Tuesday, 10 April 2012

RIDERS ON THE STORM


Riders on the Storm
By ABBY AGUIRRE
Photographs by THOMAS CAMPBELL

It is an almost inviolable rule that Hollywood attempts at surf movies are not received well by surfers. Part of it has to do with a studio tendency toward surf tropes and clichés (“Cowabunga!” “Hang Ten!”). More of it has to do with the nature of the sport itself: it breeds localism. Not just the xenophobic, occasionally violent expressions of localism that enforce the pecking order, but, more prevalent, a fierce love of place. To learn the personality of a particular wave is to become intimate with the contours of a landscape, to map that landscape and make it yours. Surfers will say that the character of a break influences the local culture. In other words, a filmmaker who wishes to get a surf spot right by its locals has his work cut out for him.
It was with this in mind that the team behind “Of Men and Mavericks,” due out this fall, went to rather prodigious lengths to make their film anthropologically correct. Directed by Curtis Hanson (“8 Mile,” “L.A. Confidential”), the biopic tells the story of Jay Moriarty, a surfer who helped put Maverick’s — an enormous break a half-mile offshore near Santa Cruz, Calif. — on the map when, in 1995, a photograph of him wiping out in a 30-foot swell made the cover of Surfer magazine. He was 16. Though he died young, in 2001, Moriarty remains the spot’s most celebrated stylist, the standard by which all performances at Maverick’s are judged.
To get Maverick’s right meant a few things. It meant that many of the surfboards had to be guns, which are boards designed to be ridden in very big waves, by Bob Pearson, the renowned Santa Cruz shaper who made Moriarty’s boards. (Pearson shaped 173 boards for the production.) It meant that the wet suits had to be by O’Neill, the venerable Santa Cruz company, and full length and extra-thick, as the water there is cold, especially in December, when Maverick’s is at its biggest. Onshore, it meant that the clothes had to be inexpensive work wear (Levi’s, Dickies, Carhartt) and, because the film focuses on the early ’90s, oversize. For Sophie de Rakoff, the film’s costume designer, this meant resisting any temptation to make the silhouettes more current (read: fitted). That period was “not an attractive time for casual clothes,” she says. It also meant that a host of surf stars, like Dan Malloy, Greg Long and Grant Washburn, had to be enlisted to help with everything from training the actors to stunt surfing. “I can’t think of a prominent big-wave surfer from the area who wasn’t involved in some capacity,” says Brandon Hooper, one of the film’s screenwriters and producers. “You’ve got to nail it.”
Surfing Maverick’s is a different kind of activity than, say, the comparatively casual affair of riding a long board at Malibu. If you misjudge your timing, or if you drop in with anything less than full commitment, and especially if you panic, you may not make it out. The script therefore centers a great deal on the relationship between Moriarty, played by Jonny Weston, and his mentor, Rick “Frosty” Hesson, played by Gerard Butler. Under Hesson’s tutelage, Moriarty studied Maverick’s, drawing diagrams of the reef at low tide and even writing essays to train his mind. He also trained physically, paddling long distances and, to prepare his body for the dreaded multiple-wave hold-down, free-diving. Tragically, this is how Moriarty died — not out at Maverick’s but diving alone in the Maldives, 50 feet below the water’s surface, practicing holding his breath.via http://www.nytimes.com
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