Dec 16, 2011
Mat Surfing: Lost and Found Department...
I've had this short clip of 35mm Panavision movie film tucked away in a storage bin for the past 34 years, and finally got around to having it transferred to digital. (Well, actually, it was Mr. Dirk who put out all the effort with regard to the transfer!)
Some back story on the shot...
When GG and I were working on Big Wednesday in the Spring of 1977, we needed to do some test shots with the backpack camera that George built for the project. We didn't have time to shake down the rig before leaving for El Salvador, so when we got down there, a bunch of the actors and their surfing-doubles went out at Zunzal to ride waves alongside George...while he tried various focal lengths, aperture settings, FPS speeds, and camera angles. The camera wasn't designed as a point-of-view unit, but more for tracking shots as someone rode the wave ahead of him. (This was new for George, as most of what he had previously shot off his back was POV.)
I had been jockeying the camera rig back and forth to the beach most of that day, and I was pretty tired. The air, water and humidity were all "85." At one point, a wave came along and George shouted "Double!" which was 70s-era mat surfing shorthand for inviting another matter to catch the same wave. We got that one wave together, and then George went back to shooting the serious test footage.
The material shot that day was flown back to Hollywood. (I love saying "Hollywood" like I was an integral part of the film industry!) After processing, it found its way back to our encampment a few miles north of La Libertad. We watched the footage one evening, and I had completely forgotten about the shot George had taken of me until it popped up on the screen. Culturally speaking, this was near the bottom of the mat riding bell curve, so none of the many surfers in attendance took notice of it...other than Greg MacGillivray, who thought it was neat because I was laughing. (In truth, who doesn't laugh when you ride a wave on a mat with someone else???)
The next day, George snipped the mat riding shot out of the reel of test footage with a pair of scissors, and gave it to me for safe keeping. I brought it home a few months later when we wrapped, and hadn't seen it projected until a few days ago, when Dirk forwarded the digitized version it to me.
I have to say, the first thing that jumped out when I looked at it was my abundance of hair and the lack of body fat! Beyond that, the lively performance of the old Hodgman is what's really neat. I do remember that the surf down there was well suited to those mats...having a strong shoreward push without a lot of curling power. So, the relatively crude shape of the mat was in its ideal element. The current generation of mats would go even better, by a long shot, but it was a lot of fun to ride the last-of-the-Hodgmans in warm water and fun surf conditions. And I think the film clip really conveys that.
The first few frames of the clip are of me sitting with Greg MacGillivray and Lance Carson. They were taken earlier the same day, as I recall.
This is George at Zunzal during the Big Wednesday shoot, riding a pretty big wave with the same backpack camera rig. I shot these photos with a 400mm lens from a lifeguard tower near the water's edge, so that will give you an idea of how far out in the ocean he was.