Rolled in the evolutionary smoke of counter cultural the world’s number one surfer Kelly Slater rides high performance boards designed by a generation of dreamers. In the 60s Dick Brewer lived and shaped boards in Hawaii. LSD and meditating on leafy mountain tops put the mad into the science behind what he believed worked on water. “We thought drugs might help us to ride boards,” recalls Brewer. The island had the seriously big waves, fields of Maui Waui (ask Howard Marks) and even Jimi Hendrix turned up and played on top of sleeping volcano, such was the worldly influence of this distant Island.
On the other side of the planet Bob McTavish shaped surfboards for the smaller waves of Australia. From the age of 12 his life had been surfing. He was once known as Bob-a-day due to his cheap lifestyle; he owned 2 pairs of shorts and lived in a car by the surf. He also changed the way we ride and shape boards for ever. McTavish and clan rubbed more than wax on their boards. “Dope was an influence on everything throughout that surfing movement” says surf historian Paul Witzig who documented that era, “everything from board design to music”. Drugs scaffolded the 60s landscape with the desire for experimentation. What you could ride on waves lead to these innovators and the friends winning world-class competitions.
Yet despite the cool evolutionary smoke from two parallel fires, Brewer and McTavish, now in the their silverback years, can’t agree on who actually set the pace from riding long 10 foot planks to the head high boards of today. The film Going Vertical fills your mind with the fresh air of big dreams you only experience on a beach. Sober, on a wet Tuesday evening, I am transported round the planet. The English monsoon summer is over while I feel the Sun shine through the screen for a full hour over the footprints these innovators laid down in the late 1960s. This is the golden era of surfing, beautifully captured in one movie.
The film Going Vertical fills your mind with the fresh air of big dreams you only experience on a beach. Sober, on a wet Tuesday evening, I am transported round the planet
The film is packed full of surfing’s heroes. Fans of Endless Summer will hear the story of Hollywood pin-up Mike Hynson, the famous silhouette of the surfer set against the orange Sunset, who later verged on becoming just a shadow, living off McDonalds chuck-outs. Gerry Lopez, aka Mr Pipeline who rode performance waves on Brewer’s side of the planet and starred in director John Milius Big Wednesday, recalls his story of riding a small board shaped for a child that inadvertently revolutionised his surfing. And for fans of Crystal Voyager, there's the kneeboard riding George Greenough with his unique and revolutionary style and ability to ride deeper, faster and get more vertical on a wave. McTavish “had a dream” and while under the influence of Greenough’s visionary manoeuvres built a new type of surfboard he showcased in Hawaii.
You will have to watch the film to know the outcome. A classic ‘who done it?’ some 40 years later featuring a bunch of very cool old beach boys who surfed too close to the Sun but made it back to tell us their tale. A thing of beauty – not just for surfers.
Click here to read more of Rowan’s work on his surf blog - Chairman of the Board
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