A Westside Story

posted by / News / April 21, 2010

The Westsiders Movie Poster

With The Westsiders set to premiere this weekend at the Newport Film Festival we caught up with director Joshua Pomer to talk inspiration, helgy beatings and The Godfather

SURFING Magazine: How did you first meet Flea, Ratboy, and Barney?
Joshua Pomer: I met Flea in sixth grade. He came to school with half of his face-swollen shut. I couldn’t believe it when he told me he was out surfing at Steamer Lane. I had heard of Steamer Lane, but only knew it as a place you should stay away from. At that time, there was something called “Helgy Beatings,” where older kids would hold you down and give you beatings. There was nowhere worse for a beating than Steamer Lane.

But, if you could take your beatings, and then prove yourself in the big waves, then you could count yourself as one of “The Westsiders” Surf Gang. Vince Collier, VC, was the biggest brute force in the water at Steamer Lane, and he got any wave he wanted.

As I started surfing with Jason “Ratboy” Collins, Darryl ”Flea” Virostko—and then went on to meet Sean “Barney” Barron, Kenny “Skindog” Collins, Anthony Ruffo and Mike Brummit—I became part of the family.

What was the most surprising thing that you learned while filming the movie?
I learned so much, I didn’t know Flea ate insulation as a kid and had to get his stomach pumped, I didn’t know the details of Barney’s bipolar brake-down in Australia, I didn’t know that the city of Santa Cruz planted a tree and put a plaque in Lighthouse field to Honor Ratboy’s father Jay Collins. I don’t think many people in Santa Cruz know that. It’s right behind the “Carp lot” and Ratboy and his brothers decorate the tree every Christmas, because their father was born on Christmas.

Vince “The Godfather” Collier revealed his inner soul. I didn’t know The Godfather was running drugs and picking up bails and bails of weed in the Monterey Bay. Everyone in the film revealed their struggles, and trusted me with their stories of pain, success and conflicts. I am so proud of this film and honored to be able to tell the stories of my best friends.

When did you decide to start making the movie?
I documented my friends with the advent of the video camera and chronicled their rising surfing fame in a surfing action video series called The Kill. My friends rose to the top of the surfing world while I was going to film school at University California, Santa Barbara. I was learning from studying the masters, De Sica, Ford, Spielberg, and Wells.

In 2003 I decided that it was time to begin this lifelong project. I needed to start The Westsiders movie full time and craft a comprehensive and compelling feature. I had no choice – every bone in my body said make this film. I hope everyone that sees it feels inspired.

Is this your first documentary?
This is my first feature length Documentary Film. This is my true directorial debut.

How was making this movie different from the other surf videos you have made?
The Westsiders is a story driven feature film narrated by Rossana Arquette (Pulp Fiction) with music scored by Mike McReady, Art Directed by Mike DeNicola, and Executive Produced by Brian Hirrell. I had a full team that helped fulfill my vision.

What was the one thing you cut from the movie that you wished you could have kept?
We are doing a series of webisodes that will feature scenes that are not in the movie. There was a thousand hours of interviews and footage. I started shooting super 8 when I was eight years old, then when I was 12 I got a Pentax K-1000 for my birthday. Plus we scored footage from the 1950’s at Cowells Beach, and seventies footage of Richard Schmitt at Mitchell’s Cove when it was thirty feet.

What do you hope that viewers will take away from this movie?
I hope that many people from all walks of life see The Westsiders, because it’s a film about universal themes, love, loss, and forgiveness. We came from broken homes, we made bad decisions but we always believed that if we stuck together and formed our own family that we could survive. I hope that The Westsiders comforts as well as inspires viewers to follow their bliss.

I would especially like to thank everyone who has been involved in this film, from my video productions teacher in High School, to Brian Hirrel the Executive Producer. There are so many generous people who took part in this project. Most especially, I’d like to thank the city of Santa Cruz and the families and people in the film who share their lives so openly and honestly.

The Westsiders premiers this Saturday, April 24, 8:00pm at the Regency South Coast Village Theatre as part of the Newport Film Festival. Tickets are $12.

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  • Mike Yankaus

    As an artist at O’Neill I had the personal honor (thas’ right, honor) of working, and surfing in the same arena as these local legends. As pointed out in the film, this crew is as talented as any in the world. The main surf mags and surf industry is in OC, so they usually didn’t get the coverage that SoCal guys do. But at O’Neill, we made sure they got seen in print via advertising, and video (yeah TR). We understood how talented they are. The West Siders surf in conditions as dangerous as the North Shore. Pipeline has a deadly reef, but the Lane has a deadly cliff. If you don’t understand the place, injury or death can be handed out by the wave. So tide, swell direction, and positioning all have to be learned and understood. Surfing there requires respect for the total deal. If you do the wrong thing, the consequence can definitely be life threatening: your life, or the life of the guy you endangered. It isn’t fun like Malibu Kart Racing—it’s more like full on NASCAR when it’s going. So when you watch these guys doing airs in front of the cliff, you are watching some very talented surfers. Congrats Josh, and to everyone involved. I am stoked to see you all getting the recognition you deserve, and that you are all still growing bigger.

  • O Boy

    Westsiders? not sure what that means are they from the westside of what?

  • says

    Come find out…

  • fred

    I thought Pomer would call this The Kill 27.

  • Bob

    I think Flea is a dick and he always has been. Why would I want to watch that guy made into a hero? He’s not a hero and he never will be…

  • Mike Yankaus

    Message to Bob: As a surfer, Flea (et all WS) have definitely done heroic things. Crazy brave, amazing talent. As a person, yes, like all of us, there’s the good and the bad. I think Flea has tons of potential in realizing the good. Everyone has unlimited creative potential. If you don’t think so, then ask yourself: what is the basis of action? Answer: thought. So where does thought come from? Answer, an inner source of thought-energy and intelligence: silent consciousness—which appears to be unlimited… So it is just a question of any of us appreciating that inner potential, and expressing it positively, into action. Flea seems much more tapped into that know, so the sky’s the limit.

  • jcoville

    Pomer, I can’t wait to watch it!

  • Sally

    Can’t wait to watch the entire film…. I hope it premieres down under sometime soon?

    Having been married to a Santa Cruz born surfer for the past 9 years, maybe this film will give a girl from Australia some much needed insight into the world in which he was born into. A world that I have often struggled to understand. Nice work.

  • Tim Johnston

    It’s a bit sad that Vince collier at least seems to be…….. correct me if I’m wrong……. still carrying around that West side mentality of the Big selfish bully boy. As I was grom and surfed and looked up to Vince. There is a lot to be said for people who try to better their image or at least admit their wrong doings rather than always still trying to act like he is still the tough guy. Every dog has his day and no one is invincible. I’m now 50 and just trying to grow up!

    watched the West siders and was a bit taken back by the….. me, me, me attitude he portrayed. If you know or do mixed martial arts, one usuallycomes across as humble. Joey and Richard Shmidt are a good example of good surfers who kept a low profile.

    Their comes a time when you lay down the tough guy act!
    and downplay the perception or at least try to leave a legacy as a Man who changed and might at least have a few regrets?!!