Dec 13, 2017

RIP Bruce Brown


Surfers who experienced the first screening of Bruce Brown’s The Endless Summer, in August of 1964, left the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium knowing for an absolute fact that they had just seen the best surf film to date.

What they didn’t know is that they’d just seen the best surf film that would ever be made.

Brown was only 27 when The Endless Summer premiered, but he was already a seasoned surf movie maker. He’d released Slippery When Wet in 1958, Surf Crazy in ’59, Barefoot Adventure in ’61, and Surfing Hollow Days in ’62. Finally, in the summer of 1963, while conjuring up The Endless Summer, he screened a compilation of his first four films called Waterlogged. In his early work, you can see the foundation being poured for The Endless Summer. The humor, the confidence, the plethora of great surfing, and the holistic feel to the music and narration were all beginning to bubble over. (Two of his neophyte offerings, Slippery When Wet and Barefoot Adventure, even featured original scores by the accomplished jazzman Bud Shank. Not a bad start for a surf film maker in his early 20’s.)

Maybe it isn’t so strange that Bruce Brown found his voice making surf films. The name “Brown” seemed to be a prerequisite for the job. The originator of the home-brew 16mm surf movie, Bud Browne (sic), began showing his delightful tomes along the California coast in 1953, and another Brown, Don, produced three surfing features in those early days, along with filming that bitchin’, snarling left that appeared every week on Hawaii Five-O. None of the Brown(e)s are related, and yet they were concurrently working in an era when there were less than a dozen active surf film makers in the entire world. Go figure.

The surf movie makers of the 60’s were “indie” decades before the term even existed. These guys were so independent, they didn't even bother to work for themselves half the time. They cobbled together used, bottom-end 16mm film gear with a desire to earn a living near the water. Then they made it all work with as little movie-making expertise as possible. They shot miles of film during the wave rich winter months (the romantic wedding of “surfing and summer” being largely contrived), slapped the footage together in the spring, then toured coastal areas that summer. They screened at women’s centers, high school auditoriums, and tiny local theaters. Inland surfers had to rent the films they wanted to see via mail, then project them for surf clubs and frat houses at a buck-a-head to cover their expenses.

During this embryonic period, neither the filmmakers or the audience were sophisticated enough to tell the lies the other wanted to hear. Producers trusted their gut when it came to content, and the audience didn't respond to a poor offering with acrimonious coffeehouse critiques later that evening. They looked for the guy in the parking lot when the show was over. The closest thing to the touring 16mm surf films of the 60’s, probably, would be the rock and roll shows of the 50’s, when the likes of Chuck Berry, Elvis Presley, and Eddie Cochran would drive from town to town with their gear stashed in the trunk, putting on shows in rental halls.

The era of straight-from-the-hip, straight-from-the-heart, surf film making (which lasted roughly from 1958 through 1976) was often characterized by shady financing (you can guess the details), short-sighted archival sensibilities, and, on occasion, riotous screenings in venues filled with three thousand surfers. (In this era of pint-sized, multi-plexes, the concept of three thousand people sitting in one theater is awesome. The concept of three thousand surfers stuffed into one theater is flat-out terrifying.)

As works of art, these low budget productions were rarely compelling enough to transcend eras, let alone reach beyond the beach culture. But The Endless Summer has steadfastly refused to fold its tent. Five decades years after its initial released, it’s almost eerie how it can still speak to us. Through 10 U.S. presidencies, the hippie movement, women’s lib, gay lib, man on the moon, the Vietnam war, the pill, Kent State, Watergate, Monicagate, vinyl, eight track, quad, digital, disco, leisure suits, herpes, aids, another round of disco, phone sex, computer sex, Martin Luther King, Rodney King, Desert Storm, and the internet, there isn’t a non-surfer with a pulse who isn’t itching to give surfin' a try before the closing credits roll.

Bruce Brown’s simple, engaging narration in The Endless Summer is the key to the film’s appeal, and the creative process behind his story-telling hearkens back to era of the Marx Brothers, when early talkie comedians performed their material before live audiences for months before committing it to film. When The Endless Summer was initially shown in high school auditoriums, there was no sound on the projection print. Like most surf film makers of the day, Brown sat on the stage just off screen and DJ’d the music track via a reel to reel tape recorder while providing the live narration. It was a one-man band affair, and it took real talent to mingle all the volume levels while talking story. For months, Brown exhibited The Endless Summer “live” before he committed his spiel to the version that’s now burned into our psyches. He knew exactly what gags and sentiment and exposition worked, because he’d performed it in front of the toughest audience there was…surfers. (The nicest thing you can say about the denizens who attended surf movies back then is that they arrived without automatic weapons.)

