"No difference between pro surfer and pro tennis player!"
When was the last surf film you’ve watched and been very very excited about? For me, I can tell you, it was just two days ago when I watched Vaughn Blakey’s near epic Scary Good. But what about a bigger surf film? One that transcended our little bubble and had boys and girls from Topeka dreaming? Like Big Wednesday, The Endless Summer, etc. Maybe not since the 1970s. Ooo-ee, that’s a dry spell.
But why? What happened to us? Are we patently uncool now? Thankfully The Guardian asked the legendary Jamie Brisick. And let’s read:
In the past decade, however, audiences appear to have lost interest, leaving surf films to flounder: the 2015 Point Break remake from Fast and the Furious cinematographer Ericson Core was critically pummelled, while Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson’s 2008 movie Surfer, Dude belly-flopped at the box office. Part of the reason is that these days surfing no longer has a subcultural lure that lends itself to good storytelling. It is now a broad, mass-participation sport. “If you watch surf films made before 1996 you see a lot of people out of work,” says the writer, former US pro surfer and ex-editor of Surfing magazine, Jamie Brisick. “Back then, you didn’t know when you were going to get the good waves. Everyone was waiting around, because they don’t want to miss the surf.”
The arrival of accurate wave forecasting also allowed for greater career opportunities. “Surfers could plan their week,” says Brisick. “It became less time-consuming than it once was, and much more of a big business. Now there’s not much difference between a pro surfer and pro tennis player.” If surfing was now big business, it no longer worked as cinematic shorthand for “romantic outsiderdom”, nor as the perfect setting for the dangerous, outcast protagonist.
Well hell. That’s pretty depressive. But wait. I don’t think Mr. Brisick has fully explored my turn as a pro surf writer. I feel there is all kinds of romantic outsiderdom for me to discover. I also feel I can be a very dangerous, outcast antagonist.
(It is a gloomy fall day in Cardiff by the Sea. The reef is pumping but filled with all sorts of longer boards and SUPs. A solitary figure stands in the parking lot with a 5’10 19.25 under one arm and a computer/wireless keyboard under the other since his computer’s keyboard doesn’t work anymore because it got drowned in booze. A teenaged boy rides by on an electric bicycle)
Teenaged boy: What are you trying to be mister?
Chas Smith: Get lost, kid.
How’s that for a start?