[The Wavelength Drive-In Cinema is back for 2021, bringing you a range of surf cinema, cult classics and family favourites from the clifftops of Cornwall, including a screening of Endless Summer II. Browse the full lineup and get your tickets here. Or, subscribe to Wavelength now to get free entry to a screening of your choice.]
In late 1992, Pat O’Connell, Robert ‘Wingnut’ Weaver and Bruce Brown set off around the world for the long-awaited sequel to the ’60s smash The Endless Summer.
The plan was to serve up an updated but equally joyous version of the Sport of Kings; featuring different locations, different styles of surfing and the icons of the day.
Before the journey kicked off in earnest, the film visits a few surfing oddities, including a flow-rider in Texas (the state still home to arguably the best non-ocean wave on earth) which you’ll be glad to know is still going strong and a chop-battered island in Alaska, which thanks to wetsuit-tech, now boasts a thriving surf community.
But what of the more well-known destinations featured? Have they changed beyond all recognition, or pretty much stayed the same? Here, we’ll take a look at what has transpired in the almost three decades since the film’s release.
Tamarindo, Costa Rica.
First visited in the 70s, Tamarindo became known among travelling surfers and hippies as a remote and wave-rich haven, with unspoilt scenery, thriving wildlife and only a scattering of basic places to eat and stay. In ‘85 a Texan businessman named Russell Wenrich and his wife Lee moved to the town, bought a large patch of land and set about building a collection of beachside cabanas. Five years later, at a Surf Expo in Florida, Wenrich met ES I star Robert August and waxed lyrical about Tamarindo’s potential as a surf destination, before insisting he come out and see for himself. August immediately fell in love with the place and decided to buy a bit of land off Wenrich and build himself a holiday home. The following year, Wenrich got wind the Endless Summer II was about to start production and convinced the Costa Rican tourism board to stump up the cash to fly August and the boys out to Tamarindo for their first leg of the trip.
The film’s depiction of friendly, fun-loving locals and empty, pumping waves unsurprisingly helped open the flood gates on tourism to the region and the flow of visitors hasn’t slowed since. Another watershed moment came in 2003 when the nearby airport at Liberia started handling international flights, putting the town within five hours reach of Miami. This, combined with relaxed rules for foreign investors, saw numerous luxury resorts, golf courses, chain restaurants and air-conditioned boutiques springing up throughout the early naughties.
By the 2010s, Tamarindo had become one of the most polarising tourist hotspots on earth.
For some visitors, it was a dream come true; a beautiful, safe and sun-drenched paradise, perfect for surfing, diving and fishing, with all the luxuries and mod-con of home. While for others, it sat alongside Kuta as a perfect illustration of the perils of rampant underregulated development. A scandal broke in 2008 when it was revealed truckloads of untreated sewage from a large hotel were being dumped inland, while other hotel’s septic tanks regularly overflowed into the sea after heavy rains, leading to the eventual revocation of the beach’s Blue Flag status. The nesting sites of critically endangered leatherback turtles were also disturbed by beachside developments and light pollution, while the runoff from the manicured lawns and golf courses were accelerating the killing of the coral reefs. Local and foreign environmentalist groups protested and in 2008 president Oscar Arias conceded in an interview with Reuters that “Tamarindo and Jaco got out of our hands,” insisting that he would make sure the same mistakes were not repeated going forward.
Of course, Costa Rica is still miles ahead of many other places around the world in terms of conservation and renewable energy production, but it’s hard to deny that the story of this little fishing town’s post-Endless Summer boom represents an uncomfortable mark on the country’s record.
G-Land’s freight train lefts, which run off down a huge patch of reef on the edge of the Javanese jungle, were first spotted from a plane in the early ’70s by Bob Laverty and Bill Boyum. When they touched down in Bali, they wasted no time in setting off to find and surf them. A few years later, Mike Boyum retraced his brother’s steps and was so mesmerised by the spot, he decided to set up a small surf camp (the first of its kind), consisting of a series of bamboo treehouses elevated to keep guests out of the way of the tigers who roamed the jungle at night.
In ‘83, amid accusations the camp was being used as drug smuggling base, rumour has it Boyum torched his creation and promptly fled the country. The camp was quickly rebuilt by Nyoman “Bobby” Radiasa, an Indonesian local who had been there since the early days and by ‘85 it was hosting hundreds of visitors and grossing a whopping $250,000 annually.
The ES II crew’s visit was timed to coincide with that of G-Land doyen Gerry Lopez, local standout Rizal Tanjung and Maui waterman Laird Hamilton resulting in arguably the best section of the film.
On the same day the film opened in cinemas back in the US, G-Land suffered the most dramatic episode in its short history, when a tsunami struck the camp, washing the inhabitants, which included Aussie pros Rob Bain and Richard Dog Marsh, deep into the jungle. All emerged shaken, but alive, forcing Bobby to completely re-build the camp for the second time in 10 years.
The following year Quiksilver hosted the first-ever world tour event at the wave, which went down in perfect four- to eight-foot surf and was taken out by world champion Kelly Slater.
Nowadays, there are four surf camps at G-Land, boasting modern luxuries including Wi-Fi, air-conditioned rooms, and fully stocked restaurants and bars, with a week-long stay ranging in price from $500 to $1,000. As of next year, if the world restarts, G-Land is back on tour in a move that has delighted some and left others worrying about the upshot of mass global attention on such a fragile slice of perfection.
A well-kept secret among the few who knew about it throughout the late 70s, Tavarua burst into the public consciousness in 1984, when Surfer ran a cover story by Californian’s Kevin Naughton and Craig Peterson, sending bookings for the newly established resort on the island through the roof.
For the next 20 years, guests of the American owned Tavarua Resort enjoyed exclusivity of the island’s two world-class waves. However, skirmishes were common in the late ’90s, when boats ferrying both Fijian and visiting surfers from other islands would rock up in the channel to try their luck. Eventually, in 2010, after a decade of campaigning by the Fiji Surfing Association, the government announced a decree banning the privatisation of waves, opening Cloudbreak and Restaurants up to the masses. Beyond encouraging greater numbers of surfing visitors, the idea was to give the inhabitants of other islands the chance to make a living from surf tourism by establishing their own resorts and guided boat tours.
Despite much debate at the time and fears of overcrowding, the change has been viewed as widely positive in the decade since, especially during landmark swells, when local Fijians, as well travelling free surfers (many of whom wouldn’t have been there if they’d had to cough up for staying on Tavarua) have combined to push the upper limit of what’s possible – not just at the spot – but in terms of surfing in general.
Among the most celebrated is the session that took place during the 2012 Volcom Pro, which led Kelly Slater (who calls Cloudbreak his favourite wave on earth) to proclaim: “You are watching waves that have broken over millions of years that have never been ridden at this size, capacity or intensity, especially under paddling power.”
Although many waves have fallen out of fashion since the early 90s, due to rising crowds and shifting tastes, while others have been discovered and even created, Cloudbreak retains its place among the best of the best.