I’m not a surfer. I wanted a surf board when I was a kid in San Diego, but I never got one. But The Endless Summer is considered a classic of independent filmmaking.
The film follows two Southern California surfers as they travel around the world to surf in summer climes year round. They surf in Senegal, Nigeria, South Africa, Australia, Hawaii… anyplace where it’s “summer” (at least weather-wise). It’s part surfer’s eye-candy, part travelogue, and an entertaining documentary. Having been released in 1966, it does have some narration and footage that would make it non-PC in today’s self-conscious world. Most of the non-PC stuff had to do with Africans “who had never seen a surf board before”. There were also some bits that remind the view of price inflation over the past four decades. Our surfers were shocked that they were required to stay at a government-authorized hotel and had to pay thirty dollars each for their room. A friendly cabbie offered to drive them around for the cost of gasoline alone. A good deal, they thought; until they found that gasoline in Senegal cost almost a dollar (US) per gallon!
I was attracted to this film for two reasons. First, was that I like Warren Miller’s skiing films. Second, that I work on low-budget films and some of my equipment is contemporary to The Endless Summer. The film was shot on 16mm, and without sound. This led me to assume that it had been filmed on a Bolex H16 or something similar. There was a long (time-wise) shot early in the film. I counted about 24 seconds. Yup, that sounds like a spring-would camera. The narrator (filmmaker Bruce Brown) mentions of the waves at the Cape of St. Francis, “The rides were so long I couldn’t capture them on one piece of film… I timed one ride at 45 seconds.” Again, this points to a spring-wound camera.
I have a Bolex H16-M5 and a Krasnogorsk-3 sitting in my living room. I shot some footage with the Bolex on my recent trip to Canada, but I haven’t had it developed yet. The Endless Summer and Richard Kern’s Hardcore collection really have me wanting to expose some film in the old-school, low-tech way.
Anyway… The Endless Summer is composed mostly of people surfing, with some travelogue shots to mix things up a bit. The narration is entertaining. Quite a decent film… even if, like me, you’re not a surfer.