By 1966, the original 16mm version had been shown to death along the coastlines of the surfing world, and Brown was confident enough to seek out a distributor who would exhibit it theaters across the country. He couldn’t drum up any takers based on his early success, so he screened his film (still flickering away in 16mm) in Wichita, Kansas…in the dead of winter. This was as an acid test aimed at proving his point. The film was a smash, breaking the theater’s all-time attendance record, but there were still no takers in Hollywood. So, on spec, he blew it up to 35mm, rented a movie house in Manhattan Beach, California, and filled the joint every day for an entire year. Finally, the power of The Endless Summer to draw large audiences was undeniable, and a distributor was signed. The film went on to gross a reported 30 million dollars during its worldwide theatrical run.

The Endless Summer elucidated the true joys of surfing to a generation of Americans who were otherwise stuck with two conflicting, and largely fictional, images…the candy-assed Beach Boys/Frankie and Annette portrayal, or the surfer-as-waterborne-hoodlum portrayal. The film’s popularity was bitter-sweet for surfers, because the entire country had finally embraced our sport for all the right reasons. But dammit, it was ours first!

Brown’s cinematic formula is pedestrian, and the film is rife with sloppy photography, sluggish pacing, lame gags, and a sometimes embarrassing social perspective. It doesn’t even scratch the surface of who stars Mike Hynson and Robert August are, or where they’re going with their lives. They aren’t even characterized as exceptional surfers, which they were. As far as we know, they’re just two guys who, when they aren’t striking out with chicks, are looking for a few waves to ride. The rarest of all feelings is generated between the film’s principles and the audience…the feeling of being equal.

The Endless Summer was so successful in its heyday, it actually killed what little innocence was left in the 16mm surf movie genre. It was impossible for surf film makers not to play to the hope that their homage might also be picked up by the big boys in Hollywood, and elevate them into an early, well-heeled retirement. What’s astonishing is the no one else has even come close to duplicating it with any real success…and they’ve been trying for 5 decades! (Even Brown’s slick, beautifully photographed 1994 sequel, The Endless Summer II, hit the target but missed the bull’s eye.) The idea of two guys traveling the world to find something (themselves, great waves, whatever) combined with good surfing footage, a few sight gags, some funny narration, and a catchy musical score has surfaced time and time again, but it’s never the same when seen through the eyes of anyone but Mr. Bruce Brown.

For non-surfers who stumble across the film, there’s always a sense of revelation. “Is that what surfing’s like?” they ask, with a quizzical smile.

Yup.

For surfers, it captured the mythology of our sport so thoroughly, it actually became a part of that mythology. When surfers of any age, and from any country, speak of great surf movies, “The Endless Summer” rolls off their tongue within 15 seconds. To this day, it validates why they surf. Someone finally articulated something that surfers are either unwilling or unable to voice ourselves. It almost functions like an old, scratchy Louie Armstrong 78. Thank God we have it, because how else could we explain real jazz?

While today’s loud, glossy, corporate-sponsored surf videos give us a sense of the new, The Endless Summer gives us a sense of renewal. In Brown’s scheme of things, regardless of your age, when you surf you're young. Even in its fifth decade, it remains the unbeaten, untied, undisputed heavyweight champion of the surf movie world.

Paul Gross

From Rob




Paul,

I’m so Stoked to hear you may be back in the water soon! Here is the best mat Barrel of the weekend. This is Ryman on a Standard SS.

You and Gloria stay safe! Positive Vibes and Healing Energy my Friend!
Super Stoked,
Rob

Dec 12, 2017

From Marc




Hi Paul,

A friend of mine has made a small video clip of my home spot, Scheveningen.  The surf report for that day was supposed to be good (for Dutch, meaning!).  Instead of that, the surf was very, very poor and cold outside (3 degrees, C!).   

Very hard to find a ridable wave. But to get the feeling how the drone images looks when we went for a go.  I used the UDT that day.

The water was cristal clear (lol!)

I hope you enjoy it.

