the australian coast, without any competitive or commercial reasons and just being there to surf for the surf´s sake, is one more peculiar feature to add to this movie with a touch of surf´s glorious past.

 But unlike other surf movies, the film´s quality is not only supported solely by magnificent filming techniques or a solid soundtrack headed by Joachim Cooder (from the award winning documentary "Buena Vista Social Club"), but by a true meeting of giants. What a cast you can expect to find: Rob Machado, Taylor Knox, Joel Tudor, Mick Fanning, Kelly Slatter, Joe Curren, just to name some of the few. And what better reason could there be to join so many big names than to make them just enjoy themselves, taking the waves without the pressure of competition and the feeling the surf with the detachment of ten year old kids.

I recomend this flick to all who expect to find in every surf movie an ecletic piece of art of its own. Taylor Steele and Chris Malloy had to face very difficult choices on editing the whole thirty hour footage and very good material had to be put aside to fit in the 42 minutes duration of the film (undoubtedly the biggest flaw of Shelter"). Like a fine piece of swiss chocolate you will have to bet satisfied with a tiny little bit of the stuff, but what great sensations it will produce. Verdict: 7/10


Endless Summer II (1994)


 Few are the sequels that are up to the quality of the original movie and Endless Summer II belongs to that restricted club. It  managed to keep the level of excelence of Bruce Brown´s masterpiece made 28 years before. Like the first flick it is a road movie. But instead of just discovering new waves, surfers Pat O´Connel and Robert Weaver retrace the steps of the first duo Mike Hynson and Robert August. What follows is a journey where the two american surfers observe what has changed on the places that the first film portrayed which such an innocent beauty.

       Endless Summer II has everything that made Bruce Brown the Spielberg of surf movies. The footage and specially the photography are near to cinematographic perfection. The surfing itself is masterfully filmed (the     underwater camera work is almost symphonic in its composition!) but as any surf film connoisseur knows what takes every surf movie to another level are the quality of the segments in between of the surfing clips, and solely for that Endless Summer is a masterpiece. The narration is humorous and the treatment of the ocean, landscape, cultures and people encountered will stay etched in the memory of every surfer for a long time.

Verdict: 9/10


Chasing the Lotus (2006)


     If there should be a surfing movie that represented something like a compendium of surf history this is it. The project was itself colossal: to reunite 40 years of surf history based on surf photos mainly taken by legendary surf photographer Greg Weaver from Surfer magazine and also footage from many landmark movies. The task was largely unmeasured and the expectations were maybe too high but, after all, lets be reallistic: 40 years of the rich history of surf would never fit into only 90 minutes of film. However, some good aspects are effective in hiding some of the flaws found in the movie. The interviews and the interviewed are excellent, and the authors (Greg mad it together with Spyder Willis) are sucessfull in grasping the adventure like sentiment and wanderlust that surround surfing since its invention. Oh, and Jeff "The Dude" Bridges does the narration.

verdict: 7/10 Check a more detailed review in the next link:  http://www.onelastwave.com/SurfFlickReviews/ChasingTheLotus.htm


Cosmic Children (1970)

         Never was the expression "go with the flow" so well applied as when we speak about the coolness of the surfing shown by the space age surfers of the 1960´s. It is a surf style that translates itself in a uncomitted, light and sensual approach to the waves. It looks the guys couldn´t care less and yet all the surf stars of the time are reunited in what makes this film one of the best compilation of american surfers of all time: Miki Dora, David Nuuhiwa, J. Riddle, Johnny Fain, Jeff Hackman Barry Kanaiaupuni, Mike Doyle, Corky Carrol, Owl, Rolf Arness, Billy Hamilton.

         Of course, the whole movie is affected by the symbolism of the hippie era. What remains after 60 minutes of vintage footage is not only remarkable surf but also the witnessing of the subculture that marked a whole generation. However don´t expect to find here a best of as the film also includes some inunteresting scenes of regular and sometimes even boring moments, but that, I think, was the sole goal of Hal Jepsen (who passed away in 2006): to show exactly how everything happened in a changing Time not only for America as a whole but also for surf.

