Monday, July 28, 2014

In Search of the Perfect Wave

50 years ago, Bruce Brown kicked off his epic surfing trip around the world, filming Robert August and Mike Hynson as they checked out one magical beach after another, many of them for the first time.  There was a wonderful scene in Ghana, where the two world-class surfers taught a local village to ride waves on their long boards.

The idea of The Endless Summer was to literally spend a year, January 1964 to January 1965, surfing around the globe, never losing the spirit of summer.  Pretty easy to do in the sub-tropics and tropics, where much of the film was shot.  They seemed to find their perfect wave at Cape St. Francis in the Natal Province of South Africa, a virtually endless wave befitting the theme of the movie.

Funny enough, the first recorded notes of surfing were by the crew of the HMS Endeavor, who witnessed surfing in Hawaii in 1796.  Captain James Cook really got around.  It was called he'enalu.  Naturally, the chief of the village had the best board, made from the best tree, and no doubt it weighed a ton.  The ruling classes picked out the best spots, and may have offered lessons to the crew, since they would have initially been regarded as honored guests.

The sport has grown around the world thanks in large part to the popularity of surfing in the 60s.  It was featured on Wide World of Sports, with the sport quickly spreading to South Africa, Australia and other places around the world, although these countries had a surfing history of their own, which the boys encountered.

It was an immensely popular film and still widely regarded as the best of the genre, even if surfing has reached incredible new heights as witnessed in this epic wave by big wave master, Laird Hamilton, who was born in 1964.  Movies have tried to capture the experience, but Riding Giants is probably the best "big wave" film as what you see is real.

Bruce Brown did a follow up to his film in 1994, repeating the excursion in large part with new surfers, but also stopping off at new points like Kodiak Island, Alaska, which looked like a cold and dangerous experience.  It was nice to see Bruce still had his trademark humor.

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