Sep 18, 2008
El Salvador, 1977
From Paul Gross...
"These shots were taken in 1977 in El Salvador. George G. and I were there working on the second unit for the production of 'Big Wednesday.' Along with Bud Browne and Dan Merkel, George was shooting water footage of Jerry Lopez, Bill Hamilton, Peter Townend and Ian Cairns. They were doubling for the actors who played the main characters.
Anyway, most of the primary shooting was done during "Golden Hour," which is (or was) Hollywood shorthand for the morning or evening. Around noon on this day, George talked Greg MacGillivray -- who was producing the second unit stuff -- into letting him take his waterproof 35mm military gun camera out and ride some waves with it on his back. The idea, obviously, was to try to get some point-of-view footage to intercut with the surf action.
No one could believe that George would even attempt to ride these waves on a mat, let alone with 15-plus pounds of camera on his back. The surf looks mushy in the photos, but it had a serious thump to it. And there was no surface tension on the face whatsoever...the worst kind of wave to ride a mat on. The sets were relentless that day too, and it was a battle for George just to get out through the white water kicking a mat with a large, heavy camera strapped to his back. I think he ended up only riding this one wave.
I sat up in the lifeguard tower with my still camera and banged off a few photos. Only a mat surfer could appreciate these shots. George was riding a stock Hodgman raft. In retrospect, it was too stiff, too wide, and too thin. And yet, look at that long, clean track! It was a graduate course on how to ride a mat...and I was lucky enough to be there to witness it.
As I recall, none of this footage ever got used in Big Wednesday. In fact, the entire El Salvador second unit production project yielded only a few shots in the final cut of the film."