When ...Lost Crashed Surfer Poll, And How Their Films Defined A Generation
Or, "Momentum who? A defense of the ..Lost Generation's lasting influence."
Robert Redford and the Zimbalist Brother's recent HBO documentary, The Momentum Generation is terrific—candid, raw, thoroughly produced but sincere and, for the most part, true.
True for the most part because, well, if I’m being honest, the hyperbolic foundation the narrative’s built on feels a little flimsy: were the Momentum Generation—or, more specifically, Taylor Steele’s handful of early films—really the era’s most influential?
Surveying surfers roughly my age—say, 30 to 45—who came up copping whatever VHS landed on the local shop’s shelves in the mid-90s, to a person they’ll tell you, when pressed for what flicks got the heaviest rotation: The ...Lost Movies.
“None of our first ten films won a single Surfer Poll Award. But they garnered other public (non-Surfer Mag) critical praise, and were massive commercial successes at surf shops," Matt Biolos says. "Here’s a story: What’s really Going Wrong still has the record for most nominations ever in Surfer Poll. Noms for every category. Yet they gave us zero wins. This was back when Surfer Poll mattered. It was a much larger affair. Packed house at the Grove. Not an elitist little party in a bar on the North Shore. I can’t remember who the staff was there at Surfer, then, but they dreamed up a special award just to get Randal up on the stage: they called it “Trophy du Beavis and Butthead."
“They called him up, and the place went nuts.”
Sublime's Bradley Nowell, hanging at the ...Lost House with Randall and the boys in the early-'90s.
It could be argued that, OK, sure: the Momentum Generation’s cast of characters have gone on to do incredibly influential, culture-shifting things—Slater, of course, and Shane Dorian, post-Chesser’s passing, most notably.
But peep the roster: The ...Lost Generation’s motley, rabid pack included, just off the top of my head: Chris Ward, towheaded Andy and Bruce Irons, teenaged Cory and Shea Lopez, Christian and Nathan Fletcher, Archy, Shane Beschen, not to mention John Robertson, Aaron Cormican, Joe Crimo, Justin Matteson, etc.
And that’s just counting guys who (mostly) rode Matt’s boards in the films. From Momentum 3, to The Decline and beyond, Mike and Matt’s films featured everyone from Timmy Curran and Dane Kealoha to Tom Curren and Kelly Slater.
In fact, I have to believe that Reola, Biolos, and the ...Lost crew were the first to publicly troll Slater, running parody ads of the then-young prodigy, hassling him on camera, etc. Take this scene from Ward Stories, at 6:57, wherein the camera zooms in hoping to focus on a very ingrown hair on KS's neck:
And while they surely encouraged a generation of groms to consider more radical lifestyles than that of their Momentum Gen. peers, the movies resonated well beyond just the '90s wasted youth.
"5'5" 19 1/4 was a game changer," admits Joel Tudor, of the film that, when it came out in 1997, sent me, my friends, and every backyard shaper scouring for fish templates to show our shapers.
I will say it came as a surprise, watching the Robert Redford-produced HBO special at the star-studded Santa Monica premiere, to hear that bands like Pennywise, Blink-182, and Unwritten law attributed much of their very commercial success to Taylor’s films.
Far out, I thought, before a bout of PTSD set in at the baseline to “Bro Hymn.”
Even at eleven years old, my bullshit meter was tuned enough to recognize the difference between the smug, three-chord Orange County bands skimmed from the top of Epitaph and Fat Records’ shallow end of the talent pool, and the often obscure bands, genuinely terrifying bands that Mike and Matt were pulling out from their vinyl collections.
The ...Lost Films introduced my generation to the real shit, the OG bands that had gotten buried in flannel, or left forgotten at the dawn of the MTV age:Fear, Black Flag, Gang Green, The Cramps, TSOL, The Replacements, the truly underrated D.I., practically the entire Minor Threat discography, not to mention Fugazi, Gorilla Biscuits, Farside, Ignite, Frank Black, and a just ungodly amount of Sublime—they were all imprinted on me and all my little latch-key friend’s pre-teen brains through the ...Lost Films.
God, just thinking about these songs, I can imagine each surfer’s sections, and the rabbit hole opens up, just how many truly fucking iconic parts were in those films. Let's indulge:
Here are some of the finest moments from the ...Lost Generation:
Cory, Andy, and Shea fucking shit up at Waimea shorepound, to Bad Brains "I Against I," in 5’5” 19 ¼. (Starts at 19:52)
The same old story, no factual glory
I against I against I against I
I against I against I
And I say I don't like it
And I know I don't want it
I against I against I against I
Teenage Bruce and Andy Irons in ...Lost Across America. (Starts at 33:35)
John "Robo" Robertson's opening section from "The Decline," set to the Dead Boys' fucking zinger, "Sonic Reducer." (Starts at 8:03, after the longest intro, ever.)
