If you know one thing about The Endless Summer that wasn’t part of the surf flick’s 95 golden minutes on the screen, you know about Wichita.
Wichita, Kansas wasn’t exactly a place most folks associated with surfing 50 years ago (nor do they now), and that was precisely the point. When promoter R. Paul Allen sought national distribution for director Bruce Brown’s round-the-world surf odyssey, the movie moguls in New York told him there was no way the film would sell 10 minutes from the ocean. But Allen and Brown knew this flick was different. It wasn’t Slippery When Wet, Brown’s first film, about a dream trip to Hawaii, or Surfing Hollow Days, his fourth, which featured Allen covered in cornstarch and almost suffocating in an early wetsuit, or the other two films in-between. The Endless Summer was a hero’s journey, a quest for the perfect wave, an aspirational story Allen was sure would play anywhere. On a flight back from New York, after getting rejected by the bigwigs again, Allen looked at an airline map tucked behind the barf bag and decided Wichita was where they’d make their last stand.