Creator of The Endless Summer, dead at eighty…
Last night, the creator of the seminal surf film The Endless Summer, Bruce Brown, died at his home in Santa Babs. Bruce was eighty, so it ain’t a surprise, but it does evaporate the owner of an important part of surf history.
Earlier today, Matt Warshaw and I back and forthed on Bruce’s legacy.
BeachGrit: Old man Bruce Brown, dead, eighty. Endless Summer clips filling our screens. How did he do what he did, anyway?
Warshaw: The four or five movies Bruce did before Endless Summer were warm-ups, kind of. He wouldn’t have viewed it that way at the time, but when you watch ES, then go back and look at the old stuff, you see him working out favorite camera angles, getting his voiceover schtick down, all of that. In 1966, newspapers and magazine reviewers all thought Endless Summer was some kind of freak home-run from this beachfront hayseed. But Bruce was so ready to make that movie. He’d been practicing for years.
Tell me about the next one he did, On Any Sunday.
It was the motorcycle version of The Endless Summer. I think it pulled in an documentary Oscar nomination! I hate motorcycles, but love that movie. There must be a half-million sixty-something motorcycle freaks out there who starting riding after seeing On Any Sunday.
What’s your learned opinion of The Endless Summer?
The Endless Summer proves that surf contests have nothing to do with how you’d present surfing to the rest of the world. Sure, you could hire Bruce to work your contest. He did color for the Duke event for two or three years in the mid-sixties. But when it came down to his own movies, he didn’t give a shit about contests. He stayed away. Never showed them. Surfing, for Bruce, meant chasing waves, and if you didn’t find waves, you had a good time anyway. The Endless Summer showed what it’s like to be a surfer on the hunt — or the family-friendly version, anyway; no drugs, no drinking, no pussy — and to me it still feels really true. Bruce and The Endless Summer are still in the back of our minds when we pack the boards and chase waves. You want Cape St. Francis, first of all. But you also, as your bumping along looking for it, you want to have as much fun as Bruce and his crew did.
Bruce didn’t give a shit about contests. He stayed away. Never showed them. Surfing, for Bruce, meant chasing waves, and if you didn’t find waves, you had a good time anyway.
Describe your relationship with Bruce?
I met Bruce Brown at the 1985 SURFER Poll. Him and Dana Brown both. Dana and I had just started working together, he wrote some articles for SURFER when I was there, and the two of them walked into the Poll, we met, then Bruce led us back to the limo he had in the parking lot. We had beers and shit-talked the Poll. Bruce was way saltier than he comes off in his movies.
He made the two movies he wanted to make, made his bundle, and quit. Went fishing, went surfing, played the stock market, collected cars. He only came out of retirement for ES II to get Dana started. Which makes him a great father, on top of everything else.
What happened to Bruce between Endless Summer and On Any Sunday and…Endless Summer II?
This is maybe what I love about Bruce most. He made the two movies he wanted to make, made his bundle, and quit. Went fishing, went surfing, played the stock market, collected cars. He only came out of retirement for ES II to get Dana started. Which makes him a great father, on top of everything else.
How’d you feel when ESII landed, and the buildup to it all?
Let down. His heart wasn’t in it.
Did you feel sad when y’heard Bruce had died? What sorta hole does he leave, if any?
Jack O’Neill, then Severson, now Bruce. Maybe I’m not processing right now, but my first thought when I heard that Bruce died was, 2017 has just been fucking brutal for surf legends.
(Editor’s note: Warshaw just told me he’d hit his thirty k. The Encylopedia of Surfing lives!)