The Dustin Dollin of surf, Robo is still a fucking maniac, chasing tail and hunting every swell as far south as he can afford to get away from San Clemente. A Baja mission isn't complete without a Robo sighting. See a hooded figure paddling deeper down the point from everyone, getting impossibly tubed? Listen for the whispers: Is that fuckin' Robo?!
Robo's still shaping, working as a hired gun at a handful of factories when he's not getting very, very barreled, and trying to keep his Plymouth Voyager between the lines.
Some of Andy Irons, Shea Lopez, and co's finest Indo performances, in "Lost At Sea."
This whole movie is just fucking incredible. Indo footage at it's absolute best.
Tom Curren building a board with George Greenough, shot by Daniel "Tomo" Thompson's father, Mark, and set to "Nice Guy Eddie," by Epperly.
From the ...Lost Memory Bank: "Tom Curren's section from "5'5 x 19 14." Curren shapes his own board then rips the shit out of it on the Gold Coast. Curren proves again that you don't have to ride a 6'1 squash tail to rip. Section from the Lost Video "5'5 x 19 1/4." Tom's never ridden ...Lost boards or even heard of us for all we know but he's the gnarliest surfer ever.... So watch closely kids, team riders, pros and joes - this is surfing. Psychedelic footage shot by Mark Thompson (father of Daniel the fish kid) at George Greenough's Compound. Song by some guy named Epperly - never seen nor heard from him again..."
Nathan and Christian Fletcher’s section of "...Lost Across America V.1," set to Fear’s “I don’t care about you.” (Starts at 41:57.)
I see Hollywood boulevard,
I spent the night in jail,
near the Wicox hotel!
I don't care about you!
I don't care about you!
Kasey Curtis’ absolutely brutal power, the big guy blowing the backs out of Salt Creek wedges and getting absolutely drained at Off The Wall, to Dropkick Murphy's version of "Cadence to Arms," and their original, "Do or Die." (Starts at 22:25)
Pretty much any of Aaron Cormican's sections, especially from "...Lost Across America Vol. 1," mostly filmed in New Smyrna and set to "Mommy's Little Monster," by Social Distortion. (Starts at 30:30)
"Chris Ward, One Week In October, ...age 16" from What's Really Goin' Wrong
When I hear people talk about how much better this generation’s groms are than kids in the ‘90s, I’m dumbstruck to have to remind people of Chris Ward’s section from What’s Really Going Wrong—”One Week In October. Chris Ward… age 16.” The opening board transfer, Wardo’s innate rhythm at Lowers, his command of what can only be called Classic California Point Surfing, with more than "New School" flair. Probably watched this section a thousand times, easy.
Randall's Stair Surfing
The genius of the ...Lost Films could be found in their widely acknowledged mantra: Surf All Day, Party All Night. Much the way the Blind’s Video Days did for street skateboarding, the ...Lost Films were the closest surf films had ever gotten to proper Cinema Verite since, say the first Runman films, and quite possibly the last of their kind.
"Filming Randall stair surfing has been my life’s highlight," says Jason "Mini" Blanchard, who shot the famous scene above.
"Remember I wanted to strangle everyone for destroying Kasey's trade in [the board Randall's on above]," recalls Reola. "Then [Mini] said: "Relax. Sit down and watch the footage." The bicycle standing up after going down the stairs is the first miracle I saw Randall perform."
Last night in Orlando I ran into Mayhem, at one of the myriad bars on International Drive just a stone's throw from where I first encountered him, Gorkin, Cory, Shea, and the ridiculously sprawling mass of ...Lost hangers on at the premiere for ...Lost Across America V.1, at the long-closed Lou Lou's Shrimp Shack (or whatever it was called). Matt congratulated me for unrelated matters, then got to talking about the Salad Days again.
"Remember when this all used to be fun?" he asked, and immediately I couldn't get a line from Denis Johnson's Jesus' Son out of my head.
That world! These days it's all been erased and they've rolled it up like a scroll and put it away somewhere. Yes, I can touch it with my fingers. But where is it?
The ...Lost Movies deserve a place atop the most iconic and influential films to ever come from a pre-Internet Era subculture, next to Spike Jonze and Blind's Video Days, and the early-80s punk doc, The Decline of Western Civilization (which, of course, Mayhem and Reola appropriated for their follow up to the first ...Lost Across America), and I'm grateful to Matt for letting us mine the archive the last month.