Ben Marcus


Walterman as Stuntman, From Duke to Dora to Doerner

How dangerous is movie stunt surfing?

I've done some very difficult things like surfing through a pier with a camera strapped to my back. Just one slip with 25 pounds of camera equipment and well-you've had it. Surfing stunts depend on the vivid imagination the director has and, naturally, what the storyboard calls for. Some pansy directors dream up situations not even Clark Kent could survive. The great aggravation is trying to communicate with these people on what is possible and what isn't. Seventy-five percent of the surfing public doesn't know what's happening in the sport anyhow, so what's the difference?

You do more than just stunt work?

Yes, I'm a troubleshooter for the studios. They get in trouble. They call me; I get them in deeper trouble. I also do character parts, but I'm usually not seen because I don't believe in looking over someone's shoulder and grinning in the camera.

How do you like movie work?

I like the bread.

Mickey Dora: Surf Stuntman, SURFER Magazine July 1965

Has Hollywood mishandled, misrepresented, misinterpreted and misaligned any other person, place or sport more than surfing? Perhaps the Nazi party has been worked over more, but surfing still don't get much respect in the transition to the Silver Screen. Most of the traditional American sports all have classic movies, and some have won Oscars. Hollywood has been very good to baseball: A League of Their Own, Bull Durham, The Natural, The Pride of the Yankees, Field of Dreams and the Bad News Bears. Football has The Longest Yard, Jerry Maguire, North Dallas Forty, Brian’s Song, Debbie Does Dallas, Heaven Can Wait and The Waterboy. Basketball? Hoosiers and Hoop Dreams. Golf? Caddyshack, Happy Gilmore, Tin Cup. Bicycle riding? Breaking Away. There's even a classic, Oscar-winning movie about track and field: Chariots of Fire. Robert Deniro won an Oscar for portraying a boxer in Raging Bull. Heck, even Jackie Gleason was nominated for an Oscar for playing an overweight pool player in The Hustler.

Surfing? The closest surfing has come to winning an Oscar is a nearly-forgotten short subject about skateboarding from the 60s called Skater Dater. This English flick showed a kid on a crude skateboard trying to impress his tinsel-toothed startlet by doing the tricks the surfers do. Skater Dater must have been something, because it was nominated for a Best Short Subject, Live Action Subject Academy Award in 1966 and actually won the Palm d’Or for Best Short Film and tied for the Technical Grand Prize at Cannes the same year.

The Endless Summer came out in 1964 and kicked ass at the box office but wasn't nominated for diddly, although it is generally considered a classic, and is reputed to be the most commercially successful documentary film ever made. In 1979, Robert Duvall was nominated for Best Actor in a Supporting Role for his portrayal of surfer/aviator/redneck Colonel William Kilgore in Apocalypse Now, but Kilgore never paddled out in that movie. John Milius shared an Academy Award nomination with Francis Ford Coppolla for Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium for Apocalypse Now. Duvall was beat by Melvyn Douglas in Being There, and Milius and Coppolla lost to the screenplay for Kramer vs. Kramer.

Sean Penn should have been nominated for something for Jeff Spicoli in Fast Times at Ridgemont High. It's a shame that Sean Penn is now ashamed of Spicoli because that character has the comic power to reduce audiences to tears just by appearing on screen. And that puts Spicoli up there with the greatest comic icons of the 20th Century: Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin, John Belushi and Michael Myers. Oh, and Harvey Lembeck. As bad as most of the Beach Blanket movies were, they did produce Eric von Zipper.

Surfing just don't get much respect. When the Sport of Kings is portrayed by the Hollywood Squares, the result is almost always rated C for Corny, Crummy, Contrived, Commercial and just altogether Crappy. Plug “surf,” “wave” and “beach” into the Internet Movie Database and you’ll come up with some of the worst movies ever made: Surf Nazis Must Die, Surf II, Monster From the Surf, North Shore: The Movie and all of the Beach Blanket movies, which had the horrendous yin of Frankie singing to Annette, countered a little by the yang of Eric von Zipper, and guest appearances by the likes of Dick Dale, Buster Keaton, little Stevie Wonder and Candy, the Perpetual Motion Dancer.

Most of the Hollywood surf stories that make it to the screen have okay parts that are greater than the whole, but the stories that come from behind the scenes, from the surfers who have worked Hollywood for a bit of money and a bit of fame and surfers who have been pulled from off the sand and into stardom, these guys and gals have stories often much more interesting than what they've helped to put on screen. Beginning with Duke Kahanamoku and Tom Blake way back in the 1920s, the last 100 years has seen more than a few of surfing's favorite sons and daughters working hard on both sides of the camera, their parts and performances and stories usually outshining the whole of the usually bad movies they helped to make.

“In the early 20s, living in Los Angeles [I was] trying to make a living working mostly in pictures, which was very difficult because you had to know somebody to really get in there. Anyway, once in awhile, I'd get a job, make a few dollars and that would last maybe a week or a month…. Working in films was always a trade-off for food and shelter…I worked as a double (stand in and stunt man) for Clark Gable. Nice fellow, but like most of us, he could not stand prosperity.”

Tom Blake: The Uncommon Journey of a Pioneer Waterman by Gary Lynch

If Duke Kahanamoku and Tom Blake ever dressed up like women and went surfing, it was something they did in private, and never in front of the camera. Men wearing wigs and bikinis and surfing on camera is something that would come 40 years later for Mickey Munoz and eighty years later for Noah Johnson, but that path was blazed way back in the 1920s by two pioneering watermen.

Duke Kahanamoku is the Father of Modern Surfing, among many other things and Tom Blake was the guy who invented the surfboard fin, among other things and among the other things these guys did is use their water skills and their looks and their fame to milk Hollywood for some money and a little more fame and a lot of fun.

The Internet Movie Database lists 14 movie roles for Duke Paoa Kahanamoku, beginning with the role of Noah Noa in Adventure in 1925 and ending with I Sailed to Tahiti with an All Girl Crew in 1968, in which Duke played Himself. In between, Duke had 12 other roles in which he played Pirate Captain. The Devil-Ape, Guard, Wild Animal Trapper, and a lot of dusky natives and Indian chiefs with names like Tamb Itam, Jaffir, Kalita, Manua. In 1948 Duke appeared as Ua Nuke alongside John "Duke" Wayne in Wake of the Red Witch and he played a Native Chief in Mister Roberts in 1955.

Sandra Kimberley Hall is a Duke biographer who was researched his life and movie roles for an upcoming biography: “The IMDB is an unreliable source. Duke was in more than 30 movies but he did not swim in any of them, except for newsreels and Olympic Game archival footage. The International Olympic Committee was adamant about athletes not being paid for pursuing their sporting activities outside of the Olympics. Look at what happened to Frank Beaurepaire, James Thorpe.”

Duke won his first Gold Medal at the 1912 Stockholm games. He won his second and third Gold Medals at the Antwerp games in 1920 and finished silver to Johnny Weissmuller in the 100-meter freestyle at the 1924 Paris Olympics. While Weismuller went on to use his swimming skills and loin-cloth good looks to star as Tarzan and Jungle Jim, Duke kept his Olympic status until 1932, when he took a bronze as an alternate on the US Water Polo team.

Duke’s Olympic status prevented him from swimming or doing any water stunts, according to Ms. Hall: “Duke did not swim in movies, period, except for newsreels and the like, or any Olympic Game archival footage. To my knowledge, the only film he surfed in was Douglas Fairbanks’ travelogue Around the World in 80 Minutes.

Tom Blake was a contemporary/disciple of Duke Kahanamoku, a young man from Wisconsin who went west and threw himself into the secrets of the sea. Blake was a national swimming champion and a natural waterman, but because he was not an Olympian he wasn't prohibited from doing anything, and Hollywood was waiting. According to Gary Lynch’s biography Tom Blake: The Uncommon Journey of a Pioneer Waterman, Blake held Hollywood with as much disdain as all the surfers who would follow in his wake, but he wasn't afraid to milk it for traveling and bean curd money.

Blake’s first film stunt was in Where the Pavement Ends in 1922. Shot in Cape Florida, Florida and directed by Rex Ingram, Blake wrestled with a dead shark. Over the next 18 years, Blake would work in dozens of Hollywood movies, with the likes of Clark Gable on Devil’s Island in 1939 and Wake Island with John Wayne in 1942. In 1927, Blake traveled north to Alaska with nine other men to do stunt work on The Trail of ’98. They were paid $100 a week, which was a lot of money then, and they traveled to Alaska by boat. At the mouth of the Copper River, near Cordova, Blake and his crew set up to do boating stunts on the worst rapids in North America. They rigged a cable with safety lines about a hundred yards below the rapids in case anything went wrong. By the end of June, the sun had melted a significant amount of ice and the river was roaring. Because Blake was the best swimmer he was chosen to make the first run, with a Canadian oarsman at the helm. He wrote about the result in a story he called The Copper River Tragedy: “We all made the run the next day or so. One boat with two stunt men could not make the show above the cable, so jumped overboard and hung on to ropes while their boat was carried into the death rapids. Another boat carrying a native Alaskan river man went into a whirlpool just below the cable and did not show again until they found his body two days later, many miles down stream. The two Hollywood boys hung on the dangling ropes until they lost strength in the icy water and were carried down into the death rapids.” Blake heard about the disaster about 10 minutes later and lead a search party downriver. He found one of the two stuntmen walking up the shore, naked, having stripped out of his rubber suit. The other man died. “The movie director was afraid to go back to town,” Blake finished his story on the disaster. “The natives would have lynched him.”

Hollywood paid the bills for Tom Blake for many years, and he was involved in the shift from silent movies made by a variety of independent producers, to the invention of sound and the formation of the all-powerful movie studios. According to Gary Lynch, “The shallowness of the film industry was what eventually caused Tom to leave the profession. He grew to fundamentally dislike the film industry centered at Hollywood and finally disassociated himself from it after World War II.” When Hollywood saw that chicks dug Weissmuller in a loin-cloth, they all but ordered him to divorce his wife, and paid her off with $10,000. Blake saw what Hollywood did to some of his contemporaries and he didn't like it: "It was embarrassing to see the writers and directors of Hollywood make an intelligent and gifted athlete like Johnny talk and act like an ape-man."

Tom Blake had a decent run in Hollywood which gave him the time and money and flexibility to pursue all his other watergoals. Perhaps most importantly, Blake’s experience on The Trail of ’98 and other movie sets inspired some of the life-saving equipment and techniques he would develop over his uncommon life.

Pete Peterson was a contemporary of Tom Blake’s, competing against him in swim and paddle races in the 20s and 30s. But while Blake’s entire life is well laid out in Gary Lynch’s book, Peterson is a riddle wrapped in mystery with a side order of enigma. Born Preston Peterson in 1913, Peterson was in California with his parents in time to buy his first board by the age of 7. Pete Peterson is widely considered by reputable people to have been one of the greatest watermen of the 20th Century. He dove deep, dived high, swam, surf, paddled, stroked, sailed and yachted with the best of them. According to the Legendary Surfers website, Preston “Pete” Petersen had a number of accomplishments to back up the “best waterman” hype. He won the Pacific Coast Championships four out of the 10 years it was held, in 1932, 1936, 1938 and 1941. Petersen was one the first three paddlers to make it to Catalina from the mainland and he was one of the first wave of California haoles to invade Hawaii, going over with Lorrin Harrison and Gene Smith in 1932. From what he saw in Hawaii, Peterson experimented with balsa and lighter materials and he innovated lifesaving equipment that is still in use today: paddle boards, soft rescue tubes, all-fiberglass hollow boards, and foam/plywood/balsa sandwich surfboards. Peterson was also an expert tandem surfer and was winning contests into the 60s.

Peterson could walk on water and when Hollywood needed someone with those skills, they knew who to call. Peter Peterson worked as a stuntman, stunt coordinator, set designer and shark wrangler on shows from the 1930s to the 1980s. But try to find anything about him on Google or the Internet Movie Database or movie credits or books on the movie business-he’s almost invisible in a time when no one is invisible. The Internet Movie Database lists only three movie credits for “Peter Peterson” and a Google search keeps coming up with an ambassador to Vietnam with the same name, but no surfing stuntman.

For all his legend, Peterson is nearly invisible and you have to rely on word of mouth and rusty memories to get an idea of what he got up to in Tinseltown.

John Elwell surfed Makaha with Peterson in the 50s and called him “a huge figure in surfing in the 30's to the 50's” and someone who was very involved in Hollywood. “I saw him doing surfing stunts on the RKO specials in the theaters.” Elwell said.

Marilyn Stader is a Malibu resident and retired Hollywood stuntwoman who was married to Paul Stader, a transplanted Missourian who worked his way up from stuntman to Stunt Coordinator to Second Unit Director on dozens of shows from 1937 to 1992. “Paul came from southern Missouri and was a lifeguard in the 30s at Santa Monica,” Marilyn said. “In his first picture he did a dive doubling John Hall in a movie called Hurricane and from that he became an instant stuntman. We are all water people and Paul met the Duke and Johnny Weissmuller. He did all of Weissmuller’s swings and dives in Tarzan and Jungle Jim. Well Paul and Pete Peterson were partners and whenever Paul was involved with a shoot that had boats or diving, he called Pete. Paul was Stunt Coordinator for Lucky Lady down in Mexico in 1972 and he hired Pete to take care of the boats. They worked on The Poseidon Adventure together and also Towering Inferno.

Marilyn Stader confirmed that Pete Peterson, like her husband, worked on hundreds of shows, but through the 30s and 40s and well into the 70s, stuntmen were supposed to be seen but not heard of. “As my husband always said, ‘The only credit we get is at the bank.’” Marilyn remembers Pete Peterson in the Pete Smith specials. “These were little mini documentaries they’d show in theaters before TV. Pete would always be there doing crazy stuff like having an elephant surf behind a boat.”

