Is it Dorian? Slater? Lopez? Vinnie Klyn? Wait… Kolohe Andino?
Those WSL comedy shorts. They were good, yeah?
Loose, sharp, mercifully self-deprecating, prophetic in their treatment of the cruelly set-upon judges. Any lingering criticism I might’ve had for the organisation was finally washed away.
And the fine work of Nat Young and Kolohe Andino reminded me of surfers’ various stabs at acting: Dorian for In God’s Hands, Slater in Baywatch, Vince Klyn in Cyborg.
How do your two favourite Californians stack-up in the pantheon of surfer/actors? Let’s ask Matt Warshaw, cataloguer of everything surf-historical.
BeachGrit: Did you love the WSL comedy shorts?
Warshaw: Very much!
BeachGrit: What thrilled you, mostly?
Warshaw: Their screen time was pretty short, but I thought Nat and Kolohe were great in the “I Spy” clip. The way Kolohe says “Yessss!” at the end, defeated but kind of jacked at the same time – Chris Pratt couldn’t have spit that out any better.
BeachGrit: This surfer-actor thing has been going on for almost a hundred years, am I right? Like, the Duke broke the husk on the game for surfers.
Warshaw: Poor Duke Kahanamoku was so broke in 1920s that he was forced to go to Hollywood to scrape out a living in movies. Started I think in 1925. He was 34 or 35, ancient for beefcake, but still filled out a tank-top bathing suit like nobody else. He was in a dozen silent movies, give or take. Small parts.
BeachGrit: Acting skills?
Warshaw: They called him “The Bronze Statue,” so I’m guessing no. But the whole point I think was to have him strip to the waist and look incredible. He could do that!
BeachGrit: What other roles have famous surfers taken?
Warshaw: I never saw it, but Gerry Lopez was Arnold Schwarzenegger’s sidekick in Conan the Barbarian. Then was some kind of dart-blowing island savage in Farewell to the King. Laird and Lopez were both in North Shore. Robbie Page and Occy were in that one, too, and we all thought Pagey was going to kill it, cause he was the funniest pro surfer at the time, but eh. Occy was hilarious but not on purpose. Not like Kolohe. It’s weird, Occy’s voice used to be so much higher! Everybody made fun of his high little voice, and now it’s kind of rumbly and cool. I guess the most famous might be Vince Klyn as Fender Tremelo in Cyborg. Vince was actually pretty wicked in that. Hammy but evil.
BeachGrit: Tell me about the most underrated surfer-actor…
Warshaw: Nobody much talked about it at the time because we were all so busy laughing at Shane Dorian, but Shaun Tomson did nice work in In God’s Hands. Schooled all the other surfer-actors in that movie. I seem to recall that Keala Kennelly was pretty good in John From Cincinnati, but again, that might have been because the show itself was so crap.
BeachGrit: Who’s the worst?
Warshaw: Shane Dorian probably. But give him credit, he tried, failed, and got the hell out of there. Shane makes fun of himself now for doing In God’s Hands. He goofs on it in a way that Kelly Slater never does with his Baywatch thing, which now that I think about it was actually a low point, maybe THE low point, for surfer-actors.
BeachGrit: Who is the greatest surf-actor in the history of the world?
Let’s cross our fingers and go with Kolohe. I see red carpets in his future.