Showing off for the movie cameras
Preparations for the “Endless Summer 2” movie started in Costa Rica. The movie features Robert “Wingnut” Weaver and Pat O’Connell, who wanted me as their mentor. So before filming, we came here to scout the location and see all the cool Tico happenings … you know — great surf, fiestas, pretty girls, and the beautiful culture overall. Production of the “Endless Summer” sequel was at the Hollywood level instead of just Bruce Brown’s camera, so it was pretty impressive to be part of it.
After a bit of planning for our Costa Rica location filming, we found a retired United Airline pilot who had bought his own amphibious plane and gone to great legal lengths to get his charter license to fly it here. In fact, our crew was going to be his very first charter, so the pilot was excited that everyone in the world would see the movie! The idea was to fly the whole Pacific coast from Nicaragua to Panama and get a bird’s-eye view all the way, including places where hardly any surfers had ever been. The seaplane could make the trip in four hours, and we would be mobile as well. Who knows, if everything had worked out, we could have been the first people to surf dozens of new spots in Central America.
When we were finally ready to be picked up in Tamarindo, Pat O’Connell, Wingnut and I waited on the beach in front of the estuary. The pilot was to land the plane offshore, we would paddle out to introduce ourselves, and then begin the journey. On his first attempt to land, the pilot just touched the water and didn’t stop. He kept taking off again into the sky while we were wondering, what’s this guy doing? He went all the way back into the estuary — where you’re not supposed to go — then straight down the estuary as we heard the engine turbine roaring in the background. It was April, with really strong offshore tail-winds. Watching the pilot skim the water again, we figured he was just showing off for the movie cameras.
When he finally decided to land, the plane’s right pontoon made impact first, veering dangerously close to the mangroves. In an effort to correct himself, the pilot cranked to the left to get the other pontoon in the water. At this point, he was coming right up the belly of the estuary and we were still thinking, “Man this guy is cool!” But no, instead the pilot was completely out of control. We heard the plane’s engines roar one last time as he tried taking off again to avoid crashing. But he couldn’t do it. The seaplane finally hit the beach, its wings smashing into the sand right where Pangas Restaurant is today. Holy cow!
Of course, the film crew was there to record it all, so they framed it as Wingnut, Pat O’Connell and I were on the plane. That was our ride to the first surf spot. We were filmed coming off the plane with our surf boards as Pat O’Connell famously said, “Well, that was an easy flight … let’s go surfing!”