Pete Peterson was “the best all-around waterman” Marilyn ever knew, and she thinks she has an explanation for why there isn't much known about him: “He was from one of the Carolinas and was just a good, sweet, unassuming Scandinavian man His favorite expression was ‘Aw shucks,’ or ‘Keeno!” He had that natural Scandinavian reticence and humility and that was why we all loved him so much.”


Johnny Fain was one of the Malibu regulars who got a chance to get into the movie-making madness following the success of Frederick Kohner's book, Gidget. “It was in the summer of '58," Fain remembers, "when I got hired to be one of the doubles for Sandra Dee in the Gidget movie. They needed a shot where they had her drowning in the kelp beds. Nobody wanted to do it because these stringers of kelp would wrap around you and hold you under. I volunteered. They put me in a wig and a one-piece bathing suit and I did the scene. Movie making was a lot of fun. Linda Benson and Mickey Munoz doubled for Sandra Dee in the surfing scenes. A lot of the Malibu guys resented the fact that they weren't hired to work on Gidget. But I got Dora in - he was my mentor. I couldn't leave home without him. I introduced him to the producers as 'Moondoggie.' So Mickey is the original 'Moondoggie.'"

From the Legendary Surfers website.

If you feel this way about commercialism, what's your attitude toward the Hollywood pictures you've been in recently?

I'm surfing in pictures because I like to work in them. I've been in a dozen films so far, including King of the Mountain, with Marlon Brando and David Niven. Gidget Goes Hawaiian, Gidget Goes to Rome, Surfing Wild, Beach Party and For Those Who Think Young. Believe it or not, I've been 'discovered' six times this year. They give you this… 'you're the greatest… we'll make millions out of you…’ They had these ideas and I figured they were right.

Career: Surfing Stuntman. Interview with Mickey Dora in SURFER, June 1965

Mickey Dora lived by a creedo borrowed from The Hustler: "A dollar won is twice is sweet as a dollar earned." Paul Newman said it on film, but Dora lived it in reality. Dora wasn't allergic to earning money the old-fashioned way, but he preferred the hustle. Always on the lookout for marks, Dora saw Hollywood as a cash cow, and he milked it for all he could.

Dora went on the record repeatedly complaining about the "commercialism" of surfing ruining the sport, and how mainstream, mass-marketing by the Hollywood Squares brought about the demise of places like Malibu. But Dora was the Beast With Two Faces, passing out slaps to Hollywood with one hand while taking money with the other. Knowing all this, it is a little sad to see Da Cool Cat surfing Secos in Gidget, or dancing the frug in the background of the Beach Blanket movies.

Gidget introduced surfing to the American mainstream and did so with a fair bit of Cringe. Gidget was the nickname bestowed on Francine Lawrence, a nice, young, shy, naïve but eternally bubbly “troublesome teen” who falls in with a bunch of surfers hanging out at the beach for the summer. They spend most of their time lounging around the beach shack talking about parties and chicks, but every once in a while they will stand up en masse, pick up their surfboards at the same time, charge into the water together and take off on the same wave en masse. Of the five or six surfers taking off against the rock at Secos in that mass, Mickey Munoz knows that he and Dora were out there, and at least one of the actors. "One of the actors could surf,” Munoz said, 43 years later. “Doug McLure. He was a reasonably good surfer but he was married to a high-maintenance lady who demanded he work constantly, so a lot of times it was up to me to drag him out of his house and go surfing. I also became pretty good friends with Cliff Robertson, who impressed me with all the work and research he did to get his part right. To play the part of the Great Kahuna he learned to surf and hung out with all the characters so he could really be a surfer. He was very legitimate and he went on to do some great movies. He was handpicked by President John Kennedy to play Lieutenant John Kennedy in PT 109 and he won an Oscar for Charly. As a matter of fact, after Gidget I actually did a little spying for Cliff Robertson with a gal he was involved with-an ex-wife or a girlfriend or something. I staked out her house and watched activities way back then. He said he'd pay me but he never did. Then a few months ago he showed up at the UCSD Luau and Longboard Invitational Cancer Benefit at La Jolla. I hadn’t seen the Kahuna in 35 years and I said, 'You know, you never paid me for that deal,' and he reached for his wallet."

Mickey Dora is another of the surfers taking off en masse against the rock at Secos. He doubled for the Moondoggie character played by James Darren, which meant he hot-dogged the fun little Secos waves by himself, until Francine starts to fall for him. Gidget gets all moonie over Moondoggie but the closest they come to consummating their flirtation is Gidget sitting on Moondoggie’s neck during a tandem session. Look close at the movie and you’ll see that It's Dora on the bottom, holding up an oddly muscular young woman named Mickey Munoz.

Mickey Munoz famously dressed as a girl to double for Sandra Dee in Gidget and 43 years later he really can’t remember why. Munoz was fairly petite for a man but not nearly as petite as Sandra Dee, who looked like she would blow away in a strong offshore wind. Linda Benson was also petite and she also doubled for Sandra Dee in Gidget. Munoz was a regular foot and Benson was a goofy-foot and this was Hollywood’s first but definitely not last time that it didn't bother to know the difference.

Munoz really doesn't know why he was chosen to tandem with Mickey Dora. "I remember some things about Gidget vividly, and some things I don't. Linda Benson was surfing for Sandra Dee and I can't remember why they had me tandem. I don't remember why, I just remember that's what I did.” Munoz does remember that the job came at a good time. “I was married at 19 and had a son by 20 and I needed money. I worked on Gidget for almost three months and it was pretty good money-like $65-85 a day. I did the surfing but I was also lifeguarding on the set and I tried to coach Sandra Dee. I tried to teach her how to hold a surfboard and walk down to the water's edge and even paddle, so they could get some of that on camera. But she was a skinny little Hollywood blonde and not a real athletic person. I don't know if I had much respect for her at the time because she wasn't an outdoors type person. I think she was just starting out her career. But she turned out to be a pretty darned good actress who made some good movies later.”

Munoz says he and a lot of the other real surfers were around the set most of the time it was on the beach, and a little bit up at the studio. They tried to steer the movie away from corny and into reality, but they didn't always succeed. "Hollywood works in its ways and the director is king,” Munoz explained. “Whatever the director conceives of, that is what you try and do. But if he came up with something that was either not possible or too off the wall, everybody would go, 'Hey, that's not surfing.' I'm sure we put in our two cents. I've never been afraid to do that."

Munoz got a full summer's work out of Gidget and earned enough screen time and money to get a coveted Screen Actor's Guild card. “I think a SAG card cost $500 then, and that was a lot of money,” Munoz said. “Once I got my SAG card I got other stunt work in Hollywood. I kind of pursued it. I knew a lot of people in the business and so through those people I got work. Not a lot but I did work as a stuntman and whatever I could do on set-usually water oriented. I worked with Mickey Rooney which was great because he taught me a lot about fights and falls.” Mickey Munoz doubled for Mickey Rooney on a TV show called Mickey. He tandemed with Marge Calhoun--on her shoulders--and nearly drowned doing a water ski stunt. When the Mickey producers asked Munoz if he could water-ski Munoz claimed he was an expert, even though he had only done it once before. Like a lot of surfers before and still to come, he came up with the skills to pull off a difficult stunt. "They dragged me off a pier on that ski and I ended up under water like 20 feet. There was no Water Safety then and there was only the driver in the boat and he was looking ahead, so I blew a few bubbles down there.” And like Tom Blake before him, Munoz wrestled a shark. A live shark. “I teamed up with a character named Frank Donahue to film some stock footage of a man and woman fighting a shark. We went five miles out to sea from Santa Monica and caught a mako shark on a handline. Frank dressed me up as a woman, again, and had me fight the shark-live, and makos are bad-ass. I was in pretty good shape then from paddling and surfing and the muscles in my back flared when I fought the shark. It wasn't very ladylike. Then we took the shark back to land, froze it and they had me fight it again, frozen. Long story and a funny story, but that's the kind of stuff I did for Hollywood and I'm still doing. A few years ago I won an audition for a commercial for a bank in the Midwest. I went out surfing at Secos-where we shot Gidget and where John Severson took that original photo of me doing the Quasimoto. I rode some waves with the camera rolling. Well the sun was setting and they wanted me to get one more, so on my last wave I pulled into a closeout and did kind of a suicide Quasimoto. I thought I was going to eat it but I didn't and when I came into the beach, the crew were on their hands and knees, bowing to me. That was kind of cool, and I got residuals from that commercial."

Like Greg Noll and others who have worked in Hollywood movies, Munoz isn't too much of a fan of the movies he was in: "Gidget was corny but you know I've probably seen it three times since we made it. Each time I see it I appreciate it more for a fairly honest attempt to capture what was going on in surfing at the time. They tried, but Hollywood can't seem to help Hollywoodizing everything they do."


On one picture we went to Hawaii and lived on the North Shore for two and a half months. We did something that had never been done before. Big-wave riding was filmed in 35 mm. They were good people and really wanted to understand surfing… to capture the atmosphere surrounding the many surfers who make the annual winter trip to the Islands to ride big waves. I had faith. I wanted to make this thing a success, not only for them but for me, also. We had to leave for the Islands so fast that I didn't have time to collect equipment and all I could get when I arrived was a 10’ 4” hot-curl board with a pointed tail and round bottom. It weighed sixty five pounds! I rode the beast at Sunset, the Pipeline, and Waimea. It was murder…. I was psyched out! My hair began to fall out. I got stomach ulcers. The Pipeline was a little scary but Waimea had the biggest waves I've ever seen in my life. I had to ride that crappy board while the other guys on gun-boards could sneak into waves before they hit the reef. Under all this pressure I had to ride these waves and every time they hit the button on that camera it was a hundred bucks. Like it was Judgment Day. I'm paddling, trying to get going, and these guys are in it even before it stands up on the reef. They’re driving and I'm just getting into it… by choice, I'm a four feet and under man!”

Mickey Dora: surfing's Angry Young Man, Surf Guide

We hated all those Beach Blanket movies and all that stuff back then and while it wasn't cool to admit it, I liked Ride the Wild Surf. Yes it was corny but those filmmakers really tried to capture a spirit, like the song had a spirit.

John Milius on Ride the Wild Surf

There weren’t any surfers singing to their girlfriends in Ride the Wild Surf, but it still was just as Corny and Contrived as every other Hollywood surf movie in the 60s. Ride the Wild Surf shot first and acted later, bending a story around surfing footage captured during the winter of 1963/64. The waves are howling and so are some of the words that come of the surfers’ mouths. John Milius, Greg Noll and many others see Ride the Wild Surf as a serious but failed attempt to capture the mood of the North Shore at the time. Although it came out rated C, Ride the Wild Surf launched a few careers and a thousand clichés that would reappear over the years in North Shore: The Movie, In God’s Hands and Blue Crush.

Ride the Wild Surf begins with three mainland guys arriving Fresh Off the Plane in Honolulu, then driving across the island to challenge the big stuff on the North Shore of Oahu. Steamer Lane (Tab Hunter), Jody Wallis (Fabian) and Chase Colton (Peter Brown) arrive wearing suits and ties accessorized with a variety of social, physical and philosophical chips on their shoulders. They make it to the North Shore looking groomed and groovy, but the North Shore ruffles their feathers pretty quick. Hurling themselves into the social scene by land and sea, they meet chicks and get in fights and are constantly challenged by men and nature to prove their manhood with a kind of local prejudice that could only be called “machoism.”

The wahines in Ride the Wild Surf are played by Barbara Eden, Shelly Fabares and Susan Hart and they are Babealonians. The supporting cast includes James Mitchum as Eskimo, a big, gruff, no-nonsense guy with a Roman nose who rides the biggest stuff wearing black and white striped trunks.

Sound like someone we know? Greg Noll says he was a victim of circumstances. “Hey, I was just out there surfing, you know, because it was good Waimea that season,” Da Bull snorted. “I kind of knew there was something going on because Mickey Dora was out surfing Waimea, and he had never done that. He didn't really like the big stuff but I knew he was getting paid and so was Mike Hynson. Well Mickey and I were friends and I wanted to see how he would do and maybe keep an eye on him. We rode a lot of fun Haleiwa and Sunset and 15-20 foot Waimea and I caught so many waves in those black and white trunks, they created the Eskimo character and wrote him into the movie.”

Fred van Dyke has some face time in Ride the Wild Surf, and was also active behind he camera. He remembers an awful lot of surf from the late winter of 1963 into the early winter of 1964: “That winter had the best Waimea and Sunset surf that I can remember,” Uncle Fred said. “It would come up to 25, drop, and come up again and that went on for about two months. We were totally surfed out, but forced ourselves to continue. We really did not get a break for a couple of months, and it was mostly glassy except for the mid-afternoons. The camera people didn't realize how special it was and they got fantastic footage. I was on camera a few times and was also paid to tell them of a spot where they could mount their cameras safely from the waves. I took them to this fantastic spot right across from the Shell station on Kam highway. They set up and everything was going perfectly… but guess what? Yes, in about an hour the waves came from easy 4 feet to 20 feet, washing all the camera people into the sea. No one was hurt, but the director was pissed. If it hadn't come up I would have been the hero of the day. As it happened they were going to fire me, but did not.”

The surfing in Ride the Wild Surf was shot entirely from land, which was a shame as “they really didn't capture the real danger of riding those wave,” Milius said. After that two months, the producers had hours of surfing footage in the can, and a lot of what was in the can featured Greg Noll’s black and white striped can. Greg says he was briefly considered as the actor for the part of Eskimo, but he accents the briefly. “Yeah they called me up to LA to audition for the Eskimo part, I guess,” Noll garumphed. “I went up there and stood on a stage and they gave me a card to read. I think I said three words, ‘The cat is...’ and then the hook came out and they yanked me off the stage. I guess I had the shortest acting career ever.”

