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The Legacy Of Surfer And Filmmaker Bruce Brown


Now we are going to remember the filmmaker who first showed us what it is like to set off in search of the perfect wave.


BRUCE BROWN: Many surfers ride summer and winter, but the ultimate thing for most of us would be to have an endless summer - the warm water and the waves without the summer crowds of California. The only way to do this is by traveling around the world, following the summer season as it moves around the world.

MCEVERS: The film of course was "The Endless Summer." It came out in 1966. It followed two California surfers on their adventure from beach to beach around the world. The filmmaker was Bruce Brown. He died earlier this week at the age of 80. And to talk about him, we have Matt Holzman, who is the host of member station KCRW's podcast The Document. Hey, Matt.

MATT HOLZMAN, BYLINE: Hey. We got to talk about this later. That clip made me want to go watch the movie again.

MCEVERS: (Laughter) But you have seen it a hundred - you've actually seen this film a hundred times.

HOLZMAN: I think that is probably true.

MCEVERS: No, really, seriously, though, explain why you've seen this film so many times.

HOLZMAN: Well, you know, I grew up in Long Beach, which is actually where Bruce Brown grew up. And I was not a surfer, and I was around a lot of surfers. And I thought they were incredibly cool. And this was my entree into their world, which seemed totally inaccessible to me. And it's the same reason that I think the movie ended up being so incredibly popular - was a lot of people wanted to be part of that world. It seemed so idyllic. It seemed so carefree. And you know, I lived it by watching this movie over and over again.

MCEVERS: You know, it's funny. It's not actually that great of a documentary.

HOLZMAN: Well, it's not really a documentary at all. I mean, most of it is kind of made up. But there is, as they say in the documentary world, an essential truth about it. And all the surfing was absolutely real. And these two young guys were traveling around the world. They were surfing in places that maybe, you know, nobody had ever surfed before. And remember; this was at a time when most people didn't get on a plane and go to Africa...


HOLZMAN: ...Let alone then leave the hotel and surf having no idea what was waiting for them.


HOLZMAN: So in that respect, it's very true.

MCEVERS: Right. It's just an adventure.

HOLZMAN: It's an incredible adventure, yeah.

MCEVERS: The crew did not use sound equipment on the road, so it's actually a silent film that Bruce Brown then narrates. And in that way, he kind of becomes a character in this.

HOLZMAN: Well, he - yeah, he's very funny. He also is very passionate about it. And he brings a kind of accessibility to it.


BROWN: For us, it's the sport of surfing - the thrill and the fun of the sport of surfing.

MCEVERS: I mean, Bruce Brown was a surfer himself, yeah?

HOLZMAN: Oh, yeah.


HOLZMAN: He was definitely a surfer, and he started making movies. The idea was, you would get a camera. You know, you'd put the movie together, and you'd show it to some people in the local high school or auditorium just to make enough money to make the next movie. And this movie, "Endless Summer," was actually a very big production. It was like, you know, hey, we're going to go around the world.


BROWN: On the plane heading for Africa, Robert wondered what was in store for them. Would they find surf? Would they catch malaria?

HOLZMAN: You know, they did. They traveled all around the world, and they made this incredible movie.

MCEVERS: Yeah. The people who liked this film weren't just people who, like, lived in beach communities or were into surfing. Like, this was popular all over the country. What was it about this movie that people liked so much?

HOLZMAN: It was a very difficult time. This is the Vietnam era. It was a time when people really wanted to escape, and they wanted to find a simpler time. And you know, if you see the movie now, obviously it's very dated. It was - came out a long, long time ago. But there still is something so magical about this idea of just these kids going on this trip, being one with the outdoors. And you can see how especially somebody who didn't live near the beach might have found it appealing.

MCEVERS: KCRW's Matt Holzman on "The Endless Summer" and filmmaker Bruce Brown, who died Sunday at the age of 80 - thanks so much, Matt.

HOLZMAN: Hang 10.

MCEVERS: (Laughter) Matt Holzman hosts the KCRW podcast The Document, which is a mash-up of documentaries and radio.


BROWN: With enough time and enough money, you could spend the rest of your life following the summer around the world. But for now, the endless summer must end. This is Bruce Brown. Thank you for watching. I hope you enjoyed my film. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.