Marc

Dec 10, 2017

From Rob


 Paul,

I had a blast Saturday going out with Chris for a couple hours! The Air temp was 45F and Floridians frown upon that, so we where all alone at Dolphin Plaza! Chris captured the feel of the session with these beautiful shots. The water temp is still in the 70’s so it was like surfing in a hot tub 😂! These waves where about 150 yards off the beach at low tide, they didn’t connect to the inside but man where they Fun!
I went out in the afternoon for a second session with Ryman and Mark for some high tide shore pound! I Love the winter in Florida, the line up really thins out and the waves are awesome!

Thank you for making these magical craft! They surf everything from Dribblers to Drainers! I’m up early Frothin for some more! Cali is in my thoughts as prayers, nothing but Love from Florida. Positive Vibes and Healing Energy my Friend! Keep Spreading the Stoke! I gave my bracket away after the morning session to a long boarder I met in the line up who was asking about 4GF’s. His names Tom and he kills it on the log!

I hope you can log a Stoke filled session soon! Yeeeeewwwww!

Rob
 
 
 
 
 
 

Dec 9, 2017

Mat Heaven...Portuguese Style

 
 
 
 
 
Paul. 

Pics from the past few days camping. Offshores and dolphins surfing Thursday. Two days, no surf cars, very few other campers, no one out at least when i was looking. These pics are Friday a.m. As I was leaving for the morning walk friday, finally two people were paddling out.

Watched, didn’t surf. Was fantastic nevertheless.

Tim

Dec 7, 2017

Faria Fire Update


Faria Beach in Ventura County is the defacto home of 4GF Surfmats. The zippy right point break was where the lion's share of R&D was done in 1983 and 1984. The homes there are currently is being threatened by the fires in the area. While this pales in comparison to the fire damage being done elsewhere, I wanted to provide an update that indirectly relates to us.

SCUMM Solo Session From Adam




Yo Paul

Summer Froth !
 
#ericwouldgo 


Stay Well

Adam

Dec 5, 2017

A Treasure Trove From The Irrepressable Rob


Paul,

Both days where surprising with the forecast calling for 1-2’. These where the most beautiful 1-2’ shore pound waves I’ve seen to date. The NorEasters and Hurricanes have changed the shore line a bit creating a 6-8’ sloping drop off at high tide. This is really giving us some nice shape on the inside.

I had the Standard SS and the Lotus SS with me both days and the froth was high in this group! Enjoy the pictures, some are gopro shots and others are shot with Chris’ Sony A6000.

Positive Vibes and Healing Energy from the Florida Chapter of the 4th Gear Frothers!

Much Love my Friend, get well soon, these waves are for you!

Mat Surfers : Rob and Chris
Body Surfer : Mark
Soft top : Ryman

Yeeeewwwww! Thank you for introducing me to this world! Enjoy and Stay Stoked!

Super Stoked,
Rob Pollard


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Dec 4, 2017

From Brian

Paul,

I’ve been sitting on this pic for a little bit and wanted to get it out to you.

This summer my family took a trip to Spain and before we left I was told that we’d be going to the island of Formentera. I immediately knew that my Vespa roundtail would be at the bottom of my bag. The island is south of Ibiza and in the Mediterranean Sea. My hope for surf wasn’t too high but nonetheless off we went. 

The island is amazing, and the water spectacular. Temps were 95 plus and you had to stay in the water in order to last at the beaches. The wind started to blow a bit and surprisingly we started to see some little waves!! The combination of sand and reef made for some nice little coves that actually began to produce some activity.

As the picture displays my kids had smiles for hours riding the mat on the little surf that we found. Your mats never disappoint and will always be with us on any trips that will put us on or near the water. Thanks so much for doing what you do and I wish you all the best as you take the time needed to recover from your health issues.

Put another needle in the world map that I hope you have that documents where your mats have been: Formentera, Spain

Sincerely,
Brian Gray

Dec 3, 2017

From Dave, Cher and Steve



 

Hello Paul,

We are thinking of you, and sending you healing thoughts.

This morning we captured some iPhone vids of our friend Captain David Murline riding his 4GF south of the border. Dave gave his go-ahead to share videos with surfmatters.

Fun session. He’s ripping! We hope you enjoy them.

Aloha,
Cher and Steve

Dec 2, 2017

From Adam

 
 


Yo Paul

Sending Positive , Healing Vibes your way mate! Froth on for another day our Friend!

