The Endless Summer
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The Endless Summer (1966) is a cinematic time capsule, a proudly unpolished cult picture that generates more nostalgia with each passing year. Director Bruce Brown follows clean-cut surfers Robert August and Mike Hynson as they extend their California summer into a year-round pursuit of the ultimate wave. Their laid-back journey eventually takes them to beaches in Malibu, West Africa, South Africa, Australia, and Hawaii. The people they meet during their trip - including short-boarding villagers in Ghana and Senegal, and a few attractive Australian beach bunnies - are every bit as enjoyable as the surfing footage.
A great deal of the film's charm is derived from its haphazard construction. Shot on 16-millimeter film, with post-synchronized sound, it's a glorified home movie that nevertheless captures a short-lived period in American popular culture. Brown also narrates the picture, in a relaxed, tongue-in-cheek style that perfectly suits his material. Though he had previously directed such low-budget surfing films as Slippery When Wet (1958) and Water-logged (1962), The Endless Summer made Brown's name, turning him into a figurehead for "tube" enthusiasts the world over.
This kind of passion borders on religion. Brown may have set a film-world record of sorts by making a sequel to The Endless Summer 28 years after it was originally released. To a degree, The Endless Summer II (1994) is a documentary about a documentary, as it incorporates unused footage from the first picture while re-visiting both August and Hynson. It's no surprise that they were still chasing waves when Brown found them again.
When The Endless Summer first opened theatrically in New York City, it was a huge commercial hit which was more surprising to the press than Bruce Brown. "For some reason," he said, "the real entrenched film critics seemed to like it, maybe because it was different from what they were used to seeing. We weren't one of them, so a lot of the media in New York were into helping us, not hurting us. If they did a review and wrote, "Brown did a sh#tty movie,' we'd have been dead. But nobody knew who I was, and maybe they felt it wasn't worth criticizing, so they pretty much gave us good reviews and helped us out."
Directed, edited and narrated by: Bruce Brown
Principal Cast: Robert August (principal surfer), Mike Hynson (principal surfer), Terence Bullen (South African guide).
By Paul Tatara