Ride the Wild Surf is as C for Corny as just about every other surf movie not made by surfers, but the entertainment value of the movie goes way up as you watch it, 40 years later, with Da Bull. “Oh my God, look at these guys!” Noll roared at the sight of Fabian, Brown and Hunter checking the lineup at Waimea. “ A suit and tie? At Waimea? Look at the hair. Look at the car. No wonder we didn't hang out with these guys. They’re a bunch of Hollywood dorks. A bunch of phones. I avoided them like the plague, and the other guys hung around because they were getting paid.” Forty years later, Noll can barely watch the movie, but perks up at the surfing scenes. “That’s Haleiwa there and who’s the guy in the stinkbug stance at Sunset? There's L.J. Richards on that wave and that’s Ricky Grigg. The backside guy is Butch van Artsdalen. I remember that style. Check out Jeff Hakman! What is he, eight years old there? Here’s a big wave. That’s Mike Stange taking off behind me at Waimea and wiping out and there I go wiping out so maybe Mike wouldn’t be lonely when he went over the falls. Oh and now I'm claiming it there on the shoulder. Guess I was ahead of my time, huh? Okay It's starting to come back to me now. I remember telling the camera guys that if they wanted some good wipeouts to keep an eye on me, because that’s what I was good at.”

Noll watches Ride the Wild Surf with one hand over his eyes and one hand on the remote control. When the phony Hollywood actors are on, Greg fast-forwards to get to Barbara Eden’s parts (if you know what we mean) or the surfing. When Dora takes off at Waimea, Noll perks up like a proud father watching his fledgling son. This was Dora’s first time at Waimea and his magazine complaints about a crummy 10’ 4” ring true when you see him struggling to turn and trim at Sunset and Haleiwa. But Noll is proud of how his friend held up at Waimea. “Look at him take off on that wave, a little fade at the top and a big drop. This is his first time and he rode really well. Look at him there in front of me.”

Noll swears he was never paid for his surfing in Ride the Wild Surf, but it doesn't bother him. He made a little money from Big Wednesday many years later when they used his Pipeline photo on the poster. And he says that working on Ride the Wild Surf did pay one lasting dividend. “You know I distinctly remember riding behind Dora on one wave at Waimea and he looked like he was slowing down and about to get creamed. I put my hand on the back of his shorts and gave him a shove and that got him through to the end standing up. Well that was kind of like the guy pulling the thorn from the lion’s paw. Dora never forgot that wave and it became one of the foundations of our friendship.”

Noll watched the movie carefully, even rewinding a few of his and Dora’s best waves. When Barbara Eden and Peter Brown buy New Year’s Eve fireworks from Mr. Chin, Noll nods and says, “Well they got that part right, anyway. The North Shore on New Year’s Eve has always been World War Four.” After the fireworks, with the “high surf alarm” echoing all over the North Shore, the Chase Colton character attempts to jumpstart his manhood by diving from a high rock at Waimea Falls. As Barbara Eden clasps her hands to her lovely breast and implores her man not to do it, a stuntman in a straw hat and hula pants does the dive. Ricky Grigg thinks the diver might have been Butch van Artsdalen, while Fred van Dyke is pretty sure the diver was Chuck Quinn. Speaking from Pacifica, Quinn said he dove off Waimea Falls a lot, but doesn't remember doing it in a straw hat and hula pants with the camera rolling. Must have been Butch.

Noll has no idea who did the dive, but he said that part of the move was realistic. “Diving from the jump rock was a big deal back then. I did it, and I’ll tell you when you got to the top of that plateau there and looked down, it was pretty hairy. I jumped feet-first but never went headfirst. I think Munoz dove and I remember Pat Curren doing a huge belly-flop from up there and we thought he got hurt. So they got a few things right in this Ride the Wild Surf. But holy shit, did you see that guy’s hair?”


“I don't like surfers; I didn't like them when I was growing up. I lived in a surfing community, and I thought they were all jerks. I like Big Wednesday so much. Surfers don't deserve this movie.”

Quentin Tarantino on Big Wednesday

Between 1959 and 1965 Hollywood foisted Gidget, Blue Hawaii, Ride the Wild Surf, Bikini Beach, Beach Party, Girls on the Beach, How to Stuff a Wild Bikini, Surf Party, Muscle Beach Party and Beach Blanket Bingo on a naïve public, while Bruce Brown tried to counter all the nonsense with The Endless Summer, a documentary with a message: “Real surfers don't sing to their chicks!” By 1967 the “surf movie” genre had exhausted itself and the producers had run out of corny songs and the surf movie pretty much went dormant, thankfully, until deep into the 70s.

In 1975, American International Pictures, who were responsible for all of the Frankie and Annette movies, took another stab at surfing with Murph the Surf, the Hollywood version of Jack Murphy, a well-known Florida surfer who attempted one of the biggest jewel heists of the 20th Century--the Star of India Sapphire. Except for that, the 70s didn't add much to the genre, until John Milius stepped in and got it right in 1978 with Big Wednesday.

In November of 2002 Milius was in New York and glowing with “il amo” having just returned from a John Milius tribute at the Torino Film Festival. The Italians can make a great movie (ever see Cinema Paradiso?) and they know a classic when they see one. At the Torino Film Festival they screened John Milius’ greatest hits--Wind and the Lion, Red Dawn, Apocalypse Now--but the one they liked best was Big Wednesday. “ The Italians regard Big Wednesday with the same mystique as the Godfather or Apocalypse Now,” Milius said, and smiled quietly to himself. “In Italy Big Wednesday is respected as one of the great films of the 70s. I knew it was a cult film but I never realized it was regarded as a work of art. I guess there is something that strikes the Italian sensibility. Big Wednesday is about friendship and loyalty and courage. And the Italians love the surfers; the idea of surfers, and big waves and the macho thing and proving yourself. Very American. Surfing and parties. The end of Big Wednesday and the confrontation is very Sergio Leone. They showed the movie to 700 people and they were crying at the end. They all cry a great deal and I had men come up to me and say, ‘I have seen this movie 50 times and I love it.’ It's nice to be loved.”

When asked if Big Wednesday was his American Graffiti, Milius frowns quietly to himself. “I think It's better than my American Graffiti. I didn't think American Graffiti was a very good movie. But I do think the Italians are right. Big Wednesday is probably my best film.”

The surfing in Big Wednesday has Peter Townend doubling for William Katt, Ian Cairns for Gary Busey and Jay Riddle and Bill Hamilton for Jan Michael-Vincent, with Katt and Vincent doing some of their own surfing. Some of the surfing is beautiful, particularly PT in his prime, carving and soul arching at the Ranch and Costa Rica.

Again with the Ride the Wild Surf cliche, Big Wednesday ends with a climactic day of surf, at which the three surfing buddies are reunited for a surf session subtexted by all that “passage into adulthood” business. Malibu the spot was doubled by the Ranch and Costa Rica, but for the final climactic sequence, the crew shot a big day at Sunset Beach, and pushed reality a little bit-12-foot west peaks don't swing through Malibu all that often, but oh well. It's Hollywood.

Toward the end of the Big Wednesday session, the Jan Michael Vincent character wipes out badly, but survives. Apparently they didn't want Jay Riddle or Bill Hamilton to chance the wipeout and lose a double, so they looked elsewhere. Gerry Lopez was involved with the shoot in California and Hawaii and he saw firsthand what happened: “For Big Wednesday, Bruce Raymond and Jackie Dunn were paid $100 each to go out and eat shit as hard as they could. Bruce did his first at Sunset but looking at the dailies, Milius decided it wasn't gruesome enough so had Jackie do his thing at the Pipe. Jackie took off on about a 10' wave, stalled at the top and let himself get pitched, swam in, got the board and went back out and did it three more times - for a hundred dollars. I wouldn't do it for ten thousand. In the editing, they turned the negative upside down and that little cut of Jackie, who looked even more like Jan-Michael than either Billy or Jay, really made the wipe-out sequence work.”

Leonard Brady now works with John Milius in Hollywood, but at the time he was only vaguely acquainted with the director and the shoot. He does remember Bruce Raymond picking up some quick cash for doubling that wipeout at Sunset Beach: “At that time we all hung out at Bernie’s house at Sunset Beach,” Brady remembered. “Bruce Raymond was one of the young Aussie guys and he was always broke so me and Bernie would loan him money when he needed it. Well one day we were all hanging out at Bernie’s and late in the afternoon Bruce Raymond came by with that big smile he wore when he’d pulled something off. He told us he wiped out on purpose for that John Milius movie and got paid $450, which was a decent amount of money at the time. Well the next morning we saw him all hung over and he told Bernie and me that he’d taken Rabbit and Paul Neilson and all the guys out to the Kui Lima, and blew all the money. Good for him. Take care of your friends. That’s what Big Wednesday was all about.”

There is another fairly hairball stunt in the final Big Wednesday sequence, in which two lifeguards in a yellow patrol boat get taken out by a sneak peak. Bill Hamilton was one of the guys in the boat, and the deal he worked with Terry Leonard to do the stunt is pretty classic. “Stunt work is a great way to get paid if you’re into pushing the adrenaline button,” Hamilton said. “The way the guys use science and technology these days to eliminate so much of the deadly stuff is impressive, but you have to hand it to those guys in the 30s and 40s who were going on balls and adrenaline alone. The guy I worked with on Big Wednesday was Terry Leonard who is a legend in the stunt world. He’s the guy in the driver’s seat for that car over the waterfall stunt in Romancing the Stone, and if you watch that stunt close you’ll see how close he got to getting a car on the head.”

Hamilton was in California for the sequences shot at the Ranch in late summer and fall, and it was there he cut the deal that would be consummated in Hawaii. “ While Big Wednesday was shooting in California I sat down with Terry Leonard in Lompoc and tried to make a deal. They wanted two guys in a Santa Monica Lifeguard boat to go up the face at Waimea Bay and dive off for $25,000 a piece. Well I tried to convince Terry that they should just let the boat get taken out by a big peak in the trough, but he wanted what he wanted. I figured if we did that we would go over the falls and probably land on the boat so I told him we’d do it for $25,000 a piece. That was a fair price for that stunt because it was going to involve some preparation and some danger. But the movie was going over budget at the time. Big Wednesday was originally budgeted at $8 million and ended up at around $12 million and so they were cutting stuff. That stunt was one of the things they were going to cut, but I made them a better deal. I told Milius I'd do the stunt for $5,000 and I would provide the boat and the engine and pay the other stuntman. Back on Oahu I found an old crusty boat in the front yard of some Portuguese guy in Haleiwa. This thing was 15 feet long and made of quarter-inch plywood and it was being used as a planter in his front yard. I told the Portuguese guy what I wanted to do with the boat and he almost wouldn’t sell it to me because he said it was too flimsy. But I told him that was what I wanted so he sold the boat and the trailer for $150. I gave Flippy Hoffman $300 for a 40 horsepower engine that was only running on three cylinders and had never been in saltwater. I agreed to pay Michael Myers a thousand dollars to be the other guy. A lot of guys on the North Shore wanted to do the stunt but it was Christmas and Michael had a family so I gave him the job. I painted the boat Santa Monica Lifeguard yellow and went to the Five and Dime and bought red trunks and brown khaki long sleeve shirts for me and Michael. Well the day came and it was a Wednesday, how do you like that? Jeff Johnson helped me tow the boat down from Haleiwa and when we got to Sunset it was like 12 feet going into 15 to 18 on the Second Reef. We drove the boat into the lineup and I found my usual markers for a 12-foot wave and waited. A smaller wave came that lifted the boat but it was too small. The next wave that came was a 12-footer and we knew it was going to get us. Michael Myers had fins on and he dove out a little early, maybe because he was afraid of getting hit by shrapnel because the boat was so flimsy. Well I jumped out when the wave was about six feet in front of the boat, and sure enough, the thing just got obliterated. There were little pieces about a foot long and that was it. They found the gas can floating at Kammie Land three minutes later and the engine ended up on the beach at Sunset three days later. Unfortunately, the shot they were hoping to get from land didn't happen, but Greenough got a decent water shot that squished the wave down and made it a little less dramatic, so the shot goes by pretty fast in the movie. It was a one-shot deal and I wish I'd had another boat to destroy, but that was still the easiest $4000 I ever made.”

Big Wednesday cost $12 million to make and it was released in 1978, falling under the giant shadow of Saturday Night Fever. The movie was absolutely savaged in the American media, by everyone from Pauline Kael to the little man in the chair in the San Francisco Chronicle. “I was devastated,” Milius said. “I wanted to join the French Foreign Legion. Boston and Chicago liked Big Wednesday. And Hawaii. But the rest of the United States? Not so good.”

Big Wednesday was a nostalgic movie released less than 10 years after the period it remembered, and if it was badly received then, it has matured nicely and it definitely plays in Pisa. If the Italians love Jan Michael Vincent’s physical beauty, Gary Busey’s mania, William Katt’s mustache and the misty, water-colored memories of California in turbulent times, who can blame them? Big Wednesday has aged like wine.


Big Wednesday is hated by some, loved by others and had more than a few moments, but It's easy to argue that the greatest surfing scene ever re-created by Hollywood was the “Charlie’s Point” scene in Apocalypse Now. The only cringing in this scene comes from ducking mortar shells with Colonel Kilgore as he checks the surf in the middle of a battle. Apocalypse Now absolutely nailed this scene in every way, and it all goes back to John Milius. Apocalypse Now was John Milius’ inspired lightbulb, while still a film student at USC. He wrote the first screenplay and considered directing it, but handed it off to Francis Ford Coppolla, who directed one of the most important American movies ever made. You’d have to get Milius and Coppola in a room under bright lights to figure which lines and scenes were whose, but there is no question that the surfing scenes came from a surfer, and the surfer was Milius. A lot of people don't know that it was John Milius who put the words into Clint Eastwood’s mouth in the original Dirty Harry, but Milius gets all the credit for the Apocalypse Now words that are engraved on the American and international psyche: “Charlie don't Surf!” “I love the smell of napalm in the morning.” “Soldier, you either surf, or fight!” “You know, this war’s gonna end.” If only it was always as good as that.

