August Odysseys – the “Endless Summer” trip still resonates
Even when we were youngsters, Bruce Brown was one of my best friends in the neighborhood, always hanging around my parents’ house in Seal Beach, California. Everyone seemed to gravitate there because my dad was sort of a mentor for all us kids who were getting into the then-new sport of surfing. Bruce’s dad had a little camera shop down on Belmont Shore called Brownies Cameras, so Bruce followed a natural path of creativity from a young age.
When we reached our teens, Bruce and a few other guys started putting together some very basic, 16mm surf films that would premiere in our local high-school auditoriums. Bruce would sit on the stage with a microphone and proudly narrate his surf film in front of the audience. At this point in surfing, these were really the only social events focused around the sport. Posters stapled to telephone poles around town advertised, “Surf Movie! Tonight at Newport Harbor High School.” So of course, we all went. It was something fun to do! I was generally featured in a substantial section of these surfing films as well (said with a grin).
Bruce’s movies always stood out from those of other filmmakers at the time for two reasons: His editing techniques were exceptionally creative and his narration was second to none. The movies featured all the best local surfers, including myself in many. There was no money involved; we just did it for fun.
After a few successful surf flicks, Bruce came up with the idea of chasing waves and summertime around the world in a film called “The Endless Summer.” Everyone who has seen the movie knows what a great success it was, and for us it was truly the trip of a lifetime. When the opportunity came up, I was 18 years old, valedictorian of my high school, and unsure whether or not I wanted to attend dental school. I talked to a few respected teachers and my parents, who advised me that dental school could wait. Traveling the world would be a better education than anything I could receive in the classroom.
To this day, the “Endless Summer” trip still resonates with me because I was with my best friend, Bruce. After the movie was picked up by a Hollywood distribution company and blown up into a 35mm film, it could be shown across the nation. People responded very favorably to this new concept of traveling for the sake of surfing. I think the movie truly brought surfing into the mainstream. It inspired a whole generation to get out of their comfort zone and try something new.
On the evening of Dec. 10, 2017, I got a phone call from Robert “Wingnut” Weaver, who broke the news that Bruce had passed at 80 years old. I am still feeling very emotional today. Memories of Bruce continue to flood my mind as I reflect on our genuine friendship and the iconic surf trip we were lucky enough to share with the world.