Monetarily speaking, Hollywood has been on a rare little win streak in the surf movie genre with releases like “Surf’s Up” and “Soul Surfer” actually delivering box office profits.
But unfortunately, Tinsel Town has a long history of horror when it comes to taking on anything surf. As a result, the wave riding community braces for the worst whenever they hear Hollywood has another one headed for the big screen. This is especially true for the upcoming release of “Chasing Mavericks,” mostly because it’s based on the very true life of a very beloved character, the late Jay Moriarty.
Moriarty, for those who don’t know or remember, was 16 years old when he took to the Mavericks lineup back during the massive winter storms of 1994. He shocked everyone in the water with his gutsy performance, but he shocked the world with his famous Surfer Magazine cover (right), which showed Moriarty dangling 30 feet in the air, about to wipeout on a wave that looked (at least at the time) unsurvivable.
The impact of the shot was significant, as it vaulted Mavericks’ status in the big-wave arena to the very top. One year earlier, when Mavericks became public, the consensus was, “That’s a really heavy wave.” After the winter of 1994, and the Moriarty cover shot, it evolved into, “Y’know, this could be the world’s heaviest wave.”
But what separated Moriarty from the rest of the chest-thumping big-wave egos was how he handled the fleeting nature of his fame. The more he earned praise, the more humble he became, making him all the more likeable. As a result, his tragic death during a 2001 diving accident was especially tough to take. We lost a true role model.
For Hollywood to grasp, fully obtain, and then deliver on the essence of “Living like Jay” was always impossible from the start, and anyone who knew Jay understood that. All they could do was make sure his story didn’t become a punch line.
To that end, many who knew Jay well worked closely with the filmmakers. And judging from the footage in this trailer, they’ve kept a close eye on keeping as much as they could authentic. The surf shots are all real. There are no glaring flops of film or inexplicable cutaways. Granted, we heard all about the dangerous stunts during filming, and the Hollywood thespians taking their lumps, and we loved that because it felt like Jay was poking fun at the whole thing.
Now it’s gut check time. Time to butter the popcorn and settle into a chair and try to hold all my food in. I’ll save my acting reviews for later, but rest assured I’m not counting on any Oscar nominations. That said, I will proudly take my young son to go see this, find the good in it like Jay found the good in everything he saw, and regardless of how I feel when it’s over, I’ll tell my kid what I think it really means to “Live like Jay.”
Photos: (Top) The SURFER Magazine cover of Jay Moriarty; (Above) Greg Long makes his acting debut in this film as Mavericks’ legend Jeff Clark, while Gerard Butler plays Moriarty’s mentor, Frosty.