No social turmoil here, no quagmire of a distant war. Wonderful hedonism instead. And a “dream” of sorts, though not the one MLK had in mind. I first saw this movie when it came out, in the summer of 1966, in Pittsburgh. Having grown up there and chipped more than my share of ice off the sidewalks, while shoveling the snow… just the title of the movie which evoked those wonderful lazy days of summer… forever… had instant appeal. And it was about a culture and a sport that I knew nothing of: surfing. “Endless Summer” would be one of those book/movie titles that entered the cultural lexicon, along with “The Perfect Storm” and “A Bridge Too Far.”
Last night I was in the mood for, nay, in the need for, some mindless entertainment. An hour and a half of watching “surfer dudes” seemed to fit the bill.
Impressive. And amazing. Watching someone riding an ideal wave, just ahead of the point where it is curling over and crashing, to see him (and save for Australia, it was usually a he) disappear behind the curl, as the wave is crashing over him, and then to see him shoot out again, still upright on the board, still untouched by the power of the wave. Ah! Of the many ways we define “sports,” some of which are of the most brutal sort, the elegance and the beauty of an accomplished surfer has some of the very highest appeal. There are at least 50, if not 100 such wonderful images throughout this movie.
The opening scenes are shot in Hawaii and Malibu (CA). At the latter, they are surfing, in winter, with the water temperature at 48 degrees F., and no wet suit! Wet suits are de rigueur for surfers today in southern California, often in the summer as well. No wonder they hatched the plan to follow summer around the world, becoming early “globetrotters.” (Who and how the trip was funded is never revealed). Even more jolting than the images of surfers in CA with no wetsuits, were the images of these two surfer “dudes” getting on airplanes in their suits and ties! (Indeed, it was a different time and place, when one dressed up before getting on an airplane).
They visit three African countries not that long after their independence: Dakar, Senegal; Accra, Ghana; and Lagos, Nigeria. They surf in each, probably, as they say, the first people to ever surf in these locales, much to the interest of the natives. Then they are off to South Africa, where the small surfer community of one hundred or so turns out to greet and help them. They get a ride up the coast to Durban. Yes, sharks at Durban are a serious consideration, then, as well as today.
On to Australia, Perth, Melbourne, and Sydney, all of which was a bit of a disappointment, at least surf-wise. Turns out the good surf is in the winter!... and they are there during their summer. Some consolation appeared available from some of their fellow bikini-clad surfers. In New Zealand they had “a few good days,” before going on to Tahiti, where there is no surf, or so it is claimed. They are able to surf on waves going OUT to sea, after they bounced against the very steep shoreline.
The perfect wave… the holy grail of surfing? They found it at Cape St. Francis, South Africa (with the help of Google, it is halfway between Cape Town and Durban). It was possible to stay within the curl for 45 seconds … an eternity for wave riding.
A trip down memory lane, for a look at a wonderful sport that I have not accomplished, or even tried. 4-stars.