Injuries, age may be taking a toll on surfer Kelly Slater Caryn Shaffer, inactive
Surf flicks have come a long way from the scratchy, reel-to-reel videos that often showed wave after wave after wave … with some cool background music, of course.
“Back then, you know, all we had were the surf magazines, so those films were my big inspiration,” said Melbourne Beach’s Matt Kechele, who would become a world-class surfer on the major circuit. “I remember people from all across the state would come here to fill the Surfside Playhouse (in Cocoa Beach) to see “Free Ride,” — that was the ultimate surf film. But we had “Five Summer Stories,” “Salt Water Wine,” and plenty of others.
The new trend of surf movies are documentaries, and the latest trilogy, if you will, features Cocoa Beach’s 11-time world champion Kelly Slater and 2001 world champion C.J. Hobgood and his twin brother, Damien, both Satellite Beach natives.
It began a year ago with the release of “Andy Irons: Kissed By God,” a film that prominently featured Slater — teary at times — talking about his surfing rival and what led to his tragic addiction and, ultimately, his death at the age of 32.
This year’s blockbuster, from HBO Sports, is “Momentum Generation,” which goes behind the scenes of a special group of surfers in the ’90s, including Slater, who helped bring the sport into the mainstream, to championship podiums across the world, despite the cost of friendships in exchange for ultimate success.
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The newest release, “And Two If By Sea,” is set to open in May at a theater near you, featuring the Hobgood twins, their incredible rise to world fame, but with the backdrop of their adversity, their wins in the water and their losses on land. A premiere showing takes place April 18 at the Museum of Florida History in Tallahassee.
Yet another high-profile surfer documentary is slated for July: “Bethany Hamilton: Unstoppable,” focusing on the frequent Space Coast visitor’s inspirational story of overcoming all odds after losing an arm to a shark bite, to beating a six-time world champion, to chasing her toddler around the house.
Let’s take a look at the latest two:
Picking up ‘Momentum’
Robert Redford is the executive producer of “Momentum Generation.” Need we go on?
The opening scene in the 1-hour, 43-minute film is a flyby over the Cocoa Beach Pier and there are plenty of snippets of a young Kelly Slater on the beach.
Slater is joined by fellow surfers Shane Dorian, Taylor Knox, Rob Machado, Pat O’Connell, Kalani Robb, Benji Weatherley, Ross Williams and filmmaker Taylor Steele, and how they came together as a group, unknowingly changing the landscape of pro surfing in the ’90s.
They lived in a house that Weatherley’s mom had on the North Shore and became so proficient at surfing, they took on the world … and you know much of the story.
The film is based on a bunch of kids living the dream, some from broken homes – like Slater, which he talks about in the film — and how they became family, pushing each other to be the best.
“It was my way out,” Knox says.
“Surfing was our savior,” Slater says.
But competitiveness had its price.
“Friendships, relationships … is winning risking giving up those things?” Slater asks in the movie’s trailer.
When his parents split up, Slater channeled that negativity into surfing: “i could do something on my own; no one else could tell me how to do it and i completely understood it,” he says in the film.
Every day, he’d learn new maneuvers. “It made me hungry,” he says.
When Slater began getting sponsors as an 18 year-old out of Cocoa Beach High, he says he felt like “it was my duty to go and earn those dollars,” that they were paying..
In the film, Machado, who’s been to the Space Coast on several occasions, says: “Two things that were important to us: getting a good section in Taylor Steele’s movies and getting on the world tour … we were working as a unit, pushing each other.
“I was just a little kid going surfing, now everything changed.”
They became a posse, gaining inspiration from the loss of their idol, big-wave surfer and friend Todd Chesser, and the newfound desire to defeat the high-powered Australians.
The film reflects on the highs, lows and the competitive tension, especially between Slater and Machado (such as the “high-five incident” in the 1995 Pipe Masters), but Slater was their leader and, despite what appeared like unsportsmanlike conduct to reach the pinnacle, he ultimately apologized face-to-face to each member of that group.
Like Knox says: “Surfing doesn’t define you as a person.”
But, like Weatherley says: “It opened the window for, say, a family in Kentucky that might say … ‘What is surfing?’ “
Good show for The ‘Goods’
Surfing the Banzai Pipeline for a dozen straight years on the world circuit was nothing compared to putting together a full-scale film on your life story.
It wasn’t the “acting” — or the six years it took to finish “And Two If By Sea.”
“We literally gave up three times,” said C.J. Hobgood, a celebrity guest at the recent Ron Jon Beach ‘n Boards Fest in Cocoa Beach. “This is so much harder … and the hardest part is asking someone to invest in a movie … where maybe at best they’ll get their money back. I could tell them they’d probably have better odds in Vegas, but it’s risk, and you do it and see what happens and, hopefully, it will lead to even better things.”
The 1-hour, 40-minute film is narrated by Daniel Tosh, a former Astronaut High and UCF student who not only surfs but hosts Comedy Central’s “Tosh.0.” Need we go on?
Longtime friend Justin Purser, who graduated from Satellite High, like the Hobgoods, and who now is living in Los Angeles, produced a couple of early VHS films on the twins, such as “All Tha Way Live” in 2000 ($24.92 for the DVD on Amazon) and “Horseplay: The Surf Video” (listed as “Very Rare” on eBay for $29.99). He also is an executive producer of this project.
C.J. said the latest film is all “about identity through surfing … A brother is born for adversity and being an identical twin brother can lead to an identity crisis. It’s love and war and the sea in between. It’s how we had to overcome a lot of stuff, trying to maintain a family …”
In the early years, it was not only difficult to tell them apart, it was always a competition between them: the clothes they wore, who would pedal their bike fastest to the beach … and then the duel for professional surfing titles (coincidentally, each won four World Championship Tour events).
“At the time, I don’t even think we knew we were being competitive — but everything was a competition,” Damien once said. “This was an everyday thing from when we woke up ’til we went to bed. We didn’t even take into account that there were other people we were trying to beat. I just wanted to beat my brother — that is all that mattered.”
The film includes surfing stars Slater, Mick Fanning, Jordy Smith, Joel Parkinson and Taj Burrow, and a host of Space Coast residents.
“Everyone knows our story, and this film does have a lot of Space Coast stuff,” C.J. said. “Just enjoy the ride with us.”
Contact Grossman at 321-242-3676
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