The formula has changed. Gone are the days, and the blueprint, of the Taylor Steele inspired surf flicks of the past. It was once a straightforward concept: get the best guys, film them around the world, chop a surfer’s clips down to 2-5 minutes of godlike action to an uppity song, then move on to the next guy’s 2-5 uppity minutes. Boom. Credits. You’re done. But things have changed. Lately the lens has been focused on one subject for the entirety of a film and we’ve seen a surge of biopics. The movies delve deeper into our heroes’ lives, but it has cost us some diversity. Is this type of cinematography a step in the right direction for our Spicoli-stained little pastime? Or is it the narcissistic nightmare of a generation? Beau Flemister and Brendan Buckley take sides.
Brendan Buckley: Biopics, profile films, full-length selfies — whatever you want to call them. I hate them.
Beau Flemister: No, you don’t. Deep in your heart you love them and have loved many in the past: Raw Irons, Searching for Tom Curren, First Chapter, Bending Colours, whatever Otis Carey called his movie, etc. Great men and women’s greatness should be celebrated.
BB: Greatness should be celebrated. But it should be celebrated collectively. It should be packaged and presented like a $12.95 Chinese food buffet instead of an excessive gaze into one person’s life. Seriously, how many childhood intro segments can we watch before repulsion sets in? Like, you could do air reverses when you were 13, that’s cute, we fucking get it.
BF: So, you hate intimacy and children. Cool, Buck. If it weren’t for cliché childhood montages — by the way, Montaj?! — we’d never know the true color and shimmer of Slater’s adolescent hair. We’d never know that Dane was once sponsored by Rip Curl and not always so indie. I understand your qualm, but you sound like a communist with this collective celebration shit. Have you ever believed in one man so full-heartedly that’d you’d follow him into the depths of a 30-min cinematic voyage? Or do just want to stand in line for a loaf of bread for five hours like the Soviets did in the 80s?
BB: You’re the red! Honestly, you’re lucky McCarthy isn’t still kicking. In terms of entertainment, you pledge your allegiance to one, and only one, figure at a time. You bow down to a singular leader while I praise many. You wait in line for one loaf of stale entertainment bread and I wait for a three-course meal. I grew up on a diet of Taylor Steele movies. Movies that showed the diversity of surfing’s most talented at that time. With all the different styles, it was never bland. Now, you’ve got everyone from Otis Carey to Lakey Peterson releasing biopics. 30+ minutes is too much time to spend watching one surfer. It dilutes the best clips. I wish folks would join forces and make movies that show every surfer’s best clips with a bit of personality from each. Things would stay fresh and exciting and ego-free. Narcissus didn’t fair to well in that pond, you know.
BF: Personalities? Ha! If you could understand someone’s personality in 2-5 minutes my dad wouldn’t be harping about his third ex-wife. What is Ross Williams like, Buck — do tell. What’s Ross into besides 20ft sprays? You are correct in that some people do not deserve a profile pic — yet, or ever — but you fail to remember the biopic’s greatest plus: it’s never just the subject. Every good one has exclusive bits from a supporting cast. John John’s Done had Albee and Matt, Jordy’s Bending Colours had that epic duel with Julian, Dane’s Thrills, Spills and Whatnot had all those cute seagulls! Don’t be afraid of a man with a message. Of interviews and candid moments. Of your favorite surfer looking insecure and uneasy in front of the camera going, “What do you want me to say?” behind giant, hideous sunglasses. You and your pajama party with your flimsy loyalty and cardboard Occupy signs and medical reefer cards need a leader. One, like profile flicks, with depth.
BB: Ross Williams is a loveable towhead with a hack that polarizes his boyish blonde hair cut. That’s all I need to know about Ross Williams. I don’t need to know what his father did before Ross was born. I don’t need to watch him walk his pit-bull mix. I don’t care! Let me ask you this. You, like many others, are a fan of music festivals. They’re great, aren’t they? You get a taste of everything. You know what happens when you take all but one performer away? You get an eight hour Weezer concert and maybe a quick cameo by a hologram depiction of Tupac Shakur. That’s what you get. That’s a biopic.
BF: Music festivals are OK, I suppose. But if I could watch exclusive footage of Dane or John John surfing for 2 hours over 2 min, and had to deal with a little sentimental, WASPy flashback now and then, I ‘d still be into it. There is nothing wrong with gratuity and depth and just a touch of complexity in a surf flick, in comparison to shallow, highly forgettable banger sections. You’re telling me that you’ve never wanted to see more of one person’s part in a Taylor Steele flick? That maybe, you could’ve just gotten one more minute of Jay Larson? You seem like a Larson-man.
BB: You’ve got a point. Sometimes a short section isn’t enough. A John John Florence biopic is totally warranted. But a Dean Morrisson one is not. There should be a committee to determine who can do a biopic — Tom Curren, Albee Layer, CJ Hobgood and New York Rangers Center Derek Stepan. If they deem you unworthy, then you get no biopic. We could resurrect the Steeley style flicks we all enjoyed in the past . And we’d never be subjected to a disaster like Joel Parkinson’s Free as A Dog. Those voiceovers still haunt me…
BF: Agreed. There should be a quota. Or at least, for the love of God, a rule against any more mind-numbing“I-cameback-from-an-injury” biopics with demonstrative surgery footage, unless you were actually pronounced clinically dead. That one might be interesting.
We invite you, darling commenters, to divulge your opinions below.