Despite all the screaming and hey broing and threats and flared chests on the beach at Charlie’s Point, neither Lance Johnson nor Colonel Kilgore ever paddle out and you’ll have to watch Apocalypse Now Redux to understand why. There are a few brief shots of guys paddling and surfing in fun little waves with a tropical background, but their names are lost in movie legend. Milius was shooting Big Wednesday while the surfing scenes for Apocalypse Now were going in the can, but he heard bits and pieces. “I guess the surf was really good at that beach just before the crew got there, and they had to settle for pretty small surf for the shoot,” Milius said. “It looked nice, but I thought the mortar explosions going off in the surfline were kind of silly.”


After Big Wednesday I really needed a mission. Because I had made Big Wednesday which was a very personal movie to me and [it] was a total financial failure. I thought the only possible honorable thing to do was to join the French Foreign Legion. Needless to say I didn't join the legion but instead I did Conan.

John Milius from the Conan the Barbarian DVD

I think it was such a great idea to hire him. To hire Gerry Lopez because he was like, you know, he looked so believable in this thing, being like a champion surfer always outside and being a guy who is in touch with nature and all that.

Arnold Schwarzenegger from the Conan the Barbarian DVD.

After shooting Big Wednesday, Milius took over a screenplay started by Oliver Stone, which attempted to condense the fantasy novels of Robert E. Howard into a movie: Conan the Barbarian. “The script Oliver handed to me was unusable, like reading drunken poetry,” Milius said. “The spirit was there but it didn't make any sense.” Milius took that basic skeleton and wrote a new story in which Conan was aided in his quest by a Mongol archer named Subotai, and a Viking swordswoman named Valeria. Subotai was a graceful man of mixed Asian descent: quick on his feet and quick-witted, an accomplished archer and swordsman and adventurer. If that sounds a little familiar, it was meant to be: “I wrote the role with Gerry in mind,” Milius said. “We had been running around back then, surfing and getting in trouble and as I wrote the part of Subotai, I used Gerry as an inspiration: his grace, his wit and his sense of humor.”

The part of Conan was always meant for Arnold Schwarzenegger who wasn't as famous as now, but who was still a household word from Pumping Iron and his bodybuilding career. When Milius showed the script to Lopez, the surfer was jazzed and shocked: “Well I liked the screenplay and the story because I had read all of Robert E. Howard’s books,” Lopez said. “but when John said I was the guy for the part of Subotai, I said, ‘You’ve to be kidding, That’s a major part. That is a co-starring role in a major movie. I can’t do that.’ But John said, ‘I’ll be there. I’ll get you through it.’”

Lopez played along thinking he would get knocked out eventually. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Austrian accent was even thicker than Lopez’s hapa-pidgin and when they met producer Dino DeLaurentis for the first time, they didn't make a good impression. “Arnold walked in to Dino’s office and the first he thing he said was, ‘Why does such a little man need such a big desk?’ Dino took one look at Arnold and said, ‘Oh no he’s all wrong.’ don't know what Dino thought of me, but he really did have an enormous desk. But John was a powerful figure in Hollywood and eventually got his way.”

Milius concurs. “Dino and I fought on all kinds of things and that began with the actors. I had Arnold in the movie and he couldn’t talk or act, so I thought why not have Gerry Lopez, too? Well this famous Japanese actor wanted to be in Conan and his agent came in to make a deal but they wanted way too much money. Eventually I told the agent to fuck off, and told him to go back to this client and tell him he had just ruined his career. I wanted Gerry for Subotai.”

The madness continued. Jackie Chan showed an interest in the Subotai role and Lopez figured “Oh well. That’s it. Jackie Chain is a star.” But then Jackie Chan dropped out, and the role was still Gerry’s. “I didn't know anything about acting, but then they got me and Arnold and Sandahl Bergman together, and the three of us together couldn’t act our way out of a wet paper bag, so I didn't feel so alone,” Lopez said, and smiled quietly to himself. “We were supposed to start shooting in summer, but it got postponed until December or January, so we had a lot of time to practice, which we needed. They sent me to different acting schools and classes and one of them was with Mako, who played the Wizard in the movie. He had an acting school for Asian Americans in east Los Angeles that was kind of a dive, but a great experience. I don't know that I learned anything except that I wasn't a very good actor because I got to see a lot of people who were starting out and already good at it.”

Lopez worked by himself and with his co-stars and trainers on stunts and fighting and archery and pretty soon he was in Spain, with Arnold and John and Sandhal and 1500 extras. “I think John was a little intimated by the prospect of spending anywhere between four to six months all by himself in Spain,” Lopez said. “We shot for six months from December through April. Four months in Madrid and two months on the south coast at a place called Almira, where they shot some of the scenes from Lawrence of Arabia. That was the longest I had been away from Hawaii and the longest I had gone with no surfing. At one point I went up to Bilbao with a set decorator to find a bow. I had a surfboard with me and guys were coming around saying there was some good surf in the area, but I didn't go looking. So I blew it there, and didn't surf Mundaka until later. It's proof that God is a goofyfoot.”

Lopez claims that he and Arnold did a terrible screentest and that on the first day of shooting, Milius rolled cameras and saw the level of acting and put his head in his hands: “Jesus, what have I done?” But Milius says it wasn't that bad. “If they had been terrible I wouldn’t have used them. The thing with Lopez and Arnold is that they are both extremely smart. These aren’t just great athletes, they both are what the Hawaiians would call akamai. Working with them was a struggle at times, but I knew that eventually they would get it. And they did. Arnold and Lopez complimented each other nicely.”

Lopez agreed that he and Arnold got along splendidly, despite the language differences: “He was over at my room every other night, because I had the brown rice,” Lopez said, smiling quietly to himself.

Conan: The Barbarian was a John Milius movie so there was more than a little bit of the old in/out, in/out and lashings of ultra violence. As the sidekick to Conan, Lopez was in every tower climb, horse attack and battle, shooting his bow, swinging his sword and thrusting with spears. Side by side with Arnold and Sandahl, Lopez did tower climbs, leapt from rock to rock, jumped, splashed, fell and nearly did himself in on a horse stunt. “I forget what scene it was but I was supposed to leap onto the horse and ride off, but boy did I take a dive. Nothing happened because I landed on sand, but it was a surprise. The Stunt Coordinator Terry Leonard immediately ran into the shot to pick me up because he thought I'd been stepped on by a horse. I was okay.”

Terry Leonard is the Stunt Coordinator on all of Milius’ shows and he nearly did himself in on this one. When the three thieves raid the tower of Thulsa Doom, kill the big snake and steal the diamonds, Sandahl forces one of Doom’s big henchmen down a well shaft. Terry Leonard did a head-first dive 60 feet down that well shaft and almost screwed the pooch. “Terry was supposed to fall 60 feet land headfirst in cardboard boxes. Well his feet hit the wall and he missed the boxes and he hit the ground hard and I thought he was dead. So now I ran into the shot going. ‘Terry are you okay?’ and he opened his eyes and said, ‘Did they say “Cut?”’ I said, ‘Yeah they got the shot.’ And he said, ‘I’m fine.’ ’

In the end, Dino De Laurentis wanted to overdub the lines from Arnold and Gerry, and Milius only won half of that battle. “This was more of Dino’s BS. He stirred up the guys at Universal because he hated me and had lost control of the picture. Well they kept Arnold’s voice but we had to overdub Gerry which was a waste of time. What I did is find a sound guy who helped me find a guy whose voice was exactly like Gerry’s. Subotai’s voice isn't Gerry, but it sounds like Gerry.”

Conan: The Barbarian came out to average box office and average reviews, because “all of John’s movies get bad to average reviews” according to Lopez. Conan did launch Arnold’s acting career which lead to some very good things: The Terminator franchise, Predator and Twins and some so-so things. Gerry admits he got caught up in the glitz and for a while thought about doing the Jackie Chan thing: “ For a brief moment I was entertaining the thought of career in Hollywood,” Lopez said. “I met with an agent and the first thing she said was, ‘Guess you’ll have to move over here,’ and I said ‘What for? I live on Maui,’ and she said, ‘You have to be here for casting calls daily.’ I said, ‘Oh well I guess I don't want to be an actor.’ I left and went to G-land.”

Stay loose, haole.


What's a howlie?


A tourist, a mainlander, like you.


I'm not a tourist.



Whatever, Barney.


What's a Barney?

It's like Barno... Barnyard...
A Howlie to the max, a kook in and out of the water.


Gerry Lopez eventually came back from the G-land jungle in time to further his acting career in North Shore: The Movie, joining Laird Hamilton and Robbie Page and Occy and some of the other water brigade; but their presence didn't save this picture. What can you say about North Shore: The Movie that hasn’t already been ridiculed? The writer/producer Randall Kleiser had already directed Grease and The Blue Lagoon while the director William Phelps had never directed anything before and barely directed anything again. These guys were, sorry to say, a couple of Hollywood Squares who took the Ride the Wild Surf scenario turned it into an Army of one.

Rick Kane is a guy with a Hawaiian-sounding last name, but he is a haole from Arizona who wins a wave-pool contest that gets him to Hawaii to compete in the Pipeline Masters. Ridiculous, yes and the movie was about as contrived as the plot. North Shore: The Movie was another film mishandled by the Hollywood Squares, but it wasn't for lack of horses. They had natural comedians the likes of Robbie Page and Occy, they had great surfers the likes of Laird Hamilton and Gerry Lopez and Shaun Tomson and they had righteous babe Nia Peeples (whose name morphs into Nipples by removing a few letters, by the way). All that, and they still managed to make a pretty clumsy, very 80s movie.

Gerry Lopez acted the role of bad-ass Vince in the movie, and in retrospect he says North Shore could have been mo’ bettah if they’d had mo’: mo’ time, mo’ money and mo’ surf. “Hey, they had six weeks to shoot that movie and not a lot of money and the surf was terrible,” Lopez said. “It was almost like shooting a TV show.” Like most surf movies, North Shore has improved a little with age, if only to remind people of the faces and aces of the 80s on the North Shore, in all its day-glory. “I think I grew to like North Shore more over the years too because I saw how much other people enjoyed it,” Lopez said. “I thought it was corny at first but it had a following and I never realized how many people that movie influenced. I think that if we had had a winter like Blue Crush and that kind of surf at the Pipeline, North Shore would have been a much bigger movie.’


What is most interesting about "Farewell to the King" is its impulse to tell this story at all. It could so easily have become ridiculous, or merely violent, but Milius keeps edging back toward the philosophy of his hero. Learoyd is given several speeches in which he explains why he believes what he believes, and the movie never becomes only an action film. There is a contradiction somewhere, I suppose, in the story of a pacifist isolationist who kills in order to defend his vision, but what the heck, nobody's perfect.

Roger Ebert on Farewell to the King

Gerry Lopez is a bit of the noble savage, but in reverse. Born and raised to be noble in a very Hawaiian way--Punahou, college--he became a savage from so many weeks and months living in the jungle. Lopez was thinking of becoming an architect at one time, but any career plans he might have had were derailed by him being one of the best surfers in the history of the sport. “I’ve always said that about Gerry, that he could have gone on to great things but he was just too good of a surfer,” John Milius said. “I think if Gerry hadn’t been so great on a surfboard, he would have been a Senator or Lieutenant Governor of Hawaii or something. He has that kind of charisma.”

Lopez has a lot more jungle hours than the average American and even the average surfer, and that combined with his acting experience him a natural for Milius’ next movie, Farewell to the King. Nick Nolte is an American GI who escapes a Japanese massacre and becomes the leader of a tribe of Diak headhunters in Borneo. Lopez with all his G-land time was a natural for a movie that called for lots of running through the jungle, and he was cast as Gwai. “I was a headhunter. Not as big as Conan but it was a pretty good part.”


Shot in Borneo. East Malaysia. Sarawak. Northern Borneo.

didn't surf on that shot call down to G-land all the time because though I could get away for enough time to go down and go surfing but it didn't work out the production was too tight. I think it was about three months. Kuching and I think we were in the TraveLodge which was a pretty nice hotel for down there. And again I was cooking my room. Everyone else got room and got sick but I was fine. I liked it there during durian season.

He exaggerates.

Just hot brass from the machine guns. I wouldn’t call them stunts climbing up a tree or things that actors would be afraid to do Had a double in Conan just for second unit stuff. Like doing your own stunts. Weren’t really stunts to speak of there was one in Conan where the stunt double for Arnold and I ended up doing the thing. It was a pretty good stunt jumped off the tower. Very first day of shooting on Conan very first scene filming Arnold being chased by the wolves which were German Shepherd spray painted had this big I don't know cloak fur cloak and then he chasing him and he finds these rock and climbs up the rocks and the wolves dogs were trained to jump and grab the cloak and pull it off him grabbed the cloak attacked him right off the rocks flat on his back pretty good fall everybody the producers thought, “Oh shit there goes the movie.”

“I got my first stitches before it was noon.”

He was okay shook up six feet off the ground.



The only way to win out here is to surrender. You have to feel what the wave is doing, accept its energy, get in sync.
Just feel it all moving in the blackness.

Patrick Swayze as Bodhi in Point Break.

Point Break walked that thin line between clever and stupid, and had its moments, Great and Cringey. FBI Special Agent Johnny Utah (Keanu Reeves) chasing psycho-babbling bank-robber Bodhisattva (Patrick Swayze) in a Ronald Reagan mask through a South Bay neighborhood was Great. The chemistry between Pappas (Gary Busey) and Johnny Utah was believable and funny. Some of Bodhi’s psycho-babble lines rate among the Cringiest lines Hollywood has ever put in a surfer’s mouth. Does anyone out there know a surfer with a nickname like War Child? Seeing a real actor like Patrick Swayze go backward out the door of a perfectly good airplane was pretty Great and it was Great to see Turtle again without the hideous pidgin accent. Some of the surfing by Matt Archbold and others in Point Break was Great, although some of the editing was Cringey, as, yet again, Hollywood didn't bother to figure out the difference between regular and goofy foot, lefts and rights. Taken all together, Point Break maybe tottered toward C more than G, but the Greatest thing about it was that stunt at the end, with hairball hellman Darrick Doerner wiping out at Waimea accidentally on purpose, and bodysurfing to the bottom of a gaping, 20-foot Waimea barrel. No special effects or CGI here. That was one guy putting his neck on the line fo’ reals to keep it real. That was, as they say in Hollywood, a hell of a trick.

