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  Endless Summer, The Surf's Up
Year: 1966
Director: Bruce Brown
Stars: Mike Hinson, Robert August, Bruce Brown
Genre: DocumentaryBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: First, a general introduction into the world of surfing in case you are among the uninitiated, and also to get an idea of what the following footage will consist of. Mike Hinson and Robert August usually indulge in their sport at the beaches of California and Hawaii, the home of surfing, where they and many others ride the waves. But these two felt that they could better spend their winters elsewhere, somewhere it was summer in fact as after all it's always summer at some place on the planet, so when the colder months hit their usual haunts, they set out to travel the world, looking for ideal conditions in a variety of continents. This would be their endless summer.

The idea of watching someone's holiday movies for an hour and a half might not be the most appetising of prospects for most, but when they're of the quality of Bruce Brown's The Endless Summer, you should really think again. The notion of the surfing movie did not begin with this, as after all the Sandra Dee vehicle Gidget had brought the attention of the world to the activity back in 1959, but Brown's film had more in common with the footage which would be taken by amateurs-turned-professional such as his mentor, Bud Browne, then shown at local surfing spots for the participants to view.

Often, there would be musical accompaniment, and thus surf rock was born; not that the music here is especially hardcore, but what is used is catchy - performed by The Sandals - and sets the mood of breezy fun that continues throughout, and it was mixed with a more orchestral soundtrack at various points. This may well be a series of home movies writ large, and the footage was shot silently, but it's not only the visual aspect which makes it so enchanting, even to non-surfers. No, what really allows this to be a cut above is the constant narration courtesy of Brown, which is light, fun-loving and of of its time, which makes it all the more charming.

Brown has a great sense of humour and that is apparent from the start, but he knows when to be serious and sum up the sincerity of the project, along with the moments of awe he and his buddies feel when they find an ideal spot. After their time spent in California, it's time for Mike and Robert to head for Africa and their first port of call is Senegal, where they are akin to the first men on the Moon, setting their surfboards down in water that has never seen such a sport. Ghana and Nigeria are next, where the natives are fascinated by the novelty and even try it out themselves - you get the impression that they spent more time on the surfboards than the stars.

Next is South Africa, which provides good locations when they can find them, particularly Cape St Francis which Brown describes as having the perfect waves, something a surfer always looks for but so rarely discovers. As this is lighthearted, the politics of the country at the time are only mentioned in a pointed joke about the sharks and the porpoises there not being integrated. Then it's off to Australia, where they hear the repeated comment, "You should have been here yesterday!", so the continent is a bit of a disappointment as Winter offers the best waves there. Better is New Zealand, where they spend Christmas Day in the sea, and lastly it's time to go to Tahiti, where they have been told there is no surf but find it nevertheless - fortune smiled upon them as often as that sunshine.

All in all, The Endless Summer is the closest to a round the world trip that many would enjoy in the sixties, and if it's kind of quaint now, in no less entertaining and even joyous in places for all that, ideal for novices and seasoned veterans alike. Viewing it so long after that epic vacation, and after countless surfing videos manufactured by other hands since, offers a curiously nostalgic, even poignant feeling as it happened so far back in the past in its innocent manner and is so far out of reach, yet so vividly portrayed by Brown that you could almost believe it was the record of an old friend or relative's once in a lifetime excursion. Presumably its use as a guide to the best spots for the more adventurous surfer would endure into the twenty-first century, and beyond, but there was nothing quite like being first, and this will always be justifiably precious to its fans.

[Second Sight have released this title on a restored Blu-ray, looking the best it ever has; considering this was essentially 16mm footage it's impressive how well it appears here. Those special features (hours of them!):

Introduction by Bruce Brown
The Endless Summer Revisited
Directing The Endless Summer New interviews With Bruce Brown and Dana Brown
Producing The Endless Summer - New interview With Bob Bagley
Surfing The Endless Summer - New Interview With Mike Hynson
Bruce Brown Timeline
Artwork From Around The World.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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