1989/90 was a bizarre time period for surfers as the day-glo excess of the 80's prepared to hit a wall of hardcore black and white backlash that would ultimately define the next decade. Surfers: The Movie was the perfect capper to the 80's.
Stylistically based on the 1987 Rolling Stone documentary, "20 Years of Rock and Roll", it was a wonderful encapsulation of the professional slickness we'd gorged on for 10 years. 4 generations of pro surfers - everyone from Kelly Slater (who had not yet begun his incredible domination of pro surfing) to the late Micky Dora - were interviewed in front of painted backdrops, with their soundbites interspersed throughout the usual medley of great surfing action.
The soundtrack also featured an unprecedented lineup of major label music, which included U2 and Neil Young. Eric Henderson who did the opening piece, "Faces" provided an emotional powerhouse of a medley glimpsing hundreds of beloved faces from surfing's history, and arguably the film's most amazing segment. The film included an exciting recap of the current pro scene scored by U2's "Out of Control", - Micky Dora (making his first film appearance in over 20 years) and the then current world champ, Martin Potter surfing together down in Baja.
Not only was it incredible to see Da Cat after so many years of hiding, but to listen to him praising Pottz - "He sure looks unique to me" (the ultimate compliment from the original king of style) - combined with Potter's tail-sliding power session...well, let's just say that any surfer worth his wax was blown away.
I actually saw the film 3 times in 3 different cities (Santa Cruz, Santa Barbara and Dana Point), and there was only one scene that had people going more apes*** than Potter putting on his preview of the new school style - and that was Tom Curren's slow motion barrel at the beginning of the movie. Never have I seen an audience hoot the way they hooted that tube...he just got TUBED, and just when you thought he couldn't get any deeper in the tube, he fell of his board and preceded to bodysurf that tube 'til the end. Every person in the audience hooted himself hoarse for the duration of that wave.
So strip away the gloss and it was still a great surf flick. It was also the end of an era in surf film-making style, as just a year later Taylor Steele released "Momentum", the official passing of the baton to the new school generation of tail slides, big airs, black wetsuits, white boards and stripped down punk rock.
Because of that Surfers: The Movie has been largely forgotten. But for those of us that were there, it was a lot of fun and a rejuvenation of the surf movie as an "event". As Neil Young sang at the end, "Long may you run."
Author: Tom Parker from Huntington Beach, CA
Credit goes to Bill Delaney, Michael Tomson, Gotcha Sportswear and Surfer Magazine for this Surf Classic!
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