6/2/11

Why most surf movies suck ( by Pam Pemberton)

     Found this very interesting post on Pat Pemberton´s blog. Pamberton is one of the entertainment writers at the San Luis Obispo Tribune. Even if I disagree with some of the things he writes, some of the points he makes in this text are actually very correct. After justifying why many surf movies suck, he proceeds to make a list of which in his opinion are the best surf movies around. I couldn´t agree more with him about that top five list: the dude has a great taste. It´s important that we have a solid critical reasoning on watching surf movies but saying that most surf movies suck is going a bit too far. Yeah, many surf movies are basically crap but in this field I´m still optimistic: the majority is acceptable. And you? What is your opinion on this subject? 


The formula for surf movies is pretty simple: Show us some waves, tell a few good stories and feature plenty of good wipeouts.
Seems easy enough. Yet, a lot of surf movies really suck. And there are a few reasons for this:
First of all, some meathead surfers figure they’ll  make films so they won’t have to get real jobs. Which isn’t a bad goal, except that untrained filmmakers usually make crappy movies.
Secondly, too many surf films feature wave after wave with no regard for story or ambience. Many refer to this as “surf porn,” which gets really old fast.
And finally, the music is often terrible. I realize the licensing makes it too expensive to get music from popular artists. But come on. There are plenty of good struggling musicians who could help. And we’re not talking about crummy nu metal bands that make you want to punch a wall.
Of course, San Luis Obispo has a special place in surf filmdom since Bud Browne – the godfather of surf movies – lives here. Yet, surf films tend to ignore this part of the Central Coast. (Which is okay with most surfers here so long as that keeps crowds away.)
Having told you what’s wrong about surf movies, here are some that got it right. My top five:
5.) “Endless Summer II.”
Three decades after “Endless Summer,” surf film pioneer Bruce Brown came out of retirement to help his son Dana launch his own career in the industry. As Dana Brown told me a couple of years ago: “He never says it, but I’m pretty sure it was him saying, ‘OK, we’ll show Dana the ropes by accepting this,’ I always tease him and say, ‘You did that because of me, and then I had to live with you forever complaining about coming out of retirement.’ “  
While not as fresh as the original, improved technology and great stories – surfing in Alaska, for instance – helped make this a great sequel. The music could use some work, though.
4.) “Riding Giants”
While this movie focuses on big wave surfers that most of us can’t relate to, it’s a well-done documentary by Stacy Peralta and Sam George. The movie focuses on three big wave riders – Greg Noll, Jeff Clark and Laird Hamilton. You’ve got to love Noll, the most quotable guy in surfing. A former film maker himself, he also provided great vintage clips for the film.
3.) “Sprout”
A more recent flick by artist Thomas Campbell, this is one of the few surf movies with a consistently good soundtrack. Plus, there’s lots of great longboarding scenes. There aren’t any great stories here – you just watch it and mellow out.
2.) “Endless Summer”
While Bud Browne was the first real surf film maker, Bruce Brown was the first truly successful one, this film making him a millionaire. His film about two guys who find waves around the world was a hit in landlocked Kansas and has continued to inspire surfers more than 40 years later.
1.)    “Step Into Liquid”
Dana Brown learned from the master, so it’s no surprise that he’d come up with a great surf flick like this, a movie – like “Endless Summer” – that played well before crowds in middle America. My favorite part is the segment about those Packers fans who surf Lake Michigan.
Honorable mentions:
“Five Summer Stories” – Featuring lots of good Beach Boys tunes (and, if you’re into them, Honk), this has one of the better soundtracks for a surf film. 
“Gidget” – Yeah, it was cheesy. But you can’t argue its impact on surf culture. A friend of mine recently ran into the real-life Gidget, Kathy Kohner, a couple of years ago working at a restaurant in Malibu. I read she recently started surfing again.
“Search for Surf” – A collection of Greg Noll films, this offers a nice historical perspective.
“One California Day” – A new surf flick by Jason Baffa, this features nice scenic video of California plus stories about surfers like Noll, Lance Carson, Joel Tudor and the Malloy brothers. And I’m pretty sure there’s a quick shot of Pismo Beach in here. (But sssssssh — we don’t want anyone coming here.) 
  “Single Fin Yellow” – It’s a story about a traveling longboard. How could you not like it?


13 comments:

  1. it does seem pretty easy to make a surf movie. waves and wipe outs

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  2. Yup,I'm with Pemberton on this one.

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  3. I've never watched a movie solely based on surfing, I should check some of these out. Thanks :>

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  4. When watching movies the story is important, more so than the clips shown actually. A few waves every now and then, yes. However, when it becomes surf porn like you said, it's not really a movie.

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  5. It's not bad at all to say the least!

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  6. Really good post, one of my favorites from your blog.

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  7. I'm gonna have to agree with you on this one.

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  8. i find it really hard to make a good "surf movie" it can be just where the main story happens, don't know!

    i know that there are really good and true stories to tell involving surf, but, i think most of them have been told already. :)

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  9. Very interesting. I rarely watch surf movies as the story for some are just ridiculous. Like a girl losing her arm and celebrated for still surfing. I would think a leg loss would be more of something to celebrate to keep surfing with. But I do agree!

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