In the surfing communities up and down the coast of California, the summer of 1986 could be defined by one event–the premiere showing of Beyond Blazing Boards. Showing in older, musty, one-screen theatres, the Chris Bystrom classic was to be hailed as “the surf movie that changed our lives” by every young, old, and future surfer in attendance. The scene was different back then; surf-movie premieres were community events. Everyone from every local break would be there, and you’d know them all by name. Surfers were a much tighter-knit group back then because there were fewer of us. It was less Hollywood and more stoke. Especially at La Paloma Theater in Encinitas, California, the only place to watch surf films in the 70s and 80s.
When Beyond Blazing Boards premiered, I (like every other surfer in town) showed up with my older brother and some of his friends. The feeling was electric as we found our way to the front row. From the older guys in the back of the theater, hoots and high-fives were followed by the flicks of lighters sparking joints and glass beer bottles rolling down the floor and clanking against the seats on their way.
As the house lights dimmed, the energy exploded, and a deafening array of hoots, whistles, and cheers thundered through the smoky air. As in every other theater where Beyond Blazing Boards premiered, the crowd went nuts when the first riff of The Untouchables’ song “Wild Child” blasted through the speakers–immediately making the song the surf anthem of the summer.
With each wave the screams and woooos got louder until the crescendo of “Wild Child” hit as a young Mark Occhilupo pumped down the line at an unknown (to us, at least) beachbreak in Australia. As the drums in the song rose into a mighty roar, Occy did the move that literally made the whole theater shake like some sort of stoke-earthquake. The motley crew of surfers in attendance fell awestruck and silent for a split second the first time Occy blasted through the lip of what was then, and still is, one of the most radical moves ever. Then it was shown again in slow motion. Occy did the impossible, raced down the line, slammed over the lip, grabbed his rail, fell into a layback, completely disappeared, and then stood up out of the whitewash. At this point the crowd was on its feet, launching popcorn and beer like their team had just won the World Series. After pulling the air, Occy did something that was emulated all summer at every break, after every successful turn, floater, slash, or air–he made up a claim that was a mix between the old “f–k you” elbow-fist pump and a shaka. That’s when the crowd really lost it. You’d think the Beatles had just conquered America, when actually, it was Occy conquering the best trick we’d ever seen.
Across California, Florida, and the rest of the surfing world, that film forever changed the way surfers viewed the world. Chris Bystrom’s narration was repeated by guys in the lineup waiting for sets, The Hoodoo Gurus and The Untouchables blasted from every surfer’s car stereo, and our favorite surfers were Occy (if you were a goofy-foot) and Tom Curren (if you were regular-foot).
A new era in radical surfing was born, and Beyond Blazing Boards was the proud father.