This next video clip extracted from the movie shows what Topanga Beach was all about in the late sixties.

TLDR : Woodstock for surfers.


Poetry in motion

Sometimes people ask why I like to watch surf movies. I think there isn´t an answer to that. At least an answer that goes deeper than the superficial layers of words. The emotions involved rather belong to the realm of pure contemplation. It is an experience that allows the viewer a respite from the strife of desire, and feel a kind of purely mental enjoyment. But, while I was reflecting on this topic from the point of view of a spectator, a quick search on the internet gave me a similar opinion, but from the angle of Jonathan Paskowitz

“For me personally, words cannot describe the euphoria that surfing provides as a human. Words cannot describe the absolutely magical and romantic feeling of riding a wave, going up and down on the surface of the water and feeling, just an unlimited power under your feet and to be in harmony with the ocean; perhaps riding along and seeing a dolphin in the face of the wave next to you, or a beautiful rainbow as the spray of the wind is offshore pluming over the back of the wave. It’s just the most beautiful, romantic, organic thing I think a human can do”.



Not a myth: kickflip in surf

Surf purists would say that skateboarding only appeared because surfers were so addicted to the ocean thrills that they needed to emulate surfing when the weather was bad or there were no waves to surf on. Truth is that in the beginning surfers were skaters and skaters were surfers. Nowadays, both extreme sports made separate ways. Skateboarding is more connected with an urban lifestyle and surfing, on the other hand, is rather linked to nature and to a more relaxed attitude towards life. Meanwhile, some kind of rivalry grew upon the two factions. However, the next video proves the contrary and that both sports can continue to influence each other in many aspects. Just watch a surfer performing the famous skateboarding kickflip trick in a surfboard. Like surfboarding and skating, talent and imagination have no boundaries.

TLDR: Like a youtube user commented: "the first skate style was surfing, so the last surf style should be skating".


The innermost limits of pure fun (1969)

1968 was a very important year in surf history. Until that epoch most surfers used to surf with longboards. These kind of boards were slower and easier to handle. That is the iconic image we nowadays have of surf in its beginnings: the typical beachboy driving a cadillac with a foam longboard by his side. But surfculture was about to change. George Greenough, Robert "Nat" Young and Bob McTavish, two american surfers and an australian sharper realized that the popularity of surf was stagnating and soon looked for a solution.

A couple of years of years before, during the World contest in San Diego, Young tried to compete with a shorter version of the common 9´6´´ board because he had no money to afford the longer version. So, Young approached shaper McTavish and asked if he could come up with a solution to his problem. McTavish had already some ideas about shaping a board far thinner then every other boards, but it was only when he met with kneeboarder Greenough, in Noosa Heads, that both finally came up with something. The shortboard was born.

The innermost limits of pure fun, made in 1969, only one year after the reinvention of the surfboard, is one of the first surf movies from that revolutionary period in surfing. What today is a piece of nostalgia, back in its time was an innnovative film, featuring point of view cameras and other technical novelties. The amateurish making, the groovy soundtrack and the opportunity it gives us to witness surf history make it a pleasant experience. What could be better than watch the birth of the shortboard from the highly personalized perspective of its inventors?

Verdict: 7/10


Gum for my boat (2009)

Welcome to Bangladesh. It is one of the poorest, overpopulated and inefficiently-governed nations in Asia. Many of the direct victims of the social inequality that pervades in the country are street children. But, although the future seems rather grim for these kids, there are people that continue fighting to change things and to bring a spark of joy to their lifes.

