The Greatest Surfing Story Ever Told: A Movie Review

Deeper Shade_200X295I often feel like I need to pinch myself to make sure I’m not dreaming – my life is that good. And were it not just a metaphor, I’d have pinched myself black and blue last week when I was suddenly hopping a plane to L.A. to attend the premier of Jack McCoy’s 25th movie, A Deeper Shade of Blue, the most comprehensive movie on surf history, culture, and the evolution of surfboard design produced to date. The promotional materials cheekily assert that “this is not a surf movie.” However, it is that and yet so much more. It is an homage to the surfers who changed the way we surf, to the Hawaiian spirit of aloha, and to innovations in surfboard design that support the pursuit’s continued evolution.

hom·age |ˈ(h)ämij|
special honor or respect shown publicly

The point is, however, that you don’t need to be a surfer to enjoy this movie. Watching it is the kind of experience during which you become part of the incredible vistas captured, giving even the most ocean-reticent land lubber a chance to experience what it feels like to be in, on, and under the water. Scenes like the massive waves at Teahupo’o breaking seemingly over the viewer’s head got my heart racing and made my breath catch in my throat. By combining cutting edge filming techniques with the skill of a true waterman, McCoy puts the viewer right there in the heart of the action.

McCoy is at heart an artist and this is his magnum opus. The soundtrack selections for each scene compliment the visuals so well that in several instances the melding of beauty pushed my emotional buttons to the point of eliciting serious eye misting. The underwater footage shot in crystal clear waters depicting surfboards slicing through waves rolling overhead, the reef below, and ocean life dancing in unseen currents was awe-inducing.

It contains little known historical facts, like that of the Hawaiian who dared defy the missionaries’ law forbidding surfing. I’m thinking you’ll be as surprised as I was to learn who induced Hawaiians territory-wide to return en mass to the waves. You’ll see mind-blowing footage of surfers doing what surfers do, but using radically different surfboards that seem the stuff of science fiction. Aussie Derek Hynd free-friction surfing to the sound of The BPA’s He’s Frank (featuring Iggy Pop) is inspiring, breath-catching stuff for sure. Yes, what would have happened in the evolution of surfing if the fin had never been invented? You may remember Derek from my blog post “Crossing Paths: Surf Legend Derek Hynd.”

The visuals, the story, and the way in which the director’s love for the subject matter and the community of surfers with whom he worked to produce this epic movie created an unparalleled surf movie experience for this viewer. It’s showing in theaters all over the U.S. this Thursday, March 28th for one night only. But don’t take my word for it. In one of those serendipitous events, much like those that brought me to the movie premier, Sir Paul McCartney was introduced to Jack’s work by a mutual acquaintance and the two ended up working on a video clip together called Blue Sway that includes additional footage taken for the movie and a previously unreleased song by Sir Paul. McCartney has said of Jack’s work:

I was blown away by the stunning spectacle of Jack’s work. Now that I’ve gotten to know him, I enjoy what he does even more and value greatly his contribution to the world of surfing.

 Watch A Deeper Shade of Blue right this instant by clicking on this link. How cool is that? (And in case you’re wondering, aside from the pleasure of knowing that I’m sharing a great experience with my fellow man, I stand to gain NOTHING from the sale of this movie).

10 thoughts on “The Greatest Surfing Story Ever Told: A Movie Review

  1. I took John Elwell to see the movie. John is 80 and knows many of the people shown in the film from the old days. Both he and I enjoyed it very much. While McCoy did show Bob Simmons name and twin-fin tail in two seconds, I wish he would have fit into his narrative something more about Bob, but I’m sure Jack would have like to have fit in a lot more in other areas too. Overall, it shares a lot of important surfing history.

    • Wow, cool that you know John. I only know him from the literature out there ( …btw, Serge is a friend of mine and I’m guessing there’s a good chance you know him). Yeah, it must have been tough for Jack to decide what to include and what to cut. I’m sure there are reams of film “on the floor” that could have been included. Hard to cover the history of surfing in 90 min for sure. I’m hoping that perhaps there might be more where the film came from. It’s unfortunate that there isn’t enough economic backing to put together a series of documentaries about the history of surfing and surfboard design. Perhaps one day.

      • I’ve been managing John’s collection of surfing images since around 1997 ( Yah, I know Serge a bit, he knows my sister and brother-in-law better. I really appreciate the work he does. He was at John’s 80th bday party not too long ago.

        I really, really like McCoy’s camera work, always have. Yes, it would be nice for McCoy to be able to do a series, Surfing deserves that, I’m sure someone at some point will be able to afford that, but it needs to be sooner rather than later because there are some like McCoy who are still very close to the recent histories, say since 1950. A couple more decades and that era will become more out of touch as those like Elwell in their 80s won’t be around to tell story firsthand.

      • Agreed on both accounts Ben. Jack’s camera work is so amazing. I loved the angle he chose for the Teahupoo shots…it would have been old hat were it not for the angle he chose. And we need more people interviewing the older generation of surfers. I’m in the process of doing some of that myself, but it’s got a very specific angle…I may have to broaden the perspective a bit.

    • This is for Ben Siegfried – Derek Hynd here. I worked on Jack’s film. I took us a good 5 years. Having read your comments, as with many comments of many audiences, I concur. In a perfect world ADSOB would have remained at 3 hours 40 minutes and released as such. Its structure would have thus embraced 99% of everything and everyone. The pain in the cuts to get it down to a necessary sub 90 minutes was an intense experience for everyone associated with the project. Believe us, in original form ADSOB was a wonderfully different proposition, not that the released ADSOB isn’t without alot of merit. Jack has mentioned a future release of early ADSOB versions and segments a ton of times – first talked about well before 2013. Jack hears and respects opinions like yours Ben. Down the track you’ll see the fruits of his original labours. Cheers.

    • Great to hear Derek! I am glad your part wasn’t minimized, it was one of my favorite parts of the entire movie. I’ve listened to Elwell talk about planing hulls since 1996, then see you, Wegener, and San Diego locals Richard Kenvin, Lucas Dirkse, Ryan Burch, et al. ripping on plaining hulls, in recent times. Really cool to have this element in the movie to balance with the various ‘fin’ boards and contemporary performance surfing.

  2. Adding this film to our list. Just recently enjoyed Chasing Mavericks, too-have you seen it? Looking forward to meeting you at the casa, Dawn-keep up the good blog!

  3. Hi Betty! Thanks for the positive feedback! Much appreciated! No, haven’t seen CM yet. I thought I was going to catch it when I was on Maui last November, but it didn’t get released there until shortly after I left.

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