[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 Hawaii classic North Shore on 5th August. Browse the full lineup and get your ticket here. Or, subscribe to Wavelength now to get free entry to a screening of your choice.]
The 1987 classic North Shore, packed with surf legend appearances from Occy, Pagey, Gerry and Laird among others, tells the tale of young Rick Kane, who learned to surf in wave pool in Arizona, and finds himself on the North Shore competing in the Pipemasters.
Along the way he must deal with Da Hui heavies and scary surf, pro surf egos, reef rash, courting a local girl as well as the navigate the ideological tussle between soul surfing and ‘hotdogging’.
Needless to say, it instantly became the most quoted surf film since Big Wednesday, if not ever.
Perhaps the very best lines of them all come from an unassuming surfboard sander, Turtle. In honour of Turtle, and everyone else in the film who throws out a notable quotable, we’ve picked out our favourite lines from North Shore and assess their meaning.
What are yours?
“When the wave breaks here, don’t be here. Or you’re gonna get drilled…” – Turtle
Turtle isn’t the worst wingman for Rick in his early North Shore days. Not the greatest either, but on balance, he’s a pretty good egg. His safety briefing for Rick before they paddle out at cranking Pipe includes the hard to quibble advice “Yeah, you’re not ready…”
But his finest counsel, and for some his top line in the entire film is the physical description of what not to do in the impact zone. Complete with the all important surfer’s hand-as-breaking wave gesticulation, it’s not only an iconic North Shore line, but also sound advice for any surfer, at any spot, anywhere.
“Out here in Hawaii we treat friends mo’ bettah” – Turtle
Poor Turtle. Having stuck his neck out (pardon the pun) for Rick, turns out Rick’s getting fast tracked up the Chandler approval tree while Turtle remains invisible. “Teach me how to big wave surf? Not. Take me to dinner? Not even.” We’ve all been overlooked for promotion / Dad’s affections / dinner invites / big wave surfing lessons using back foot instead of a fin, so we can all relate. In revealing his own sense of fragility and insecurities by using a pidgin style double superlative, Turtle only enforces his sense of hurt.
“Nobody listens to the Turtle…” – Turtle
Another insight into Turtle’s sense of his own vulnerability. Like a family Labrador, mostly loved, head patted and tummy tickled, but occasionally left alone too long and very occasionally booted up the bum for chewing the remote and doing a jobbie on the carpet. Still, good ol Turtle keeps it light by using the definite article ‘the’ before Turtle, employing the kind of faux grandiosity when 3rd personing himself that goes a long way on the North Shore.
“I don’t ride waves going straight… you still have a single fin mentality” – Lance Burkart
“I only make boards one way – the right way” – Chandler
Some 80’s surf culture wars right there. Burkart, the brash, punkish, win at all costs pro surfer baddie, and Chandler in the paternal, wholesome, shaper/life coach role. Ironically, Laird kind of has made a career of going straight. Of course we hate Laird – I mean Lance – and love Chandler. But the damage wasn’t only in his words.
As Lance lances the tail of the fresh Chandler reject into the coarse berm at the Banzai, he inadvertently launches a thousand ding repairs, as surfers all over the world emulate a perpendicular tail shove with hard backswing, rather than the more prudent pushing in of the nose, at an angle acute.
The tussle between shaper and pro is real though, and egos remain fragile on both sides of the debate. These days, rather than have an ideological debate at the water’s edge, it’s more like to be an exchange of angry DM’s / unfriend. Ah, progress!
“That wasn’t a wave, that was a ripple” – Alex Rodgers (Pagey)
“I’ve seen bigger waves in a toilet” – Occy
Could Pagey and Occy’s characters be more complex than they might appear? Do they only semi befriend Rick merely so they can heckle him and reaffirm their own sense of superiority on the greasy pole of North Shore cred? Is there a genuine fraternal instinct they can’t help indulge despite the danger to their own North Shore social capital, rolling with a kook from Arizona? Are they just so stoned they can’t remember how they known him? We’ll never know. What we do know is that Occy’s voice is so squeaky and weird it’s hard to actually decipher his lines, while his facial expression unreadable. Fortunately, that doesn’t detract from the power of his storytelling.
“You took his stuff, you pound em…” – Vince
Let’s be real: Gerry looks fucking great as Da Hui enforcer Vince. Lithe, handsome, oozing gravitas. Knowing scowl underneath beard, seems like the ultimate alpha who only needs the threat of violence to enforce code, rather than having to resort to fisticuffs himself. His minions though, are all about the knuckle sandwiches, especially when whiteys are up to hanky panky with local girls. What makes Vince likeable, if perhaps not realistic, is his inherent sense of justice. Almost as is he senses a twinge of the mana in young Rick, and thus tells his young, navel exposing charge to fight his own, illegitimate purse thief battles.
“Yeah? Yeah? Nah?” – Turtle
A throwaway line, but nevertheless a great one from Turtle. In the film, the line doesn’t move the plot along, nor reveal much about our favourite characters, but it does provide highly versatile quote material for almost any situation.