Cox Bazar, a fishing town in southern Bangladesh, was chosen back in 2001 by the NGO SSurf the Nations to receive a full aid program that included not only social and medical assistance but also the founding of a local surf club. As the Bangladesh Surf Club started its activity ( with over 35 surfboards and bodyboards donated) it became an instant success. Presently there are over 70 members, boys and girls that share their love for the sport.b And, how the members of Surfing the Nations like to stress after eight years of working for the community "the members of the surf club, are no longer categorized as ´the street kids` or ´the uneducated`, they are now recognized as surfers. With this new founded identity, a community of young men and woman are working together to serve their city. Participating in large beach cleanups, teaching ocean safety, swimming lessons and of course surfing; they have enthusiastically embraced the motto of Surfing The Nations - surfers giving back".

What you get in Gum for my Boat, is a rigorous account of the events that changed the poor community. The documentary results in a well-filmed movie, greatly edited and filled with equal moments of sadness and hapiness at the same time. The redemptive power of surfing in a depressed community makes it a movie hard to forget for a long time. I think I have something in my eye now...

Verdict: 7/10

Website of the movie: http://www.gumformyboat.com/


Got a question here...

Should I rate the movies I write about? What type of rating system should I use? What´s your opinion on this subject?


Kelly Slater in Black and White (1991)

Facts are facts: 10 world titles and 46 WTC wins. Ladies and Gentleman: Kelly Slater. Not only arguably the best competition surfer of all time but also the only one that made the breakthrough into american mainstream culture, achieving something like a rock star celebrity status. However, Kelly´s success didn´t came out of the blue. Kelly allied from the beginning of his career talent and consistency in his performances taking many of them to absolute perfection.

In the early nineties, when "Kelly Slater in Black and White" was being filmed, his career was already booming: world champion at the tender age of twenty. All the traits of his surf style were already there. You see a young Slater (with lots of hair back then) clean-cutting Lowers´s waves like no other.

The final result is nothing special. The film is basically a collection of surf clips and interviews that in some cases are quite dull. The music is mostly made by Seattle bands from the nineties, such as Mother Love Bone and others. In short, the very importance of this movie is as an historical document that shows of the dawn of a legend in surfing. Just that makes it a solid recommendation for everyone who enjoys to watch surf history as it happened.

Next watch a video where Kelly talks about the movie.


A pleasant surprise (2009)

Well, the titles sums it all up really. Who would expect that one of the best surf movies of the last decade would come straight out of New Jersey? With this flick the garden state surfing community has definitely conquered its place and respect.

The film follows day by day the fast growing surf scene in N.J. Surfing in the east is much harder than many would imagine: thumping beach breaks, cold water and quick tropical storms are just a tiny fraction of what many endure to make what they truly love to do in those meloncolic beaches.

Beautifully filmed in 16 mm, the duo of directors Nick Zegel and Kyle Pahlow made an astonishing peace of art. After all, it is the culmination of three years of footage and standing interaction with the locals. The account you get is both realistic and entertaining.

The movie completes its uniqueness with an ecletic set of music bands: Yeasayer, Mondoggies, The Rubies, Here we go Magic and many others.

Here you can find an interesting interview with the directors.

Check out on http://www.apleasantsurprisefilm.com/ for more.


Riding giants (2004)

Big wave riders will always have a special place among the community. When the smallest waves are 20 feet high everything is being taken to a whole new level. Not only the hazards involved are life threatening but also the challenge becomes too unbearable for even the most of the world´s skilled surfers.

When Z-Boy Stacy Peralta decided to start the project of making a movie about the world´s best town inners everyone knew it was going to be in good hands. After all Stacey helped to define surf culture as we know it today. Riding Giants is the first film Stacy did after the resounding success of "Dogtown and Z boys", which was the account of his own youth as part of the legendary zephyr skateboard team.

Riding giants remains the best movie on the subject we can find. It is an accurate historical overview over the beginnings of giant waves riding from the beaches of hawaii to the coast of California. It helps us understand how legendary waves such as Teahupoo,Cyclops, Pipeline or Mavericks together with names like Greg Noll, Jeff Clark or Mickey Munoz became more and more ingrained in surf mythology. Unmissable.
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