Stab Magazine | Bruce Brown, 1937-2017

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Bruce Brown, 1937-2017

The man behind the most important surf movie ever made is gone at 8o

news // Dec 12, 2017
Words by stab
Reading Time: 2 minutes

The surf world woke this morning to heartbreaking news: the father of the modern surf film, The Endless Summer director, Bruce Brown has died at 80.

It’s difficult to overstate Bruce Brown’s impact on surf culture. After moving to Southern California from San Francisco as a ten-year-old boy, Bruce fell in love with surfing and eventually surf films, through Bud Browne’s early work, Hawaiian Surfing Movies and Trek to Makaha, which would later inspire him to film his first Super-8 short, while stationed in Honolulu during his Navy service in 1955. Over the next eight years, Bruce would film and direct some of the great early works of the surf film genre—Barefoot Adventure, Surfing Hollow Days, Slippery When Wet—projecting the sun-drenched, slap-stick lifestyles of Southern California’s youth on gymnasium walls and VFW halls—narrated live by Bruce in his iconic, deadpan, smart-alek delivery.  

But in 1964, Bruce Brown would show the world what this whole surf lifestyle was all about, premiering his culture-defining The Endless Summer for two years on his own, before it’s wide theatrical release in 1966. The film, which followed Robert August and Mike Hynson through a round-the-world hunt looking for the perfect wave, would serve as the blueprint for every surfer’s daydreams, widely considered the most important and iconic surf film ever made, its cover art by designer John Van Hamersveld perhaps the most recognizable image in all of surfing. 

On its release in 1966, Time Magazine called Bruce Brown “The [Ingmar] Bergman of the boards.”  

“To surfboard enthusiasts, a new wave film is an epic celebrating the cool of a bronzed athlete atop a ten-foot slab of polyurethane foam, shooting through a tunnel of sea-green water formed by a breaker’s curl. ‘The ultimate thing in surfing is to be covered up by the wave,’ says Bruce Brown, a blond, 28-year-old Californian who probably qualifies as the world’s foremost exponent of pleasure before business.”

To say that Bruce Brown touched each and every individual reading this currently would be no overstatement. Hyperbole is lost on a figure like Bruce Brown. Today we’ll honor his legacy by diving down his remarkable filmography (On Any Given Sunday, The Endless Summer II, etc.), with The Sandals turned all the way up.

Rest in Peace, Bruce Brown. And thank you, for everything.



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