Vintage Movies: “The Endless Summer”

MAGNET contributing writer Jud Cost is sharing some of the wealth of classic films he’s been lucky enough to see over the past 40 years. Trolling the backwaters of cinema, he has worked up a list of more than 500 titles—from the silent era through the ’00s—that you may have missed. A new selection, all currently available on DVD, appears every week.


The Endless Summer (1964, 92 minutes)

Anyone looking for a cure for those high-blood-pressure blues should spend an evening with The Endless Summer, 92 minutes that document a pair of surfer dudes literally riding their long boards around the globe. Some may have thought the film, shot in 1963-64, was just an attempt to jump on the surf-rock band wagon fueled by hits from Dick Dale, the Beach Boys and Jan & Dean. This enduring work was nothing like that.

With a tasty instrumental surf-rock score by the Sandals, it looked spectacular on the big screen in the summer of ’64, even though it wasn’t shot with the latest wide-angle hardware employed by Hollywood at the time. But when a 20-footer looms up behind two guys trying to catch a ride, The Endless Summer becomes a hypnotic experience.

The narration by Bruce Brown—who also directed and edited the film and shot most of it—is priceless, flecked with deadpan, surfer-dude humor, previously displayed by Dean Torrence of surf-rock pioneers Jan & Dean. For example: “The only way to avoid a wipe-out,” quips Brown, “is to take this wide, stink-bug stance on the board. Spread your legs and hang onto your trunks as they split right up the back.” The ultimate trip is to ride your board as close as possible to the curl, the breaking white-water behind you, without being engulfed by it. “All maneuvers on the board—turning, trimming, stalling and walking the nose—are directed toward staying in the curl,” explains Brown.

The ultimate voyage for surfers would be to follow the warm weather and warm water of summer completely around the globe for an entire year. Along the way they could visit the unknown shores of western Africa as well as storied surfing locales off the coasts of Australia and New Zealand. That would accomplish, reckons Brown, what seemed an impossible dream back home in California: a truly endless summer.

As dream becomes reality, the stars of Brown’s global surf epic are Robert August and Mike Hinson, a pair of handsome Angelinos who’ve been planning this type of voyage for years. The pair, with film crew in tow, arrives in Dakar, Senegal, not knowing what to expect. They are shocked at being charged the local equivalent of 30 U.S. dollars per night for their hotel room. But the good news is they find a perfect set of waves breaking off a tiny island no more than 100 yards off the shore in front of their hotel. However, since Starbucks wasn’t even a gleam in anyone’s eye back then, the pair is also dismayed at being charged a dollar for a cup of coffee. But the dream continues next day, as Robert and Mike hire a jeep and move on down the virgin African coast to Accra in Ghana.