One of the cliches launched by Ride the Wild Surf landed in Point Break. Take a poll of just about every movie made about big-wave surfing and you’ll find that they end with a day of giant surf and a brush with death: Big Wednesday? Jan Michael-Vincent almost buys it. In God’s Hands? Matt George rocks off into the deep. Blue Crush? Anne Marie takes a licking at Pipe but keeps on ticking. North Shore: The Movie? See Blue Crush. Sticking very much to this formula, Point Break ends with Special Agent Utah tracking Cop Killer Bodhisattva around the globe for two years, and finally getting his man at Bell’s Beach where Swayze shows up to surf the “50 year storm” he had predicted years earlier. Ludicrous, yes, as is the line, “It’s death on a stick out there, mate,” and the Australian accent on the cop who says “We’ll get him when he comes back eeeeeeiii in!” After a water fight, Utah has Bodhi handcuffed and busted, but in one of the finest bro gestures ever caught on film, Utah lets Bodhi go to ride the wild surf one last time. Bodhi paddles out as the guy with the bad Australian accent screeches, “You leeeeet heeeeem gieeeoooo!” and then Bodhi takes off on a 50-year monster and eats the Mortal Doughnut. But that’s not Matt Archbold as Bodhi, It's none other than for-real wild-eyed, adrenal junkie hellman Darrick Doerner.

According to Doerner, the whole thing started with that photo of DD taking off on one of the biggest waves ever ridden, on Super Bowl Sunday, 1988. “The Point Break producers came to Hawaii and they were auditioning in town,” Doerner remembered. “Foo and Bradshaw and all these guys drove in to audition and I didn't know about it because I was lifeguarding. Well Patrick Swayze whipped out that picture of me from Super Bowl Sunday and he said, ‘Hey I want to meet this guy.’ So they tracked me down and we had a rendezvous at Chun’s Reef. I paddled out and there he was in the lineup.

I said, ‘Howzit, I'm Darrick.’

He said, ‘I’m Patrick Swazye and I want you to die for me.’

I said, ‘I don't die for anyone.’

And boom I got the job. A lot of guys were bummed.”

Doerner and Swayze became fast friends and they spent the duration of the shoot “sneaking around the island of Oahu,” according to Doerner. “Everywhere that guy went the chicks went nuts, but he’s married and a really true blue guy. Faithful wife. He’s a straight shooter and I like that.”

Darrick had worked on North Shore: The Movie a little and also Big Wednesday, but Point Break was his biggest show. Since then he has worked on In God’s Hands and Die Another Day and a number of shows and he knows the business much better. Looking back on Point Break with a lot more movie experience tucked next to the flippers under his belt, Doerner would do things a lot different if he had to do it again. “Point Break was hard because they didn't know exactly what they wanted. There was no storyboard and so I had to wipe out over and over again. Six times I did it, broke seven boards and perforated my eardrum on the second try. That one hurt. And they tried to die my hair blonde and it came out pink and orange and it burned my scalp and people were laughing at me. I went over to Makaha side one time and Mel Pu’u tried to chase me out of the water because he didn't think I was me. Well the producers left and then came back and said, ‘We want you to do the Iron Cross when you take off.’”

That was then and this is now and many of the high-tech luxuries that North Shore surfers take for granted now didn't exist then. The buoy reports and satellite reports weren’t as refined as they are now, and there weren’t two WaveRunners in every garage and six out in the lineup. Doerner felt the pressure and he didn't like it. “The producers were like, ‘When’s it going to happen?’ and I'm saying, ‘Hey I'm just a surfer. I don't control the ocean. It does what it wants.’ I didn't have any Water Safety hovering around on WaveRunners and no one was blocking for me. It was just me out there in a wetsuit with orange hair. The other times I had done the wipeout all the braddahs in the water didn't care that I was shooting a Hollywood movie. Booby Jones and Ricardo Pomar and some other guys were out there and the pecking order was in place and I had to hustle for waves with the rest of them and it was hard to focus on what I needed to do. Well when they wanted me to do it again I called Laird and I said, ‘Hey I want you to be my friend and be out in the water with me when I have to do this.’ You know? Because I wasn't sleeping so good, knowing I had to jump off a four-story building again. Laird said he’d do it and he didn't ask for a dollar. Well the day came and Laird played traffic cop for me and that helped, but I still had to go through the pecking order. When my turn came Laird said, ‘Okay everyone just stop,’ and I pulled that one really cool Iron Cross at the top then jumped and got down the face. It was like, splash, bounce bounce, oh woohoo barrel ride. I bodysurfed right into a giant right barrel and it was really cool. I looked across Waimea Bay and could see the cliff and the cars and people and the hills, looking out of this giant barrel.”

On film, the wipeout is nucking futs, and you have to wonder how much control even the most experienced surfer has in a situation like this, bodysurfing to the bottom of a 20-foot pit. But Doerner was absolutely in his prime when he did that stunt in 199?, and he pulled it off. He popped right out the back of that thing, and when he came to the surface he was in Hawaiian and Hollywood legend. “I popped up and I could hear all these car horns honking and people were hooting and screaming and someone was yelling, ‘That’s a wrap!’ I don't think it was Laird,” Doerner said. “Well that wipeout came out pretty good on film but looking back I didn't handle the deal very well. I don't want to say how much I was paid but I didn't ask for residuals and I had ear problems for three years after that because of the wipeout. So, yeah, if I were doing it again I'd have more Water Safety and I'd cut a better deal and I'd want the producers to have a better idea of what they wanted.”

But hey, as they say, that’s show biz.

Maybe it was his experience with Point Break that kept Doerner from working on the next big water show to come to town, Water World. What was supposed to be a six-week shoot that needed a lot of experienced water stuntmen became a six-month shoot that broke the bank for Buzzy Kerbox, Brian Keaulana, Laird Hamilton and Terry Ahue.


For sure you can get screwed up big time doing stunts. You can die but at the same time you've gotta know that fine line. you've gotta be like one cat and real fast.

Brian Keaulana, the most experienced of all the surfers-turned-stuntmen.

Kevin Costner should only direct movies in which he stars, so he only has to work with his favorite actor.

Kevin Reynolds, director of Water World.

When Steven Spielberg was preparing to direct Jaws, and was nervous about the continuity problems of shooting on water, John Milius bro’d him out: “ I told Steven just to shoot it and forget it,” Milius said. “I mean jumping from a glassy ocean to a full gale wasn't acceptable, but he shouldn’t worry about the background jumping from dead glass to light chop. I said that the ocean surface and light changes from angle to angle anyway, and he should just shoot it and piece it together. And that is what he did. He had to, eventually. He says to this day. ‘I finally had to do it the way John suggested it.’ And it came out not so bad.” Surfers watching Jaws might snicker at the continuity problems as the ocean goes from dead glass to morning sickness to almost Victory at Sea in the background, but the rest of the world was absolutely glued to the boat and the guys and their struggle with that fricking shark. Spielberg shot it and forgot it and Jaws came out okay. That movie did some business. It earned a nice dollar.

When Kevin Reynolds was preparing to shoot Water World, he told Milius that they were preparing an elaborate, moveable atoll and they would shoot off the north shore of the Big Island, from summer into fall. Milius tried to bro out that fledgling director, but it didn't work. “I said forget it, don't shoot it in Hawaii. Anywhere but Hawaii. I told him he was going to set up his location on the north side of a Hawaiian island and that was the worst place to be.” Milius said. “But Kevin Reynolds told me, ‘We’ll be out of there by the end of October.’ But I knew that wasn't good enough. I told Kevin he was guaranteed at least one 10 to 15-foot swell. I told him it could come up in minutes and he could lose his atoll and possibly lose some lives. I suggested he find a place in the Caribbean with lots of open ocean and reefs, but he didn't listen and shot in Hawaii anyway.”

Jaws cost $12 million to make and grossed $470 million worldwide. Water World cost $175 million to make and grossed $225 million worldwide.

Water World was a filmmaker’s aquapolypse that nearly killed a movie studio, the director Kevin Reynolds and the star Kevin Costner. The pressure and tension on that set did kill their friendship and it tried to kill a few of the stuntmen. The floating atoll was nearly destroyed by a big swell, but it was also one big floating cash register for the likes of Terry Ahue, Brian Keaulana, Buzzy Kerbox and Laird Hamilton.

By the time Buzzy Kerbox flew to the Big Island to work on Water World he was no stranger to face time in front of the camera. One of the pioneers of pro surfing, Kerbox’ all-American, healthy kisser and squared-off physique snagged him a very lucrative Ralph Lauren modeling contract from 1978 to 1983. During those years, Kerbox found himself pulled on one arm by the glitz of New York in the prime of Studio 54, and the other by surfing in the Golden Days of pro surfing: Richards, Tomson, Rabbit, Kealoha.

Buzzy’s stunt career began with a Ralph Lauren Chaps commercial in 1982, when he galloped a horse across a creek, which he considered a stunt. “ If you’re not a rider that was kind of a stunt,” Kerbox said, and smiled quietly to himself. “The Ralph Lauren people flew me in to New York and asked if I could ride. Of course I said, ‘Yes. I'm a good horse rider.’ Then they took me to Central Park and checked me out and said ‘Oh god this guy is hopeless.’ So I had to take a three-hour crash course through Central Park and got it down enough to shoot the commercial. Well it was worth it because that commercial ran for a long time and I probably made $100,000 on it all together.”

Kerbox considers his first real stunt a waterfall dive for a Mountain Dew commercial. “I heard through a casting agent that Mountain Dew were making a commercial so I went to audition. They wanted someone who could ride a boogie board off a waterfall. They had asked Mike Stewart and he wasn't into it so I said ‘Yeah, yeah. I’ll do it.’ They flew me to the Big Island and we found a waterfall that was about 50 feet. I looked at it and checked it out with stunt coordinator. We dove the bottom and said, ‘I can do this.’ We came back two weeks later and there were 40 people there and they said. ‘Okay, do it.’”

The jump was a little hairy. Where the waterfall plume hit, the water was about four feet deep but out from there it was 20 feet deep, so Buzzy had to get some lateral distance. “I couldn’t actually ride the bodyboard over the falls because of the river. They filmed me sliding down the river on the boogieboard, then I stopped and stood on a rock with the board and dove. I went in headfirst which made me a little nervous, and I pitched the board away at the last second. I did the jump three times about 20 minutes apart and hurt my neck a little. They brought in Laird Hamilton to do the jump as a backup, but they ended up using me.”

Buzzy believes he was paid $4,000 to shoot the stunt but with residuals it was all worth around $15,000.

Buzzy had a SAG card when the Water World production brigade invaded the Big Island and Kerbox found himself in the right place at the right time. “I had some experience with PWC from tow surfing and I also had ridden those Jet Boards, which weren’t easy,” Buzzy said. “Brian Keaulana and Terry Ahue were already on the stunt crew and then Laird came on and they needed one more guy. Well I had a SAG card and Darrick Doerner didn't, so I got the job. I think I was the last guy hired in a 55-man stunt crew. That movie turned out to be the Golden Goose.”

The Water World shoot turned out to be as apocalyptic as the story it tried to tell. There is no movie star more temperamental than the ocean, and shooting on water is almost always a continuity nightmare for conscientious directors. Well Kevin Reynolds was a C.D. and the massiveness of the shoot-which involved dragging that atoll out to sea every day-wasn't made any easier by shooting on the exposed north shore of the Big Island, in a place whose Hawaiian name meant “Crazy Winds.”

“I flew to the Big Island for what was supposed to be four to six weeks of shooting and it turned into six months,” Kerbox said. “We were paid the whole time and they kept me on for almost the entire duration because I had a big stunt at the end. I saw some dangerous things on Water World. The top stunt guys were doing all the more dangerous stunts and I mostly did the low-level stuff-driving boats in circles around the atoll and attacking. As controlled as they try to keep everything it was still dangerous. There were some near-misses. I mostly did the puppy stunts. Probably that waterfall jump was more risky than anything I did on Water World.

In the movie Kevin Costner bungee-jumps out of a balloon and snatches a little girl out of harm’s way, and after that the Smokers on Jet Skis collide and there is an explosion. “Well I was one of the Smokers and so they kept me around for another tow months,” Kerbox said. “We did a ton of stunts on that movie, things that never made the movie, but that crash at the end was my best scene.”

Brian Keaulana was one of the four happy Hawaiians who worked on Water World. He has done dozens of shows since, but remembers Water World as one of the best: “On Water World I think I did the most stunts on that show because Laird and Buzzy and Terry, the four of us guys worked for like eight months,” Keaulana said. “We did all kinds of things and some of them were dangerous. We did the Smoker stunts where the Jet Skis would come flying up from under water and get air and then keep going. We’d be down there breathing on air hoses until the director said ‘Action’ and then the skis would go from 0 to 60 out of the water. The first time we did the stunt the machines just blew out of our hands, so we tried a suicide wrap which kept the skis in our hands but would allow us let go if we wanted to let go. We did that and then other stunts where they’d use air rams to launch the skis into the air over the walls of the Atoll. It was nuts. We were lit on fire and shooting real guns with blanks and rocket launchers while driving the skis. We had planned crashes into one another and what else? So much stuff. They shot flaming arrows at us. Eight months. Fun.”

Keaulana and Kerbox both mentioned that a number of stunt guys on the Water World show were surfers. “There were a lot of guys working on that movie and you couldn’t even count how many of them who were full-on radical stunt guys who loved to surf,” Kerbox said. “ Even the Second Unit director was a surfer.” Kerbox figures the final product used about 10% of all the stunts he and his friends did. The Water World shoot made Hollywood legend as the most expensive Hollywood production ever, topping out at $175 million. Kerbox said the producers “weren’t shy about spending money” and he figures he made about $100,000 for six month’s work. “They paid us well per day and per stunt and per diem. My wife’s parents had a house a half an hour away so I stayed there and pocketed the per diem,” Kerbox said and smiled quietly to himself.

