Published Sep 01, 2003It's hard to believe, with all of the worshipping at the altars of Quicksilver, Roxy and Billabong, that surfing was ever an under-appreciated sport. But in the 1950s, it was nothing but a niche activity taken seriously by only a handful of people. With its peculiar tendency to hold an almost mystical attraction for its followers, surfing spawns intensely loyal fans. Fans like Bruce Brown, who was making little-known documentary films in the '50s. And then in 1959 Sandra Dee's Gidget started a hairline fracture in surfing's veil of secrecy.
In 1966, avid surfing proponents the Beach Boys hit an all-time high with "Good Vibrations," but it was Bruce Brown who finally cracked the sport wide open with the nationwide release of The Endless Summer.
That documentary followed three surfers Brown, Robert August and Mike Hynson on their quest to surf around the world. Brown would go on to director Steve McQueen's Oscar-nominated On Any Sunday, and in 1994 he would revisit old friends and meet up with new ones in The Endless Summer 2 The Journey Continues.
So it is entirely too apropos that Brown's son Dana would follow up with this year's Step Into Liquid. An insightful and exciting look at the real world of surfing, Dana's documentary travels to Tahiti, Hawaii, Texas, Ireland, Costa Rica, Michigan, and Vietnam to touch on an eclectic group of people whose lives revolve around the sport. One man hasn't missed a day of surfing in almost 30 years; three American brothers teach surfing to Catholic and Protestant kids in Ireland; another man takes his son to the place where he learned to surf during the war in Vietnam. Added to these quirky stories are legends like Laird Hamilton and Gerry Lopez, young superstars Kelly Slater and Taj Burrow, a near suicidal group of friends called the Mavericks Crew, and a follow-up on Robert August and the players of The Endless Summer 2.
While Step Into Liquid is a captivating film, it is hard to keep track of all of the faces, as the organisation is at times unclear. The soundtrack is impressive, but is stereotypical in certain segments notably the fluffier pieces during the girl surfers part. And Brown's own casual repartee borders on the cheesy. (Alliance Atlantis)