[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. Browse the full lineup and get your tickets here. Or, subscribe to Wavelength now to get free entry to a screening of your choice.]
1991 was if nothing else, distinct. Global recession did its best to sour the feel good vibes of Tom Curren being the reigning World Champ (Damien Hardman was soon to follow).
Elsewhere, with the break up of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War, by the time Iraqi tanks rolled into Kuwait and the world awaited the American response, there were two sets of people in the world.
People who said ‘Point Break’ in the surf sense, and the 99% of the rest of world who said it Point Break.’
Surf-wise, a paradigm shift was afoot, arguably one of the biggest since the shortboard revolution or Simon’s thruster. Something called the New School was taking over surfing, and anyone over 25, except the two TC’s and a few Hawaiians were essentially kooks.
Boards went clear white, paper thin, narrow and submerged when you sat on them. For pros, one nose sticker was an acceptable aesthetic, the days of a dozen formula 1 car logos was about as cool as Webs and dayglo tube suits.
But rather than the surf world’s mood music, Point Break (careful how your inner monolog pronounces that) ‘s release was timed just so for the proliferation of Generation X adrenaline junkie sensibilities. With the recession helping spawn counter culture angst and a healthy cynicism for shunning the 80’s rat race, we were primed for radicalisation. Cynic-in-Chief comedian Bill Hicks captured the zeitgeist warning against “Sitting in traffic to get to a job that doesn’t inspire you creatively”, beating the drum for the revolution between on stage Marlboro Red toots (that would see him dead by 33 in ‘94). His ideology dug in for a little longer, before being out muscled by Millennium optimism.
The film was pretty big news in the surf world, and a bigger hit at the box office. Point Break grossed $84m, but more than that made a cultural impression. While not as surfie as North Shore it had much more cut through. There weren’t many people who didn’t see Point Break, if happened to let slip that you surfed in general conversation with a civilian, there was a 100% chance they’d make some reference to the film, skydiving, bank-robbing or locals beating up kooks.
The film includes some beautiful water cinematography shot by Don King, and opens up with some slo-mo head flick top turns from Archy, surf doubling for Swayze’s Bodhi character. Plenty of other real life shredders feature; Dino Andino, Vince Klyn and Darrick Doener among others. DD surf coached Swayze and did the heavy stunt for the final sequence, throwing himself over the falls at Waimea, sorry, I mean 30ft Bells.
Gary Busey makes a return to surf themed feature for the first time since Big Wednesday and even John Philbin (Turtle from North Shore) features, who, while being an actor who surfs rather than the other away around, feels like he has legit surf chops. A few years later, he’d survive the G-Land tsunami alongside the Hot Tuna team.
All that said, one of the core surf community (which at the time was the only surf community, going surfing on summer hols like going skiing for a week a year wasn’t really a thing)’s raison d’etres, close second only to riding waves, was pointing out how features films featuring surfing plots were kooky and not made by surfers. And with PB, there was plenty to get uppity about.
Surfer Mag ran the article ’10 Reasons Why Point Break Wasn’t Made By Surfers’, mainly taking exception to Bodhi’s ‘paddling like a kook’, something that has plagued lead actor water scenes in every surf feature ever made. For the adult learner, DD in your corner or not, you can make a late drop look semi-convincing before you can learn to paddle like you’ve been surfing since early childhood.
Bodhi’s numerous philosophical utterings were easy to chortle at: “It’s a place where you lose yourself and you find yourself” , “Fear causes hesitation, hesitation causes your worst fears to come true”. As we cringed and heckled little did we know we’d one day be waking up to look at our phones to see pros in yoga pants quoting Gandhi to sell moisturiser. At least Swayze’s Bodhi was fictional.
Perhaps the most curious things of all is that for all the mythic spots around the world, the writers chose Bells – the kind of wave that seems to have been born middle aged – to ride the 50 year storm. Chile’s Punta Lobos, Rapa Nui, Kauai, surely there are countless more Bodhi – and 50 year storm – aligned locales.
Yet for the cheesiness and the self parody (naming principal character after founder of Buddhism was always going to be a bit of a stretch) Point Break did reflect a bit of our sense of self-importance back upon us.
Look, surfing isn’t a joke. It’s not beach volleyball. It’s…. serious.
What’s not deadly serious about spending your days doing hair flicks with Warchild, Psycho Stick and Passion For Slashin’?
Join us in a beautiful clifftop location overlooking Watergate Bay in West Cornwall throughout the summer for a series of drive-in screenings of Point Break Click here to buy a ticket, or subscribe now for free entry.