While filming the first episode of The Inertia’s new documentary series, a special called Sine Qua Non: The Psychology of Big Wave Surfing with Greg Long, I took some time to discuss Greg’s involvement in a much higher budget surf film: Chasing Mavericks. Chasing Mavericks is a feature film starring Gerard Butler and Jonny Weston about the life of surfer Jay Moriarity that premieres later this month, on October 26th. Greg was pretty closely involved in the project, so it was interesting to hear his perspective – from rescuing Gerard Butler in 20-foot Mavericks to playing Jeff Clark to trying to figure out how surfers might receive the film, there was plenty to discuss.
So how did you first get involved with the Chasing Mavericks movie and what is your role in the film?
I actually play one of the characters that Frosty [Hesson], who was Jay’s mentor, was surfing Maverick’s with at the very beginning – kind of before it was discovered by the rest of the surfing public and it was still sort of this mysterious – almost myth of a wave that was really distant and people had heard stories about.
I had a non-acting role as well. I had a big part in the stunt surfing and all the shots that happened out there in the Maverick’s lineup.
[Regarding being in a film] I was really hesitant. They ended up organizing a special [casting call] for me, because I never had any interest to get involved in the whole Hollywood acting part of things. It’s just not something I’ve ever given much thought to, but in the end, after thinking about this opportunity it really came down to the idea that Jay was a hero of mine, and if my involvement could have in any way contributed to bringing his story to life and bringing it to the rest of the world then I thought it was the right thing to do. As I said, he was a hero of mine, and it was an honor to have even just a small hand in the project.
I heard your role in particular was based on Jeff Clark. Is that true?
Yes. That is true. Myself, Zach [Wormhoudt], and Pete [Mel] are supposed to be the few guys that Frosty was out there surfing Maverick’s with before the crowds really showed – one of those obviously being Jeff who was the first guy to ever surf it.
From what I understand it’s a pretty big deal to open your mouth and have a speaking role in a feature film. Did you take any acting classes?
No. No acting classes. Thankfully, they catered those particular roles and the lines that we said to our acting ability – or lack thereof. I’d hesitate to even call it that, but it obviously is acting. It’s different when you have cameras pointed in your face, but the lines that we said aren’t too far from the conversation or dialog that we have with each other on a daily basis as we’re going surfing or suiting up or any of that so it was pretty natural and easy to fall in line with and figure it out hopefully without sounding like too much of a novice actor, but I’ll let everyone else be the judge of that. I’m not making any promises as far as my performance goes.
Gerard Butler made national news in the process of filming this for taking a pretty serious beating at Mavericks. You were there, correct? How was that experience?
I was right next to Gerard when we were shooting a scene that called for us to be paddling out on the inside of the lineup. They wanted the dramatic rocks and whitewater crashing against them in the background, and it was one of those rogue freak accidents. And that’s the reason they brought guys like Jeff Clark, Grant Washburn, Zach Wormhoudt, Pete Mel, myself and everyone else; we’re very meticulous as to how we approach our surfing especially out there in the lineup, and a lot of the scenes and the dialog that we had on the water called for a shot at a time when there were waves breaking– and with that bringing a couple of actors out there.
There’s another scene where we had Jonny Weston, who plays Jay, in the lineup off to the side and there were a bunch of waves breaking. A big part of us being involved and why they chose us is how meticulous we are as far as understanding the lineup and the currents and the tides and all of that.
Given everyone’s experience and judgment, we were shooting a scene at a place where we all felt we were safe given the conditions and the swell, but it is the ocean and you never can say with 100 percent confidence what it’s going to do. And that particular set was a rogue one that missed the whole outside main lineup and shifted wide. And Gerard took a legit 20-foot face wave of whitewater on the head that doubled up on that inside bowl. He nearly drowned. I’ll go ahead and say that.