IN GOD’S HANDS. (1998)

The wind up the face is going to be like nothing you ever felt.
The wave’s an animal.

Shane Dorian in In God’s Hands

Perhaps the biggest crime of In God’s Hands is that it managed to be fairly humorless. Surfers are funny people. You know. Hang around with Tom Carroll or Brad Gerlach for a few minutes when they’re on and you’ll see. Taking a natural comedian like Shane Dorian and turning him into an insular, thousand-yard-staring sourpuss was a mistake, and the rest of the attempts at humor are pretty shrieky with one exception. When Matt George says to Shane Dorian, “God, I'm treating you like a chick,” he nails the line and the shot and It's pretty funny.

Shane Dorian’s surfing in In God’s Hands is worth the price of admission, and there are other surfing highlights from the likes of Todd Chesser and Brian Keaulana who both pulled into career tube-rides at Backdoor and Jaws. In God’s Hands had the talent and the chance to make history, but missed the chance and earned another C rating.

The story behind the story of In God’s Hands could be a movie itself, if they ever make a movie about the life of Todd Chesser, and maybe they should. In God’s Hands ends with a life or death day of giant surf in which Shane Dorian’s character faces his fears and gets life, and Matt George’s character faces the future and gets death. Like Point Break, the producers needed to stage an epic wipeout at the end except this time the wave was Jaws and not Waimea Bay. Going over the falls in the worst possible place at Jaws is not something anyone is willing to do for any amount of money-some people consider it stupid, others consider it disrespectful of the spot. But Todd Chesser was doubling for Matt George and was game to do something. When the day came, Chesser flew from Maui to Oahu for reasons that went down with him when he drowned for real at Outside Log Cabins. Truth was stranger than fiction in this case, and that story on its own is a thousand times more dramatic than what made it to the screen.

Buzzy Kerbox was pulled from the sidelines to do the final wipeout for In God’s Hands, and he still isn't exactly sure why. “I wasn't working on In God’s Hands with all the guys and I was a little bummed I didn't get any part of it,” Kerbox said. “Todd Chesser had been doing most of the surfing for Matt George and all along he was going to do the big wipeout at Jaws for the end of the movie. But when that day came he left Maui and went back to Oahu. I'm not sure why Todd didn't want to do it. Never heard the bottom line. But I was there on Maui and I was picked to do the wipeout. We negotiated pretty much on the spot. I think it was $2500 for the day and a per wipeout adjustment which was like a few hundred dollars per wipeout.”

A few hundred dollars per wipeout adds up when you do 15 of them and that is how many times Kerbox ate it on purpose at Jaws over two days in February of 1995. The producers knew what they wanted, they just weren’t exactly sure how to go about getting it. “The biggest day was the first day we shot. The scariest part for me was knowing I was going to wipeout on whatever came in and whatever came in I was going. I don't wipeout at Jaws that often. I've had some bad ones, but the bigger it gets the more cautious I get. Wiping out on purpose didn't appeal to me too much because you never know what is going to happen there. You could wipe out not too bad and then the next wave is a monster and it gets you on the head. It's just weird. You spend all your time out there trying not to wipe out and then the next thing you know you’re doing it on purpose.”

The stunt was overlooked by cameras and a platoon of Water Safety which included Brian Keaulana and others on PWC. WAS THERE AN AMBULANCE AND A HELICOPTER STANDING BY? HOW RIGOROUS WERE THE SAFETY PRECAUTIONS?

When asked if he would ever wipe out in the pit at Jaws like he did at Waimea Bay, Darrick Doerner said, “Hell no. Do you think I'm crazy?” When asked the same question, Brian Keaulana laid it down like a true pro: “I think there are very few people in the world that have the skill and knowledge to survive a huge wipeout like that. What I can tell you that it takes 5 things to make it a success."

1. A knowledgeable, experienced big wave surfer who is in the best of shape and has control of the decision making process of when and what part of the wave that person will do the stunt.

2. Negotiate how much the stunt will cost and how many times he is willing to do the wipeout.

3. Hire the best cameramen and get as much camera angles by land water and air.

4. That person’s rescue and medical response team that he trains with of his choosing.

5. The last is trust yourself, trust your planning, trust your people, and trust in god.

Well Buzzy Kerbox was crazy enough to try something, and like everything else in Hollywood it took multiple takes. “What they wanted was me coming unglued on the face. They wanted it to be as dramatic as possible but they didn't necessarily want me going over with the lip. In the movie the wipeout isn't supposed to kill the Mickey character. It just takes him to the bottom where he grabs a rock and runs off with it. They wanted dramatic.”

Out of the 15 wipeouts Kerbox did over the next few days, the money shot came early on the first day. “The shot we used I was on the shoulder and it was no big deal. I was warming up and ready for more. They called no sets for a while and they called it off for the day. And the next day was smaller. So what could have happened was more scary than what did happen.”

While Buzzy Kerbox was wiping out for fame and fortune on Maui, Todd Chesser was on Oahu, looking for a little peace and quiet on the North Shore. Brock Little thinks Chesser shined it because he wanted to be home for Valentine’s Day with his wahine.

Others believe all the sound and fury of the movie shoot wore Chesser down and he wanted to wash it off with some solitude. For whatever reason, Chesser paddled out at Outside Log Cabins that day with two other guys. He had been warned by a Civil Defense worker that the swell was coming up, but he shrugged it off. There were none of those hated WaveRunners around and plenty of peace and quiet. But Chesser and Cody Graham got caught by a huge wave, and Chesser came to the surface unconscious. If there had been WaveRunners around, Chesser might have survived.

What is your usual price for movie stuntwork?
I've got to compete with guys who do the job for free trying to make a name for themselves. To you, that means S.A.G. (Screen Actor’s Guild) minimum. Between the chislers and the enormous amount of stock footage floating around, negotiation is difficult. If Hollywood wants the job done right the first time, they should get the best and that’s me. If the producer won’t pay my price, let him get the riff-raff. In the long run, It's going to cost him plenty.

Mickey Dora: Surf Stuntman, SURFER July 1965

Brock Little knows how to fall. He proved that spectacularly at the 1990 Quiksilver in Memory of Eddie Aikau at Waimea, when he scratched into a big black Darth Vader 30-footer, fell halfway down the face, went over the falls and survived. The various scars on Brock’s face suggest he has never been afraid to take a fall, and he has always been fond of jumping off things, driving too fast, crashing cars and blowing shit up.

At the First Annual SURFER Magazine Surf Video Awards in 1996, Brock was asked to be the Guest Presenter for the Trophee du Beavis and Butthead--which awards the kind of behavior that responsible people frown upon. The brilliant editors of that first Video Awards acknowledged Brock’s weird character traits and cut together an intro that first showed him jumping feet-first from the rail of a big, rusty shipwreck in Western Australia. Then he was shown rodeoing a Costa Rican rent-a-car in circles on hard sand at the edge of a jungle, with Matt Archbold sticking his hands and head from the window. That shot cut to a bruised and bloodied Brock and a still-living Archbold in front of that completely destroyed rent a car. Then Brock is in Alaska, trotting furtively over toward a campfire, placing something in the middle of it and running away. We hear Jeff Clark’s voice yell “Fire!” then a shot is fired and then the propane canister explodes into bits of red-hot shrapnel.

Have you seen Jackass? Brock and his friends were ahead of their time. Professionally jumping off high shit, crashing shit and blowing shit up is the domain of the stuntman. That 1996 Video Awards intro was a glimpse of the future, because within four years, Brock had stepped away from life as a full-time surfer and stepped into a second thriving career as a Hollywood stuntman.

“This all goes back to Brian Keaulana” Brock testifies. “Brian gave me my first jobs, and those lead to bigger things.”

Brock did Water Safety and some of the stunts on In God’s Hands. That is Brock, not Shane Dorian, running under water with the rock barefoot across a reef, and he also did one valiant but doomed high pull-in, into a shutdown barrel while filming at Jaws. Most of the time, Brock was behind the camera, doing Water Safety on WaveRunners and in boats, keeping a weather eye on the likes of Matt George and Matty Liu. “Shane Dorian could take care of himself,” Brock said. “He just didn't want to hurt his little feetsies running under water with the rock.”

Brock got his SAG card from In God’s Hands and that lead to work on the ill-fated Wind on Water spinoff TV show, and quite a bit of work on Baywatch: Hawaii. “I did about a dozen shows for Baywatch,” Brock said. “Mostly Water Safety but a few odds and ends. I did a mellow car hit with a skateboard and I also jumped out of a burning boat. I also had a small speaking part as a drowning victim in the show called Heroes.

Being a stunt man is all about being in the right place at the right time and that applies both to getting jobs and surviving them. With In God’s Hands and Baywatch and other shows on his resume, Brock was perfectly in position when Oahu was invaded by the planes, ships and explosives of Hollywood.

When Pearl Harbor came to Hawaii, it was an invasion of money and movie stars and expectations and hype and the most extravagant stunts and special effects ever attempted. There would be cars to crash and hangars to blow up and ships to jump off and all in all it was a hellman’s holiday. Director Michael Bey and Stunt Coordinator Kenny Bates knew what they were up against by land and sea but they knew who to call: Brian Keaulana.

John Milius sees Brian Keaulana as “the inheritor of the Duke Kahanamoku image. The noble savage. The responsible Hawaiian waterman.” And Brian’s resume backs that up: 1991 Quiksilver Aikau Waterman Award, 1990 HLSA Sportsman of the Year. A City and County of Honolulu Lifeguard, Keaulana is following in the footsteps of Tom Blake and Pete Peterson by innovating the use of rescue sleds behind Personal Water Craft for heavy surf and impact zone rescues.

The fortunate son of Buffalo, Brian is fast like one cat, and as Hawaiian as SPAM musubi. Brian grew up on the West Side and had been doing commercials since he was 17 and had picked up a fair bit of experience with cameras and camera angles and the politics and problems of film production. By 1990 he was a Captain of District Four in the Lifeguards for the City and County of Honolulu and he had taken a wide variety of First Aid, management and psychology classes. He had worked on North Shore: The Movie and Point Break and other shows, and by the middle 90s he was an unusual combination of talents which turned out to be invaluable to the non-stop commercials, TV and movie shows that came to Honolulu. It was around the time of In God’s Hands that he started to go pro.

The ocean is more temperamental and a bigger pain in the ass then Keanu Reeves plus Wynona Ryder multiplied by Robert Downey Junior. Time is money during a movie shoot, so when producers come to Hawaii looking for someone with lifesaving experience and local connections, someone who can read the shorthand of wind and swell and tide and who understand the on land politics of Hawaii as well as the temperament of the ocean, they go straight to Brian Keaulana. He was been working non-stop ever since. “The stunt world It's not real small and It's not real big,” Keaulana explains. “There’s a lot of top athletic professional guys and everyone has their niche. Some guys deal in fire and other guys do jumps and some guys specialize in water. Well I do all of those other things but when a show comes to town that will be working on the ocean, they’ll contact me and we’ll go from there.”

During a week in November of 2002, Brian Keaulana was plenty busy and moving fast as one cat, juggling two major shows and employing about a dozen of his friends. “This week I'm working with Terry Ahue and Petey Johnson on The Big Bounce with Owen Wilson and Morgan Freeman and Charlie Sheen and Willie Nelson and them and It's a pretty big cast and a big show. Well Paramount called me to coordinate a surfing shoot for Charlie’s Angels II but I had to tell them I was only available on weekends. So they adjusted their schedule to fit mine, yeah? I hired Lisa Anderson to double for Cameron Dias and Tamayo Perry for another guy and we got some great shots. I had to go back to The Big Bounce on Monday so I brought in Brock to coordinate the rest of the Charlie’s Angels II shoot. I'm one busy guy, yeah? But the money’s good. Without giving away all the secrets I can say I'm doing better than the $36,000 a year I was earning with the City and County, for sure. The secret is teaching the wife how to save and not spend.”

Kenny Bates is one guy who knows how to spend. As one of Hollywood’s top stunt coordinators, Bates has worked with Michael Bay on some of the biggest shows of the last 15 years, including Bad Boys, The Rock and Armageddon. When Pearl Harbor got the green-light for a record production budget, Bay and Bates teamed up and took their elaborate plans to Hawaii. “When Michael Bay and I came to Hawaii we wanted to meet with Brian Keaulana and all the local guys in one place,” Bates said. “ I forget which hotel it was but we kept them waiting a couple of hours. When we walked in I was wearing shorts and a t-shirt and had hair down to the middle of my back. Michael Bay is kind of a skinny guy in torn jeans. So There's Brian Keaulana and Brock and Mike Trisler and Terry Ahue and some other guys. Well Brian stood up and said ‘Here they are. Meet the Director and the Stunt Coordinator.’ And I remember Brock and some of the others looking past us and saying, ‘Where are they?’ and Brian going, ‘No, It's these two guys.’ And you could almost see the thought bubbles over their heads, like. ‘Naw it can’t be these two guys who are going to spend $200 million.’ So maybe we didn't make such a good first impression, but it got better from there and we all became pretty good friends.”

At first, the Hawaiian contingent were there for Water Safety. Pearl Harbor had dozens of guys jumping off of ships in elaborate, choreographed patterns into shallow water as many as 30 times a day, with fireballs going off overhead threatening to suck the air out of their lungs, and underwater explosions threatening to collapse lungs. There had been a couple of deaths on Tora, Tora, Tora, and Bates was determined to do this incredibly elaborate shoot with no injuries. For that they looked to Brian Keaulana and friends to be just outside of the shot on WaveRunners, or in the shot, ready to give aid if anyone belly-flopped or had a destroyer land on their head. At first the Hawaiians were Water Safety but they spent so much time in front of the camera that they were promoted. “At some point during the shoot the director Michael Bey looked at me and Trisler and said, ‘Put these guys in uniform and let them do everything.’” Brock Little said, and then smiled quietly to himself. “Which was nice of him.”

