Step Into Liquid
review by Elias Savada, 15 August 2003

I was a red-blooded, yet reserved, sixteen-year-old when The Endless Summer, Bruce Brown's ultimate search for the "perfect wave," caught moviegoers's attention back in the mid-1960s. That hour-and-a-half documentary helped steamroll the already mushrooming form of recreation entertainment that now has an international following of four million young, old, fearless, and undoubtedly well-tanned individuals seeking out the best surf this side of the moon. Having grown up on the East Coast off the Long Island Sound, and having, at best, body surfed a handful of vacations somewhere between Atlantic City and Long Beach (New York, not California), I was not one of those teenage dudes inclined to head west and join others enlightened by the call of the board, or what has become known as "the stoke" -- the Zen-like passion and obsession that draws surfers back for wave after wave after wave. Surfing great Gerry Lopez, who made Pipeline the most famous wave, offers particularly insight into this philosophy: "The first twenty years are to see if you are interested (in surfing)." He, and just about everyone else in this film, are into the sport for the fun, whether competing or not. Hey, we all have our voices to follow. The ones I heard happened to be through ears that weren't filled with sea, salt, and sand 

Thankfully, others have followed in Bruce Brown's now classic footsteps -- and those of Endless Summer's 1994 sequel. The voice of the surfer is back (not that it was missing, just encased in fictional fare such as last year's Blue Crush and, tangentially, in the animated feature Lilo & Stitch), and thirty-six years after he caught his first cinematic wave, Bruce has returned -- as executive producer and occasional talking head -- in Step Into Liquid, an engaging, enthralling follow-up made by his son, Dana Brown, who also narrates with the same witty, humorous subtlety that saturates what is the best surfing film ever made 

Before the disclaimers that no special effects, stuntmen, or stereotypes were employed in the making of this film, Brown fils welcomes us with a single word: Aloha. We depart, too quickly, eighty-eight minutes later, with the same singular subtitle. Too many people know the Hawaiian word as just hello and goodbye, but it also means joy, happiness, and pleasure, which is exactly what Brown and his incredibly talented and intrepid camera operators serve up. Jack-of-all-trades Brown and director of photographer John-Paul Beeghley do yeoman turns behind the camera as the film travels the world looking for the latest sea-worthy thrill or diversion 

Wide angle lenses and wide screen images give you a surf's-eye view of the incredible on-screen who's who of surfing talent (not a beach bum among them) -- Laird Hamilton, Kelly Slater, Dave Kalama, and Ken "Skindog" Collins to name too few -- as they use short, long, and seemingly extraterrestrial (actually hydrofoil) surfboards to ride (standing, kneeling, posing, even paralyzed) any manner of big (often) and little waves (for the funny, human interest portions). And nearly every other shot in this two-year undertaking is a money shot. Frigging, breath-taking incredible. Brown and his water-logged mariners and helicopter crew visit all the expected high spots, including Hawaii's North Shore of Oahu; Rapa Nui, Chile, in the remote Easter Islands; Western Australia; Half Moon Bay, California (of course); Costa Rica (with Endless Summer co-star Robert August and its sequel's Robert "Wingnut" Weaver in tow); and the with lady professionals in Tahiti. There are also detours to some locations even some die-hard fans might have missed. Sheboygan, Lake Michigan's surf city for the fresh water fanatic. Riding the three-mile wake caused by supertankers off Galveston, Texas, in the Gulf of Mexico. Join the Molloy Brothers as they educate Protestant and Catholic in a school for young surfers in County Donegal, Ireland. Or a journey into the past: Vietnam vet Jim Knost returns, with his eighteen-year-old son, to the beaches he surfed during the war three decades earlier 

Brown moves from place to place and piece to piece with a determined, professional grace and pace, stopping occasionally for the interesting aside or the memorable flashback. At one point he uses subtitles that comically play off the MasterCard commercials. He spends a few minutes with Dale Webster, who has hit the waves with his board every day, rain or shine, for nearly thirty years. He's quite the character.

Like any good filmmaker, Brown saves the best of Step Into Liquid for last, taking some stout-hearted men for a 100-mile boat ride off the coast of San Diego, to the Cortes Bank, where the Everest-size (well, sixty-six-feet high) swells make the waves surfable maybe five days a year. The rest of the time the ocean is ugly backwash and white water. Incredible doesn't do this justice. Brown takes us from sea to majestic sea and shows us how much fun he and his friends are having at play in the seas of our Lord. Amen..

Written and
Directed by:

Dana Brown

All the Past, Present, and Future Surfing Great

Written by:
Wes Craven
David S. Goyer
Victor Miller
Damian Shannon
Mark Swift

NR - Not Rated.
This film has not
been rated..






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