SCUMM Love from Oz

Life's a Beach
Adam


NYC Mat Meet




ROCKAWAY BEACH MAT, MEET FALL 2017
By Matt L Rohrer

Four weeks ago a lifeguard called the police on me because I refused to get out of the water when I was mat surfing in two foot onshore mush. “No inflatable flotation devices allowed!” While mat surfers somewhat enjoy the quizzical looks on people’s faces and the genuine curiosity that surfmats evoke, sometimes you get tired of the otherness. Which is why the feeling of camaraderie and excitement at the October mat meet at Rockaway Beach was so palpable.

Mariah Ernst, her boyfriend John, who just flew in from Saint Thomas, and I all arrived at the beach promptly at 10 not knowing if anyone else would show up. Lulu and Tim Darwish were waiting there, slowly blowing air into their stash of Neumatics.  We paddled out, catching a slew of two foot glassy lefts that ended in shorebreak microtubes. Over the next hour I counted as the pack of mat surfers grew to at  least 15!  Heard in the water: “I can't believe there's this many of us!” “Is this an East Coast record? “How do you duck dive?”  “How are we gonna take a group photo of everyone keeps shredding?” “ Where are Nicole and Justin? “I heard they got stuck behind a garbage truck in Ridgewood!” “Has anyone seen my yellow fin?  I borrowed it from someone and promised I wouldn't lose it!”

Glenn showed up with the first square nosed paipo the world has ever known and took a bunch of pics from the water. Justin and Nicole showed up with their cute dog and a stash of Neumatics and 4th Gear flyers after escaping the Ridgewood garbage trucks. (Justin has rad technique for punching through waves on his mat. He hugs the outer rails of the mat in, folding it into a vertical taco shape as he kicks through the back of the wave torpedo-style.) The belly sliders were ruling it so hard that our longboard friends decided to paddle to the next jetty as to not have to compete with the bumper boat army...They came back later and had a blast riding close outs all the way onto the beach: “I'm hooked.” “I gotta get one.”  “I got a hundred waves!” One kid from North Carolina showed up and surfed for hours in trunks; this was a short pit stop on his journey north. We even had one couple show who gave mat surfing a go that had never surfed in any fashion before. (Mariah calls them Gold Star Matters if they've never been on a surfboard.)

On the drive home, talk turned to who had the best mat technique.  The honors went to a quiet fellow from the Rockaways who was taking off nice and smooth right behind the jetty, making long sections without kicking up too much spray. It's so subtle what makes a good matsurfer. Basically you don't notice them. Karen who is co-organizer of Full Moon Surf Sails with Mariah, was sharing her pure, newfound, stoke on mat surfing along with Brenda, who alternated between bodysurfing, paipoing, boogieing, matting and various other forms of alternative surf craft. I’ve never seen someone squeeze so much into one sesh. The waves stayed 2-3 foot and shiny clean for about 4 hours before the wind kicked up. We had them all to ourselves.  It was like that moment in the 80s movie where the nerds take over the school. It was like the first time you snuck into the movies with friends. Like, I can't believe this is really happening. All the sparkling light!

Follow:@matsurfingsocietyofnewyork

 
 

Dec 1, 2017

From Rob




Paul,

I went out on the Lotus SS tonight and it absolutely Flew! 
 
Here’s some eye candy from North Florida I got after my session. Positive Vibes and Healing Energy.
 
Stay Strong and Stoked!

Super Stoked,
Rob

Nov 27, 2017

From Rob

Paul,

Saturday morning was magical and crowded at Dolphin Plaza. I surfed with Mark and Ryman. The waves where beautiful and the technique you helped me with worked magically. I still have some kinks to work out, but when I hit it right, it’s magic! I wish I would have brought the GoPro out but in hindsight it was better I didn’t. I had to compete for waves on most sets, but I still had a blast and caught plenty of Bombs! The Standard SS performed flawlessly in the 4-5’ conditions! Below is my surf check picture.


I looked all over for waves on Sunday and ended up back at Dolphin Plaza. Chasing some fun little runners! 1-2’ with occ + sets. Here are a couple of pictures from the sunrise at The House of Morrison and then the surf I found at Dolphin Plaza. It was a great day! 

 
 
 

Eddie caught me on the 911 Surf report during my session. Yeeeeeewwwww! Everyone calls me the Rafter at this Spot 🤪! Keep Spreading the Stoke! Positive Vibes and Healing Energy my Friend!

Super Stoked,
Rob