“Everything” included jumping from ships and dodging strafing runs and fireballs and shrapnel. The stunt guys on Pearl Harbor set a record for blowing shit up, and some of that shit was dangerous, “It was more dangerous than I thought,” Brock said. “When you’re running past exploding 55-gallon barrels of gasoline, one wrong turn and you could get barbequed. I also spent two weeks in Rosarito Beach, Baja with Brian and some other guys to work on the ship in the tank, the same place they filmed Titanic. We were jumping off into pretty shallow water and then ducking as the fireball went off overhead. I know now why stunt guys get paid so much. It's a controlled situation, but you can still get hurt. You can get killed. But they hire guys who aren’t going to get hurt. Kenny trusts my judgment and I trust his.”

Brock was on hand when a stunt pilot nearly got killed when he crashed his plane during a scene. Beyond that, the only serious injury on the entire Pearl Harbor shoot was a separated shoulder. No one knocked unconscious. No one drowned. No heart attacks. When you watch the movie, It's hard to believe. Brock and Trisler and Keaulana and Ahue and Pete Johnson and many others were there for the whole elaborate shoot, got paid a nice dollar, and essentially had their lives changed. “Brock and Trisler have told me repeatedly that Pearl Harbor changed their lives, but they changed mine, too,” Bates said. “Brock took me surfing at Waikiki and was right there when I stood up on my first wave. And then later I was surfing by Trisler’s house when a wave broke my nose. I rode around the North Shore with those guys on the WaveRunners and got close to some big waves. So when I was in their element it was pretty scary but they spent some time in my element which can be pretty scary, too. I remember when Tris first got to the set I threw him right into a scene. We were using 55-gallon barrels of gasoline wired with primer cord, so the primer cord goes off and sends the gasoline up in a big spray mixed with black powder and then that explodes. Well I threw Tris right into the fire, so to speak. I told him there would be a lot of noise and there would be a fireball about 15 feet over his head. I showed him where he would dive and roll and come up behind a jeep. I told him he wouldn’t be able to hear me once the shot started so I got him prepared. We rolled the shot and he didn't really do the roll and I remember the first words he said to me when the shot was done, ‘Holy shit!’”

Brock got a trial by fire, so to speak, on Pearl Harbor. Stunt work is all about being in the right place at the right time, and Brock was in the right place at the right time and met the right people. Being a semi-famous big-wave surfer who was renowned for one giant fall at Waimea Bay didn't hurt in an industry populated by athletic guys who love to surf and fall for a living. From Pearl Harbor Brock got work on Windtalkers, another World War II movie, starring Nicholas Cage. Trisler broke his leg on that show, and Brock showed his dedication to stunt work by missing the Eddie Aikau event at Waimea, the contest won by Ross Clarke Jones, and the Cortes Bank expedition. “I was in the Santa Clarita desert and it was freezing cold and there were explosions going off when Flame called me but I said I couldn’t do it. You say you’re going to be somewhere and you have to be there,” Brock said. “You don't want to be known as a flake in Hollywood. Especially in the stunt world. I don't want to be known as ‘the surfer’ in Hollywood, the guy who runs off when the waves get good or I have to surf a contest.”

Brock doubled for the actor Mark Ruffalo in WindTalkers which involved a lot of running around and shooting and getting shot and fireballs and blowing shit up, at locations in California and Hawaii. “Ruffalo was coordinated and wanted to do everything himself. So I sat on my hands for a lot of the time on Windtalkers, but I also got to do some cool stuff. This was a John Woo movie and he likes to go big. It bothered me to miss the Eddie and the Cortes Bank trip and I always hate being away from Hawaii, but Windtalkers lead to a lot more work.”

If you saw Oceans 11, one of the cops chasing Matt Damon around on the rooftop was Brock. He taught Colin Hanks to surf at County Line for the movie Orange County, and he got to drive crazy and blow shit up and meet Hannibal the Cannibal and Chris Rock in Prague for Bad Company.

Brock worked with Kenny Bates on the rigging for those Microsoft ads that showed people flying around scored by a Madonna song, and since Pearl Harbor he was worked steadily, doing whatever work Hollywood asked of him. And all of that lead to bigger things. Notably Blue Crush and the arduous task of squiring around young, blonde, pretty Kate Bosworth, turning her into a surfer girl and wrapping his arms around her and duck-diving her through nasty, double-ups at Pipeline.

I thought Blue Crush was great

Gerry Lopez. November 19, 2002


Of all the stunts done by watermen and waterwomen going all the way back to Duke and Tom Blake, it was delicatough, girl midget Rochelle Ballard who came the closest to being seriously injured. More than 40 years after Mickey Munoz and Linda Benson doubly redoubled for “skinny, blonde Hollywood actress” Sandra Dee in Gidget, Rochelle Ballard was chosen as a surfing and body double for “skinny, blonde Hollywood actress” Kate Bosworth, who played Anne Marie in Blue Crush. Rochelle did almost all of the doubling for Kate Bosworth, from small days at Beach Park to medium-sized days at Laniakea to big days at Backdoor and Pipeline and Avalanche. Rochelle did 99.99 percent of the surfing for Kate Bosworth in Blue Crush, and the magazines did Rochelle a disservice by creating the impression that it was Noah Johnson dressed as a chick who did all the serious surfing at Pipeline and Avalanche. In Blue Crush, that girl s-turning down the face of a pretty damned big at Avalanche is Rochelle Ballard.

The girl eating shit at Pipeline is Rochelle Ballard and the girl ripping small Beach Park is Rochelle Ballard. Noah Johnson does ride one epic wave at Pipe dressed as a girl to end the movie, but that came about only because Rochelle Ballard was nearly paralyzed in a collision while doubling for Kate Bosworth at Laniakea.


Rochelle was jazzed to be a part of the Blue Crush shoot. Brian Grazer the producer and John Stockwell the director had come to Hawaii to tell the story of young women surfers struggling for courage, money, respect and self-respect, and the more that Rochelle hung out with Grazer and Stockwell, the more she realized they wanted to get it right. Grazer and Stockwell were surfers, they listened to what the girls had to say and they hired the right people--Don King, Sonny Miller, Brian Keaulana, Brock Little, Terry Ahue, Sanoe Lake. They even borrowed the Blue Crush title from one of Bill Ballard’s videos. It was all good, as they say, and the money wasn't so bad, either.

Rochelle started work a week before Christmas and stayed on the shoot for the duration. She was there to surf and duck-dive and get caught inside and paddle through heaving lineups for Kate Bosworth, and she did it all from Beach Park to Laniakea to Pipeline and Backdoor. While working on the show she knew she was going to have a shot at surfing big, perfect Pipeline with only a couple of others in the water, and that meant a lot to her. “You know, Anne Marie’s story in the movie is close to my own story,” Rochelle said. “Many years ago I hit my head on the bottom while surfing Cannon’s, and I've been afraid of that place ever since. I'm comfortable with Backdoor up to eight feet but I’ll tell you what there have been many, many days where I've sat on the beach looking at big Pipeline. I’ll put my leash on and take it off and put it back on but then finally not go out. I'd go home seeing myself getting pitched over and hitting the rocks and it was scary. Just like Anne Marie. I thought I didn't have the guts to do it. I'd never made the drop at Big Pipe, and I was really looking forward to surfing a big Pipe day with no one else out, so I could have a chance.”

The crew of Blue Crush just got along pretty well, but the ocean was the difficult star. The winter of 2001/2002 wasn't entirely cooperative and for most of the shoot, Pipeline was a sleeping giant that refused to awaken. The Second Unit shot the surfing whenever it could. “I was having a blast working on the movie and surfing good waves with all these gnarly guys blocking for me and getting paid for it and eating too much Craft Services,” Rochelle said. “It was so much fun, and it was good to be working with guys like John Stockwell and Brian Grazer who listened and cared. These guys came to Hawaii with a storyline and a desire to get it right. Well they hung out with us and listened to us and they knew the ocean enough to be flexible, and they got it pretty right.”

Blue Crush was in Hawaii for almost three months, which gave the ocean plenty chances to cooperate. The crew shot what they could when they could, and in the middle of January Rochelle was at Laniakea with Don King and Chris Taloa and the Second Unit crew, to shoot a scene where the local mok Drew character drops in on Anne Marie and breaks her board. Before the cameras were rolling, Chris Taloa took off in front of Rochelle Ballard and the two collided. you've heard of a headbutt? Well this was a butthead, but it wasn't funny. Chris Taloa's big, hard Hawaiian okole connected with Rochelle Ballard’s head, and nearly paralyzed her. “That was a heavy, heavy thing,” Ballard said, referring to the situation, not the okole. “I went from the most excruciating pain to total numbness. They took me out on the Ski and then Med Evaced me to the hospital and for a while there I thought I was paralyzed and would never surf again.”

Ballard was out of commission for two and a half weeks, but the show went on. “Well I knew they had a permit to shoot for an hour at Pipe and I was really looking forward to that: surfing perfect Pipe almost alone.”

That chance came four days after Ballard was injured. Pipeline was perfect for the Mike Stewart International Pipeline Pro 2002. When the contest ended the movie had exactly one hour of perfect Pipeline to capture the climactic last ride of the movie, where Anne Marie faces her fears and charges Pipeline for Death or Glory. Ballard was on the beach watching perfect Pipeline, but discretion was the better part of valor: “I was on the beach with John Stockwell and Brian Keaulana and Pipeline was going off. This was the best day in like three years and they had it for an hour, but I felt sick inside. John and Brian asked how I was feeling and I had to say that I didn't think I could do it. That was the worst feeling of my life, but I was too messed up physically to go charge giant Pipe backside. Well at that point they grabbed Noah and put him in a wig and said, ‘Let’s do this thing.’”

Just like that, a starlet was born. Like Mickey Munoz in 1959, Noah Johnson put on a wig and bikini and paddled out into an empty Pipeline lineup to bag the one epic wave that would close the movie. He made a cute girl, but as a Hollywood type he wasn't exactly virginal. Prior to Blue Crush Noah had worked on Orange County with Brock and Birds of Paradise, a TV show that show in Hawaii. “I was supposed to double for R. J. Knoll on Orange County, but I pretty much just sat around and played football on the beach. I doubled for Seth Green on Birds of Paradise, and my surfing was in that IMAX Extreme flick at Outside Log Cabins.”

Noah was pulled into Blue Crush at different times by Brian Keaulana, stunt coordinator Greg Barnett, Brock Little and Mike Trisler and his jobs ranged from Surf Instructor to Water Safety when the waves got big to a skilled gopher. “The shoot lasted for three months and I worked sporadically. Sometimes every day for two weeks, sometimes not at all for a week or two. Tris lined up a job teaching Mika Boorem to surf, and later I helped Brian and Greg test shoot a camera rigged to the back of a Jet Boat. Working on Blue Crush was fun as hell because it was so varied. Craig Davidson and I got to crash the picture ski at Avalanche one day about 10 times, and that was cool because Mike Stewart and Don King were shooting and all the boys were on safety: Brian K, Terry Ahue, Kai Garcia, Kawika Foster, Kawika Stant, Daryl Stant, Brock and Trisler. Next to surfing eight foot Pipe alone that ski-crashing day was the best day of the shoot for me.”

After the Mike Stewart International Pipeline Pro 2002 event at Pipeline on January 17, the producers had a one-hour permit to shoot at Pipeline with the water cleared. Noah had about three hours notice that he would be doubling for Kate Bosworth, and by the time the bodyboard contest ended, Noah was wearing the wig and bikini: “Well I had a contest singlet on but cut for a girl you know: short sleeves and short in the stomach. I had bikini bottoms and a wig, and yes I shaved my legs.” Yes he had to shave his legs but so do Olympic athletes and hey ho, who got the dough? Noah must have felt like he'd paddled into one of those Sci Fi “everyone on earth is dead” movies as he paddled out into an almost empty Pipe lineup. There were skis in the channel and cameras in the channel and a lot more electric and human eyes on the beach and they were all pointed at Noah: “It felt like being in a heat without any other guys. They needed me to do some things in that hour and I did my best, but it was a lot easier being able to paddle wherever I wanted and take off as deep as I wanted without worrying if there was anyone behind or anyone dropping in. It's hard to surf Pipe when It's crowded and get really barreled because people take off on the shoulder and fuck up the wave if you’re way too far back. But in that hour I had the opportunity to get super barreled.”

Noah figures he rode about 10 waves and made most of them, while others he wiped out accidentally on purpose. “They wanted some wipeouts so I did the best I could,” Johnson said. “I dove the lip on one and jumped out of the lip on another and got super deep on a couple and ran into the closeout. You go where There's no choice but to eat it and then just use instinct to get through it safely. Your mind will only allow so much intentional stupidity so to a certain extent you have to put things beyond your control. Brian Keaulana was right there with the ski giving me rides back out to the lineup. Don King was shooting from the water and Sonny Miller was on the back of a ski with Kai Garcia driving. I remember being way deep in the barrel and waving at them. Ha ha, it was killer. That hour at Pipe was great but somewhat balanced by the fact that I was dressed as a girl, and I couldn’t go right. As a testimonial to my commitment to the job, I passed up a couple silly Backdoor waves that to this day I wish I had gone on. A scary brush with conformity. Still fucken epic though.”

Noah is aware that everyone thinks all of the big waves Anne Marie rode are him, and he wanted to set the record straight. “Yeah I know everyone thinks that big tow in bomb was me, but that was Rochelle.” Noah said. “All they really used of me was that takeoff on that Pipe bomb, and a few snippets here and there. They had some nice footage of me from that hour at Pipe, but in all of the closeup shots you can see my package hanging out from that bikini and It's obvious the woman is a man, man.”

