Dark comes early in the winter and mornings leave a thin sheet of frost on the picnic table.
It’s winter yesterday, today and tomorrow but it was never winter in “The Endless Summer.”
The sand was always warm, the sun was always out and the waves always peeled left to right or right to left in perfect synchrony.
Bruce Brown, a filmmaker, surfer and motorcycle rider, died a few days ago. His most famous film was “The Endless Summer.”
The movie not only changed the way people looked at the surf culture but reminded them that no matter where they lived, there was no better season than summer and no better place to be but the ocean.
“The Endless Summer” was released in 1966 and followed two surfers — Robert August and Mike Hynson — in their pursuit of the perfect wave. They traveled to Senegal, Ghana, South Africa, Australia, Tahiti, New Zealand and Hawaii chasing the surf and the sun.
The documentary cost $50,000. Almost everybody bet against it. A film about surfers? People thought they were bums. Surfing? That’s what you did when you didn’t have a job and didn’t want one. Who was going to watch two hours of that?
Nobody, thought the distributors who passed on it so Brown took to the road. He showed the film in school auditoriums, anywhere he could, narrating it and playing surf music behind it. He did everything but bring in sand and beach towels and give out tubes of Coppertone.
Brown wouldn’t give up. In February of 1966, he rented the Sunset Theater in Wichita, Kansas, and later the Kips Bay Theater in Manhattan. People came in droves and the film became a classic. Initially, it grossed $20 million and who knows how much since.
If you lived in Kansas, White Plains or Bakersfield, the film may or may not have turned you into a surfer. However, the film’s appeal was more than a showcase of the artistry, athleticism and elegance of a sport that only a lucky sliver of the country would be able to enjoy.
The movie showcased the oceans (Atlantic, Pacific, Indian, Arctic and Southern), bodies of water that have a magnetic hold on our imaginations. When we are at the water’s edge, the oceans seem infinite and our relationship with them similar to the one Paul Valery, the poet and philosopher, described us as having with the night sky: “We are carried away from ourselves … The enormous increase of our perspective and the decrease of our powers are opposed.”
The ocean makes us feel small but also as if we belong in some ancient, familiar way.
Couple the ocean with summer and it’s like adding cinnamon to toast — it doesn’t get any better.
Summer is one of those magic things. In summer, we are better versions of ourselves. Summers are warm, lazy, but lazy in a good way. Lazy in a thoughtful, "I don’t always have to be in a hurry" way.
When we are young, we don’t count the number of summers we might have in our lifetime. Why would you? There are a million of them ahead.
As we get older, we wonder whether we could have enjoyed them more, and savored them more and we conclude that we couldn’t have, which doesn’t mean we don’t want to try.
What could be more delicious than the prospect of an endless summer? A summer that never ends. A season in which we never age. If anything, we shed years and get younger.
“The Endless Summer.” A small movie. An idea for the ages and the ageless.