The Endless Summer (1966)

The Endless Summer - poster

Having grown up a stone’s throw from arguably Guernsey’s premier surfing beach (with at least four different spots even I can think of along a mile or so of shore line) The Endless Summer is a film I’ve long been aware of and have distant of memories of watching, along with its sequel, in my youth.

I had wanted to give Bruce Brown’s original 1966 documentary film another watch for a while and, seeing that it was available on Amazon Prime at no extra charge I hit play and, from the off, was more enchanted than ever.

With a loose narrative following surfers Robert August and Mike Hynson on a trip around the world, following the summer from California to Africa, a Australia, New Zealand, Hawaii and a few other spots in between, upon its original release the film must have acted as something of a primer for the then much less well known sport.

The Endless Summer - Mike Hynson and Robert August
Hynson and August

Brown clearly knows this was to be the case, and this may be why it’s gained the reputation it has, as the opening section introduces us to some of the basics, as they were in the mid-60s, with some great film of the more popular surf spots in Hawaii and California and some of the top surfers of the day showing off their moves which, even now are pretty impressive as they walk about on their longboards almost as if they aren’t being propelled at pretty impressive speed.

Narrated by Brown in fantastically relaxed and irreverent style, the main bulk of the film is August and Hynson’s travelogue and, while some the attitudes may be a little dated (particularly in the scenes in West Africa), the film remains hugely engaging and Brown really does capture the sense of fun the trip seemed to be.

The Endless Summer - Bruce Brown
Bruce Brown

The highlight of course, is Brown’s footage of the surfing which has a terrific sense of naivety to it as it’s clearly all shot on fairly basic (certainly by today’s standards) equipment without sound and only short bursts of filming, largely from the sometimes quite distant shore, but captures a feel and mood spectacularly.

His narration boosts this, along with a few well chosen sound effects while the extra bits showing, albeit briefly, a taste of the country’s they visit just completes the package.

The Endless Summer - Cape St. Francis, South Africa
Cape St. Francis, South Africa – the ‘perfect wave’

Even though we never hear August or Hynson speak they really do feel like protagonists we are joining on their trip while the occasional interlude to show other aspects of surfing, highlighted by some amazing big wave sequences from Oahu’s North Shore, are well judged and fascinating even now.

The Endless Summer then remains, even some 56 years after its release, a masterpiece that captures the relaxed and laconic vibe of mid-60s beach life (or at least it’s romantic idyll) while featuring some film of surfing that even today, despite the evolution of the sport, is still impressive to see while the light surf rock soundtrack from The Sandals just elevates all of this to compete the package.

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