Mixed Plate
Movie Review: Step Into Liquid (8/03)

On August 6th 2003, the boys and me were treated to a premiere of the new surf film "Step Into Liquid." It was a decent film. But first, some background.

My wife noticed that a local surf boutique was giving away tickets to the premiere with a $5 purchase. The next day, I raced over and got tickets for my family.

As luck would have it, my daughter's busy schedule intervened, so my wife told me I should take my surf friends. Shoots! A couple of quick phone calls later, I got Buddy, Rich and Makani to come along.

We went down early on the recommendation of the shop, since seating was not guaranteed. As it turned out, we were second in line behind an eager surf mom. I talked to another group and they said they got the last batch of tickets... only ten minutes prior! Interesting.

Once we got settled with massive amounts of popcorn, the promoter (Dave Lyons?) went in front the screen and gave a short spiel on the movie. Of course, he thanked everyone for attending, and then generously passed out M&M's and t-shirts to the grateful crowd.

By the way, the mostly full theater crowd was not filled with your typical surfer types. Since the tickets were part of a promotion, the demographics were a little different, with more nonsurfers and families than you'd usually see in a surf flick.

He then introduced a surprise guest. Jesse Billauer was an aspiring amateur surfer when he became a paraplegic in an unfortunate surfing accident. Jesse had a prominent segment in the film, promoting hope and stoke and that "life rolls on." Seeing him in person was both inspiring and a bit chilling. I'm sure everyone in the theater (myself included) had lumps in their throats.

Soon afterwards, the lights were dimmed (no hoots and hollers) and the show began. Shades of Endless Summer 1 and 2! Dana Brown, Bruce Brown's son, was the director and his father's influences were quite obvious. Great cinematography, good transitions and segues, though less narrative dry humor than his dad. The movie looked at the many aspects of surfing, from pros to tow-surfers to Great Lakes locals to Galveston Texas supertanker wake riders.

There was lots of dialog in the form of interviews, and the surfing footage was not the best of the best (although the quality was top-notch). Some really touching stories were brought up like Billauer's triumphs, the Malloy's teaching Ireland's Catholic and Protestant kids to surf together, and Dale Webster's incredible string of 27 years of surfing every day.

The best line was by legendary surfer Gerry Lopez, describing the surfing experience: "You think you're going to die, but most of the time you don't. But then again, a part of you sort of dies."

For me, the highlight was the Cortes Banks footage, where surfers journeyed out 100 miles off the coast of California to tow into a never before surfed big wave spot. The footage was visual eye-candy for me, being both dramatic in delivery and inspiring in the passion of searching for new waves.

When it was over, the crowd clapped generously, and even stayed through the credits, where some out-takes and final wave sequences were shown.

However, I couldn't help but feel just a little empty. It was a great flick, perfect for introducing surfing and the surf lifestyle to mainstream America. But it kind of left me wanting more. "Pleasantly boring" is how one movie critic accurately described it.

In the end, I realized that describing the surfing experience and the passion therein is an impossible task. Surfing is such a personal thing that any single movie cannot capture it all.

That's not a bad thing though. To consummate the experience, we have to get out in the water and actually partake in waveriding. In that way, the movie succeeded in stoking us and made us realize that although waveriders are very different, we are all part of a worldwide tribe. The experience is different for everyone, but the stoke is the same.

Two thumbs up!

The boys, about to consume into liquid