I recently sat down with Bruce and Dana Brown. As far as the world of surfing goes, it honestly doesn’t get much cooler than that. We talked about everything from the Endless Summer and how it changed the surf world forever to Howdy Doody and Kermit the Frog.
The Endless Summer, produced by Bruce Brown and released back in 1966, essentially pioneered the “surf film” as a legitimate genre. As most surfers know, it follows teenage Mike Hynson and Robert August on their worldwide search for the perfect wave.
However, in talking with Bruce, I learned that it didn’t start out this way. “I just wanted some other adventure,” said Bruce. “We’d been going to Mexico and Australia. So, I thought let’s go to South Africa. But it turned out it was 50 dollars per ticket cheaper to go around the world via South Africa.”
Thus, the worldwide search was born simply because it was more affordable.
Seven years after Gidget, which thrust surfing into the mainstream, the Endless Summer was the first film of its kind and set the bar for all other surf films at the time. Whereas Hollywood took to representing surfing in a kitschy way to middle America, Endless Summer sought to appeal to surfing’s core. And it changed the way surfing was to be portrayed from that point forward.
“Surfing basically had a bad rap at the time thanks to Hollywood,” said Bruce. “So, I thought, ‘Well the Endless Summer will give it some dignity.'”
“Dad wanted to make a statement about what it was really like,” said Dana.
Like father like son, Dana grew up surfing and caught the film-making bug from his father. “I was in the lucky sperm club to be born to him,” Dana said. “I think of him sometimes…his humor, his ability to stay calm when everybody else is getting a little too stressed out. He makes it look easy in situations it’s not.”
Although Bruce managed to make it look easy, both described the tremendous amount of work that goes into making films. “There’s a touch of stupidity in doing it,” Dana said. “You get about six cents an hour when you break it down at the end of the project.”
“That much? It’s gone up,” Bruce said with a chuckle.
Regardless, Dana has followed in his father’s footsteps making world-renown films from the Endless Summer II to Step Into Liquid. Like his father, Dana aims to dispel stereotypes with his work. “I don’t always think [surfing] gets a fair shake,” Dana said. “I think a lot of times it’s misrepresented a little bit or there are better stories than people tell. So, it kind of makes you want to tell those stories.”
Aside from his passions for surfing and filmmaking, Dana has something a bit more humorous in common with his father.
Bruce shared some critiques he’d read including one about his narration in the original Endless Summer. “Some film critics say I sound like Howdy Doody,” Bruce said. “I read some review they did of Dana’s movie and the critics said he sounded like Kermit the Frog.”
Despite their apparent likeness to TV show characters, they have both managed to leave everlasting marks on the surf world.
There is no greater evidence of this than the fact that the Endless Summer is still being celebrated over 50 years later. Not only Bruce and Dana, but also other stars from The Endless Summer films including: Robert August, Mike Hynson, Robert Weaver, John Van Hamersveld and more came together under one roof to celebrate in Huntington Beach.
They were celebrating the launch of the Endless Summer commemorative book and box set. In honor of the June 15, 1966 release date there are only 1,966 copies available. Numbered, hand-inspected, and signed by the cast and filmmakers, each set comes with new stories, newspaper clippings, a remastered DVD, and other never-seen-before memorabilia.
All of these legends came together in celebration of this film that started it all. It was incredible to have so many greats all together just hanging out. Imagine finding yourself in casual conversation with THE Robert August at a dinner party. Surreal doesn’t even begin to describe it.
But they aren’t the only ones whose lives were completely transformed by this film. This film completely changed surfing forever. It made surfing even more cool than Hollywood could and caused the surfing population to explode.
In describing surfing now, Bruce says, “shit everyone surfs…doctors, lawyers, Indian chiefs. It’s kind of like now it’s nothing to be ashamed of, but when I was a teenager you didn’t want to tell many people that you were a surfer.”
“They might have been ashamed just because of you though,” Dana jabbed jokingly back at him.
Not only did this film set the stage for all surf films to come, but it also inspired hundreds of thousands of people to venture out on the water and test their hand at surfing.
Bruce is nothing but humble when he hears about the impacts his film has had on people. “I’m grateful of course, but I think I get too much credit,” Bruce said.
Dana jokingly agreed, but followed by saying, “He doesn’t get enough credit. It’s humbling, right? Like Dad said, you hope you get your money back and then I can only imagine all these years later, people’s lives are changed.”
This dynamic duo has left an indelible mark on the world of surfing and action sports. And 50 years later it’s clear that the impacts of the Endless Summer are in fact endless.