Filmmaker Bruce Brown returns to surfing glory
LOS ANGELES — FILMMAKER Bruce Brown, who has made a fortune by doing the unorthodox, waited 30 years before bringing out a sequel to his surf classic, ``The Endless Summer.''
Along with Beach Boys records and campy Annette Funicello movies, ``The Endless Summer'' (1966) instilled the surfing mystique in millions of young people. The story of two surfers touring the world in search of the perfect wave still holds a magical allure, even for those who have never seen an ocean.
Mr. Brown grew up on the beaches of Orange County, Calif., and ventured into the big waves of Hawaii while serving on submarines at 18. He made an 8-mm movie and showed it in surf shops. On the mainland, Brown was life-guarding at San Clemente, Calif., and working for a boardmaker who staked him $5,000 to make a movie.
``Slippery When Wet'' was a 1959 hit in civic auditoriums, with Brown delivering the narration in person. He followed it with such classics as ``Surfing Hollow Days'' and ``Surf Crazy.'' The profits allowed Brown to make ``The Endless Summer.''
The movie was popular in early screenings, but no company would agree to release it. Hollywood moguls decreed that a surfing picture would appeal only to Southern California beach bums. So Brown rented a theater in Kansas, as far from the surf as he could get. The engagement sold out for two weeks. Still the industry big shots were unconvinced. Brown rented a theater in New York, and ``The Endless Summer'' played for a year. Finally, a distributor signed on, and the $50,000 movie grossed more than $30 million.
Brown's budget for the sequel came to $3.3 million. Instead of the 14-pound 16-mm camera used for the first film, a ton-and-a-half-worth of camera equipment was hauled to Australia, Bali, South Africa, Costa Rica, France, Alaska, Hawaii, and elsewhere.
The engaging personalities and daredevil surfing of Robert August and Mike Hynson enhanced the first ``Endless Summer.'' Brown realized that the casting for No. 2 was vital.
``I wanted a long-boarder and a short-boarder because of the visual difference in watching them surf,'' he says. ``I'd seen pictures of the long-boarder, `Wingnut' Weaver, and he was really magic on the board. He came to my house, and he was enthusiastic; he represented to me what surfers - or everybody - should be like. The short-boarder was a kid named Pat O'Connell, and he was so happy and upbeat, again the epitome of what a young California surfer ought to be.''