Stab Magazine | Ross Williams Discusses How A Creeper Van And A Video Camera Made The Momentum Generation

Ross Williams Discusses How A Creeper Van And A Video Camera Made The Momentum Generation

It was the winter 1989/90 and Taylor Steele was camped out in front of Benji Weatherly’s Pipe house.

style // Oct 20, 2018
Words by Stab
Reading Time: 4 minutes

It was the winter 1989/90 and Taylor Steele was camped out in front of Benji Weatherly’s Pipe house.

The Momentum Generation, the New School. Kelly, Shane-O, Taylor, Machado, the Malloys, they unequivocally defined what it meant to be a surf star in the ‘90s. 

Pretty soon we’re going to see how HBO handles the material. They just dropped the official trailer a few days. The film comes out on December 11.

And while you may stream the film on your device or download it from the cloud, the fact of the business is, “the VCR changed the sport as we know it.”

“It made it possible for kids across the world to watch their favorite surfers in their favorite surf films until they burned a hole through that chunky tape cassette,” recounted Ross Williams.

“Like never before kids across the country and around the world became disciples of their favorite surf movie; movies such as Surf into Summer, Blazing Boards, Beyond Blazing Boards, Filthy Habits and Pump just to name a few. The high action sequences were burned into their minds and then carried out into the water.”

Growing up on the North Shore, Williams and his crew, which consisted of island kids Matty Liu, Jason Magallenes and Shane Dorian, had the good fortune of spending time with Californians like Taylor Knox and Rob Machado every winter. Australians Shane Powell and Shane Herring would fall also into that category. 

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“Then, on the East Coast was the exception to all exceptions: Kelly Slater,” explained Williams while we were working through some of his Momentum memories for a Surfer’s Journal piece a few years back.

“No doubt the East Coast has a great surf scene, but it’s no secret that Kelly had to motivate himself at a very young age to keep improving at the pace only he seems to be familiar with,” continued Williams. “I’m sure Kelly pulled a lot of motivation from his peers, but what really set him apart from the rest was his brain. He was able to think and translate his thoughts into his surfing. This is the kind of behavior you see in adult athletes at present day, not children of the ’80s. While most of us were watching all those videos with our hearts on our wetsuit sleeves, Kelly was actually calculating what was going on in the technique and how he could import those lessons into his surfing.” 

By the end of the ‘80s Benji Weatherly’s house at Pipe became ground zero for this youth uprising.

“Sure, we all already knew each other for a few years prior, but this house was the place that allowed us to hang out together for hours upon hours, days upon days, and weeks upon weeks. The friendships that were fostered would catapult us as a group into stardom,” said Williams.

But it wasn’t just the surfing that was changing the sport. It was the way it was being documented and packaged. Enter Taylor Steele and his video camera.

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“He came to Hawaii for the winter 1989/90 to surf and video his friends. He stayed in a rusty old van that he just so happened to park in front of Benji’s house. Call it fate if you want, but all the pieces came together for his eventual project that help change the surf world,” explained Williams. “It seemed like that winter the waves were good almost everyday. We surfed in front of Benji’s house with Taylor filming. And before the winter had ended we all made plans to come hang out with Taylor in California that next summer and shoot more video. Luckily for us Taylor’s parents were on board and were all right with him inviting a bunch of kids to stay at their house. How could we ever have dreamed that the clips he filmed would go into one of the most iconic films in our sport, Momentum?”

“The videos, the competition and camaraderie were the potion that made us who we were as surfers. Careers that unfolded were no accident. I think if you could label our generation with one word it would be ‘motivated,” said Williams. “We all were so passionate about surfing and wanted so badly to make it our life. 

“If I could pass one thing along to the kids coming up these days it would be to surf with passion and conviction. More importantly, I’ve learned that when you become a professional surfer you need to realize that you are extremely lucky and fortunate to be able to call surfing your ‘job.’ It’s an art form, but it’s also a legitimate sport that we as surfers are obviously very proud of. Don’t take it for granted. I know I would have taken my career more serious if I had those values instilled in me.”


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