Bruce Brown, who changed the image of surfing with his 1966 documentary "The Endless Summer," died on Sunday at his ranch in Gaviota, north of Santa Barbara. His death at the age of 80 was announced by his company, Bruce Brown Films, and the news swept around the surfing world. "It’s with a heavy heart that we report that Bruce Brown, the most iconic surf filmmaker of all time...passed away in his sleep yesterday," Surfer.com posted.
"The Endless Summer" follows two young Southern California surfers, Mike Hynson and Robert August, in search of waves all around the world, including Hawaii, Ghana, New Sealand and India. The two surfers and Brown are said to have crossed the equator four times and exposed more than nine miles of film. "The Endless Summer" was not Brown's first surfing film, but it was the one that crossed over to reach vast movie audiences and become legend in the surfing culture.
"The film came to be regarded one of the finest surf movies ever made, beckoning people to the shore and romanticizing the idea that maybe there really was nothing wrong with trading the conventions of the working world for a simpler life on the water," Steve Marble writes in the Los Angeles Times.
"Prior to 1964, the media saw surfers as rebellious thugs, and Hollywood made them out to be a bunch of idiots," Bruce Brown Films says on its website. "Filmmaker Bruce Brown single-handedly changed that with The Endless Summer. It portrayed the wave as a kind of Holy Grail and surfers as knights on a quest. In one stroke, he replaced Hollywood’s buffoonery with the popular mythology that endures today.
"The Endless Summer was Brown’s sixth surfing film in a career that started almost accidentally and proceeded according to the guerrilla template of the times — shoot all winter, edit in the spring, run your ass off all summer showing the damn thing (including doing your own live narration) in school auditoriums and small halls, then pack up for another winter on the road and do it all over again. With The Endless Summer, Brown broke that mold."
Brown was born in San Francisco and grew up on the shore in Long Beach (he attended Wilson High School, class of 1955) and surfed in Seal Beach and Huntington Beach. He began filming surfers at Dana Point. Brown was nominated for an Academy Award for his 1971 documentary “On Any Sunday,” about the lifestyles of motorcycle racers. Actor Steve McQueen helped produce the film.
"The Endless Summer” was filmed on a $50,000 budget in 1963 and starred Mike Hynson and Robert August on a journey around the world searching for “the perfect wave.” While “The Endless Summer” may appear to be a simple travel documentary, Brown’s charming narration and the story of seeking and discovering perfection and adventure around every turn spoke to core surf and mainstream audiences alike. The film was a massive commercial success upon its wide release in 1966, and is seen as the most iconic surf film of all time, inspiring countless surfers to hit the road in search of their own perfect wave.
The music in the film, by The Sandals, evokes a more innocent time and might feel a little bit sad.
Also check out this photo of Brown from the Surfer Awards "a few years ago." The credit is Ellis.