#42) The Endless Summer (1966)

HAMERSVELD_1964_The_Endless_Sumer_movie_poster

#42) The Endless Summer (1966)

OR “Have Board, Will Travel”

Directed & Written by Bruce Brown

Class of 2002

The beginning of this trailer is missing, but rest assured they probably say the word “surf” at least eight more times.

The Plot: Surfers Mike Hynson and Robert August travel the world in order to catch the best waves during the warmest conditions, hence an “Endless Summer”. Director Bruce Brown casually narrates as they travel the coasts of Africa, Australia and New Zealand to find the best beaches, some un-surfed by man at that point. All this and endless surf music!

Why It Matters: The NFR’s official description of the film is just a rundown of the film’s struggle to get distribution. The only superlative used to describe the film itself is “droll”. Not exactly a selling point.

But Does It Really?: By comparison my response seems overzealous. It’s not the greatest documentary ever, but “The Endless Summer” does what any good documentary should do; showcase a culture or a place that you might not know or might not fully understand. It never gets too stuffy or self-important and keeps a fun attitude throughout. Plus, it’s a great travelogue of all the places they visit. I guess I never truly appreciated the art of surfing before this film. If you’re going to have one surf film on the Registry, this is a fine choice.

Shout Outs: Bruce throws in a “Lawrence of Arabia” homage while everyone travels across the South African desert.

Everybody Gets One: Bruce Brown made several surf documentaries leading up to “Endless Summer”. Ironically, he received his one Oscar nomination for Best Documentary when he left surfing and moved on to motorcycle racing for “On Any Sunday”. As of this writing both Mike Hynson and Robert August are still with us and sell surfboards online along with other beach/“Endless Summer” paraphernalia. Here’s Mike’s website and here’s Robert’s.

Wow, That’s Dated: Ladies and Gentlemen, The Sandals! Also, at one point the boys complain that gas in Senegal is $1 a gallon. Highway robbery, I tell you!

Other notes

  • Malibu Beach is a secret spot?
  • I will say Bruce’s narration grew on me. It has a nice easy-going manner to it, almost like he’s just chatting with you while they play the film. It’s as much commentary as it is narration.
  • Of course as soon as I make that last observation Bruce says, “Being good Africans they throw a few rocks.” I literally groaned out loud when he said that.
  • Mike kinda looks like Max Headroom with his sunglasses and suit.
  • There’s juuuuust enough padding in this film to suggest that the initial footage wasn’t feature length. We get several extended trips back to Hawaii during the boys’ travels. Does anyone know if that’s from Bruce’s previous documentaries?
  • There’s something very satisfying about watching a surfer dude get chased by a zebra.
  • This documentary is worth a watch just for the shots of the perfect wave at Cape St. Francis. They left me speechless.
  • And then the female surfers show up and the boys can’t concentrate. Thanks Bruce.
  • Bruce’s attempt at an Australian accent does more travelling than Mike and Robert.
  • I appreciate this film’s use of the flashback dissolve.
  • Needless to say that this seminal surf film gives you plenty of “plumber shots”.
  • Bruce says that Pearl’s swimsuit is unique. Were two-pieces not a thing back then?
  • The final credits give thanks to “Old King Neptune for providing the waves”. Get a haircut, hippies.

Legacy

  • The film’s sequel “The Endless Summer II” features surfers Pat O’Connell and Robert “Wingnut” Weaver following the original film’s same travel path 30 years later. The trailer is…very ’90s.
  • Bruce’s son Dana took unused footage from this and the sequel to make the companion film “The Endless Summer Revisited”.
  • Since its appearance in this film, Cape St. Francis is now world-famous for its surfing. There goes the neighborhood.
  • What’s this!? Batman and his best baddie board up for a battle of brawn by the beach!?
  • Surfing went mainstream thanks in part to this film, eventually leading to surf legend Greg Brady.

Listen to This: They’re not mentioned in “The Endless Summer”, but how can you talk ‘60s beach culture without The Beach Boys? Added to the NRR in 2004, their album “Pet Sounds” shifts away from the surf-specific themes of their earlier songs, but nevertheless defines the ’60s surf era. And it’s “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” right out of the gate! How perfect an album is that?

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