The parts of Blue Crush are greater than the whole, but one of the things the movie nailed is the ending. The best thing to do with a cliché is grab it by the ankles, turn it upside down and beat it until something new comes out. Well Blue Crush took that typical Ride the Wild Surf prove your manhood in giant surf ending and gave it a twist. The original ending to the movie had Anne Marie winning the Pipeline Masters, but that was a little too Ride the Wild Surf on North Shore: The Movie, so over the course of the shoot, a new ending emerged. Anne Marie backs out of a couple of waves and eats it on a couple of waves and by the end she is completely haired out and sitting in the channel. Keala Kenneally had been surfing Pipe with a little more success and at one point she paddles over to Anne Marie and when she says, “What are you doing?” she nails the line and the tone in a way that only a surfer could. That leads to an ending in which Anne Marie catches one perfect wave, makes the drop, pulls in, gets barreled off her, um, nut, and comes out claiming. She doesn't win the event, she just faces her fears and it is by far the most realistic ending to any surf movie ever made. Endings are tough, but Blue Crush nailed it.

Unfortunately, Blue Crush messes that ending a bit by showing a very obvious blue screen of Kate Bosworth standing on a surfboard with her arm in the air, in a shot that goes right back to Frankie and Annette and Fabian looking like fools doing fake poses in front of a watery screen.

Blue Crush still had some Cringey moments, but they were more in the special effects than the acting or the dialogue or the plot. Anyone who has seen Titanic or The Perfect Storm or Star Wars Episode Two has seen with their own eyes that moving ocean water and breaking waves are a real challenge for the CG and effects wizards.

The producers weren’t content to have Rochelle Ballard body-double for Kate Bosworth, and their attempt to morph the actresses’ face onto the moving body of Rochelle Ballard just didn't work. The effects distorted and looked fake, and managed to make two pretty girls look warped, kind of like that shot in the modern version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, where the dog runs out with a man’s face.

Blue Crush benefited greatly from having a couple of Hollywood guys who weren’t squares. Producer Brian Grazer is “surf mad” according to John Milius and he is also a guy with some big titles--Splash, Apollo 13, Liar, Liar, A Beautiful Mind, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, 8 Mile--responsible for two dozen Academy Award nominations. Grazer has made too many good movies to bother making a bad one, and in that director John Stockwell was a Fellow Traveler who wanted to avoid the minefield of cliches that plagued most surf movies. “I didn't want to have the actresses talking on the beach at Pipeline when the surf was flat, then have them charge out into the water with eight-foot waves breaking in the background,” Stockwell said. “I knew that we had to be flexible and we had to have a support crew and actresses who knew how to deal with the ocean, and I think we got that.”

That quality is evident throughout the movie, which is refreshingly cringe free and gives a very honest slice of living poor and determined along the North Shore of Oahu. “One of the shots I'm really proud of shows Sanoe, Michelle and Kate all standing at the water’s edge with big Pipe booming in front of them.” Stockwell is correct. That is a great shot but according to the director he got a little carried away. “You know, I actually asked those girls to try paddling out after that,” he admitted. “which was pushing things a little too far. Those girls became very good in the water, but that was a little over their heads.”

Hollywood is all about illusions and what was impressive about Blue Crush is the illusion of Kate Bosworth and Michelle Rodriguez as experienced watergirls who are perfectly at home in the thick of giant Hawaiian surf. Sanoe Lake was the third girl in the movie, and she made the transition from surfer to actor as easily as Gerry Lopez. She is completely natural on camera and very funny. She has the speech and the mannerisms down because she has done them all her life, and It's easy to suspect that she had a lot to do with the other actresses, “Keeping it real.”

Brock and Brian and Terry Ahue and Peter Johnson were usually hovering behind the camera by land and sea, but their hand is evident in the water sequences. There is one shot early in the movie which shows Kate Bosworth paddling out at big Pipe to try and grab some waves from the pack before the contest. Kate Bosworth paddles better than any other non-surfing actor to get on a surfboard. She looks like a surfer as she scratches for the lineup, and then the camera pans over to show she really is paddling out very near some really big Pipe. That was not an illusion, but if you imagine the likes of Brian Keaulana and Brock Little and a bunch of swarthy Hawaiian watermen hovering just out of shot, that is exactly how it was, according to Brock Little. “Yep, I was there shouting directions at Kate: ‘Keep paddling. Keep paddling. don't look at the waves. Just keep paddling straight, you’re okay.’ And she was.”

When Kate Bosworth won the role of Anne Marie Chadwick, she was an accomplished equestrienne who had lived in Boston and Los Angeles. She wasn't much of a water girl, but she needed to become one. Bosworth got a bit of instruction from John “Turtle” Philbin in Los Angeles, and then the rest of that horrible duty fell to Brock Little. “When I first saw her she was this cute little blonde movie star and I was a little worried about her because she was like a hundred pounds,” Brock said, sounding exactly like Mickey Munoz talking about Sandra Dee. “But she was game and so after our first meeting at the world famous Café Haleiwa, me and five of the lifeguards took her out into the thumping shorebreak at Waimea Bay. She got pounded and she enjoyed it. That was where the lessons started: feeling comfortable in the ocean, learning how to judge waves, get over them, get under them. I had about three weeks to teach her everything and we did everything: surfed, swam, lifted weights. We trained her ass off actually and by the time the shooting started, she had surfer shoulders and I felt pretty confident that if she got caught inside by a Second Reef wave at Pipeline, she’d handle it okay.”

Watching the movie, Kate Bosworth is very believable as a water girl. She can hold her surfboard and not look like a kook, and when she paddles, you believe it. Michelle Rodriguez wasn't as comfortable on a surfboard as Bosworth, but it didn't take her too long to learn to love the WaveRunners. “When she first got on the ski she was all. ‘I don't know if I can do this.’” Brock said. “But by the end of the shoot we couldn’t get her off the thing.”

If Gerry Lopez loved Blue Crush, who’s to argue? The good parts of the movie were greater than the whole, but all in all Blue Crush was a surprisingly good effort, right down to the big finish. Blue Crush the movie was about women proving they could surf Pipe, and the story behind the story was a bunch of talented people from Hollywood and the surfing world teaming proving they could make a movie about girls surfing Pipe that would be C for Commercial without being C for Contrived, Corny and Crappy. In the end, that’s what Blue Crush accomplished and that final shot of Kate Bosworth coming out of the barrel at Pipe summed up the movie: The background is real, the surfing looks a little fake but in the end, Blue Crush deserved a bit of a claim and you couldn’t help but like it.



While working on Blue Crush, director John Stockwell was very much a hands-on director, and when the sequences were being shot in the water, he was in the water with cast and crew. “I vividly remember being out in the channel on a surfboard at Pipeline, and Brian and Terry were there on the WaveRunners, and Brock was on a surfboard always hovering close to Kate Bosworth,” Stockwell said. “This was where they got the shot of Kate paddling on the shoulder and then you see Mike Stewart taking off on a big wave. Well it was a little hairy out there, and these big gnarly eight-foot Pipeline double ups would scatter the WaveRunners while Brock would grab Kate and duck dive her through waves. Well I was paddling and swimming and getting pounded, too, but the thing I remember is Don King, swimming with that 40-pound camera, no problem. The guy is amazing.”

Has anyone looked behind Don King’s ears lately? Maybe he’s got gills back there. Maybe he’s a mutation, like the Kevin Costner Mariner character in Water World. Maybe that’s the explanation for how a guy can move so well through the impact zone pushing and pulling and protecting a six-figure camera weighing 40 to 100 pounds. Don King has been involved in dozens of TV shows, commercials, surf videos and surf movies over the past 20 years and he is by far the most experienced of all the water cinematographers, as much of a go to guy as Brian Keaulana. When asked if his work could be considered stunt work, Don King smiles quietly to himself: “That is a legitimate question because sometimes what I do is dangerous enough to be considered a stunt. The closest I've ever come to getting hurt I think it was shooting a Guinness commercial. I was working with Brian Keaulana and some of his guys on that. It was a beautiful commercial, all shot in black and white but it was shown mostly in England and Europe and not in the US. We were shooting from Jet Skis a lot and pushing the limits on what we could get. I was on the back of a Jet Ski trying to get a tracking shot at Waimea Bay when a surfer took off and wiped out right in front of us Archie Kalepa was driving at top speed to escape the wave but there was a lot of chop and gnarl and he was hitting the bumps and the camera hit me in the head and it was pretty scary. For the most part I am not in the danger zone and am safely shooting the guys who are.”

Don King has had his scrapes and bumps and close calls, but usually he is just on the fringe of the danger zone, filming others in peril. “I think one of the most dangerous things I've seen was watching Brian Keaulana in the Jet Boat at Jaws spin the boat backwards and straighten it out again. I forget who the passenger was, but Brian wanted to give him a real thrill. Also the stunts that Laird Hamilton and Darrick Doerner and Dave Kalama did for the James Bond movie.”

Of all the shoots and stunts and shows that Don King has worked on over the last 20 years, he is proudest of his work as Second Unit Director for the Jaws sequence that opened the James Bond movie Die Another Day. But the other shoots that Don King has done are worth noting and mentioning. If you saw City of Angels, the bodysurfing sequence with Seth and Nathan Messinger was shot by Don King at Pipeline. King also was the guy the producers went to for most of the water shots in Castaway, particularly the shots where Tom Hanks attempts to escape the island on the raft with the Port a Potty door as a sail. “We shot those sequences in Fiji. I did three weeks work and then waited a year and a half and came back and did another three weeks work. When he first lands on the island he sees a light on the horizon and he takes a raft and tries to paddle through the reef but eats it. I shot that, and that was when Tom Hanks was pale and overweight. Well we came back more than a year later and he was tan and fit and had a long beard and I couldn’t believe the transformation.”

For the second sequence, Tom Hanks builds a raft and uses the door of a Port a Potty for a sail to escape the island. King shot that sequence at Cloudbreak near Tavarua Island, and he had an assist from able-bodied waterman Jon Roseman. “Swimming with a camera out at Cloudbreak wasn't all that threatening, although I should say the scariest part was being on the raft with Jon Roseman, putt putting around. They had a few of those rafts for backup and they had little outboard engines on them. Well they weren’t manufactured very well and you couldn’t get out of the way if you were about to get hammered on them. We had to get some shots from the POV of the raft and if it had been anyone other than Jon Roseman driving, we would have gotten hammered. And to lose a raft means to lose a day of shooting and maybe lose the swell, so it was good to have Jon out there. After that second sequence at Cloudbreak I went home and then found out they didn't have the shot they needed. So I stayed in touch with Jon and when the swell came back up, I flew back to Tavarua and we went back out on the raft and nailed it.”

For the Die Another Day shoot, Don King was promoted to Second Unit Director, which gave him more freedom but also more responsibility. King was given a storyline in which James Bond infiltrates a small squad of commandos at night, somewhere along the coast of the United Kingdom. Bond steals the uniform and equipment from one of the commandos and ends up riding a wave with two others. James Bond is the only surfer to make the wave and the others wipe out. For this, King needed three experienced Jaws surfers, and an epic swell. He got it all when he hired Dave Kalama, Laird Hamilton and Darrick Doerner. And perhaps as a reward for his many years of making the ocean look so good in so many movies and commercials, King Neptune waved his magic wand and sent that small Second Unit the epic day. “We did that shoot in three days on one swell, and I think It's the best thing I've ever been involved with,” King said. “The second day was the biggest and we concentrated on the surfing. We wanted to get the best action in the can and then focus on the wipeouts the next day. There were three of us filming-myself, Sonny Miller and Michael Graber in a helicopter-and we had a support crew with a Jet Boat and backup skis.”

Bill and Lyon Hamilton were on the set, sitting in the Jet Boat watching the Three Mauisketeers charging an absolutely perfect day for fun and glory and profit. “Whew that day was insane,” Hamilton the Elder said. “Up close and personal it was pretty gnarly. It was unbelievable. Really dramatic. The day I watched their assignment was to ride three abreast with masks and goggles and machine guns. They were regularly riding 20-foot waves and at least one 30-footer came through. I was actually scared for them because they had no peripheral vision and you wouldn’t want to wipeout wearing the wetsuits they made them wear. I wondered why they couldn’t have put them in Lycra suits, but I guess they wanted it to look real.”

Once the Three Mauisketeers had good solid surfing footage in the can, they turned into the Three Stooges. Darrick Doerner had a ball, riding and shooting and getting shot and wiping out. While none of the surfers were willing to chuck themselves over the falls on a Jaws bomb, they still did Buster Keaton proud by wiping out accidentally on purpose and making it look good. “We had an hour or two period where we were told to wipe out,” Doerner said. “Well we had mapped it out the night before and agreed that Dave would do one kind and I would do another and Laird would do something else. Well you have to understand that Dave and Laird were getting towed in by the same ski and I was on another, and we couldn’t see anything in those night visions goggles, but, hey, we were professionals and we got it done. The footage is unbearably funny. Hilarious. I got a wave on my head, as predicted and Laird went over the falls and landed on his back and Dave went over the falls and landed upside down on his head. Those days at Jaws were as good as any, and I saw some of the footage. We did it right and did it professional and we had the right guys in front of and behind the camera. We did it the way it should be done.”

They did it the way it should be done. After one hundred years of good surf movies by real surfers and surfing movies by the Hollywood Squares and surfers earning a little fame and money in Hollywood wrestling sharks and swinging swords and driving PWC while firing rocket launchers and wiping out accidentally on purpose for hundreds of dollars and tens of thousands of dollars, there has never been a better time for the right group to come along and make an entire surf movie “the way it should be done.” It is time for a surfing movie that takes the best bits and pieces from the last 50 years: The humor of von Zipper and Spicoli and Turtle; the incredible cinematography by Merkel and Greenough and King and Miller; occasional bursts of inspired acting like Colonel Kilgore and Mick the Masochist and Lake and Lopez; world class surfing like Dora and Dorian and Doerner and put it all together in one movie that isn't just a cult classic or loved by Italy or by movie directors who hate surfing. There has never been a time when the best of Hollywood have been so surf stoked and some of the best surfers in the world have been so experienced in Hollywood. It is time for the best of the Hollywood to team up with the best of the surfing world and make a movie with the impact of the Waimea shorebreak-one that washes all the way up the beach to grab Oscar by the feet and sweep him away.