"California in the '70's... man, it was the place to be. Sunny beaches, beautiful people... for some surfers it was everything, for others it wasn't enough..." And so begins The Far Shore, a wonderful, new surf documentary created by upstart film maker, Gregory Schell. The movie is about the travels of intrepid surfers, Craig Peterson and Kevin Naughton, as they circle the globe looking for the perfect wave, and the perfect moment, during the 1970's and early '80's. Schell put the film together utilizing the duo's rich, colorful 8mm film, amazing photos, and memoirs that were recorded during their travels and is is mixed with modern day interviews and footage. The stunning visuals are backed by a solid, well choreographed soundtrack that helps the film flow from one continent to the next.
You may think
this sounds a lot like another epic surf film, The Endless Summer.
However, one major difference is the story telling. Unlike the Endless
Summer, which is narrated entirely by the director and takes a much
more topical look at surfing, the Far Shore, is told by the protagonists,
and the myriad characters that they encountered on their travels.
The result is a revealing, and often humorous look, at hard-core
surf travel in the 1970's.
I flew down to LA from my Bay Area home, to get a private screening of the film and conduct an interview with the film maker, and his star subjects. After an uneventful flight, sipping Heineken, (and my wife's red wine) I arrived at an old high school buddy of mine's new home in the Hollywood hills. Saturday morning we awoke to a beautiful Spring morning and swam a few laps in the pool. El director, Gregory, showed up around 11 a.m. and the three of us drove south on the 405 down to Orange County. Pulling up at Craig's wintertime retreat in Capo Beach, we're met by Craig in his driveway as he he steps out of his tan, well worn 535 BMW, 12-pak of Fosters bottles and fresh chips and salsa in hand. It seemed fitting that we were watching the film nearly on the beach in SoCal, with crashing waves and gentle Pacific breezes -- the same setting where the film begins some 30 years ago. After the screening, I conducted the interview on the second story of this beach bungalow, with my back to the water and the hot sun, and Craig and Kevin, outstretched on a comfortable, weathered couch. Listening back to the interview, one hears the seagulls, the waves and the wind, and insight about certain scenes in the movie, what it was like making the movie, as well as their thoughts about California surfing.
G-C: How did you feel about revisiting all of your travels? Overall was it a positive experience?
Well it was real positive in one sense to know that all these years
later, we're still out there, still doing it (surf travel) that
we hadn't lost any of that enthusiasm or curiosity or sense of adventure
as far as wanting to do the trips. Of course there's also a little
poignancy to it to -- we realize we're a lot older, and it's not
going to be the (Kevin Naughton, Greg Schell,
Craig Peterson, April 2002)
Craig: I would say, doing the film, it was easy to recall a lot of the memories because we kept good diaries and it was great to dig out some of those things. A lot of it still stays fresh in my mind. Probably the biggest regret I had is that I just didn't shoot more photos of stuff that was going on.
G-C: Really? There seems to be so many rich photos?
Well, I traveled with such a limited film budget and there were
just so many other great shots that would've filled in nicely in
this documentary. Same with the super8. We got some great stuff
but we wish we would've shot more footage.
C-C: But in a sense you guys captured a lot more than an average surfing traveler would capture?
Kevin: Yeah, and everybody else was just coming through and leaving. They weren't trying to take photos or document in any way. So in that sense, we did capture a lot more. We at least had enough of awareness at that point when we were 19 and 20 down there, "hey we should get this on film, in pictures and write about it."
Craig: Yeah, that part was a great sense of satisfaction. Seeing how Greg put the film together-- to combine all those stories -- you know there are so many stories in there -- to see them represented in one film, really gave me a great sense of satisfaction.
G-C: Obviously when you were making the film you were thinking about your travels a lot, but how much in your daily lives now do you guys think about your travels?
Craig: Well, in business I think, "What kind of Juju curse can I put on this guy who is trying to do me wrong!? What would an African do about this guy?"
[Laughter from all]
Well I think all travellers have one thing in common and that is,
no matter what they're doing in life, they're going through the
motions like everyone -- but always in the back of our head's there's
another trip brewing.
Kevin: Yes very much like that. When's the next trip? When can we go? It gives you something to look forward to, something to think about. Everyday I think about the next trip. Don't think about the past trips too much.
G-C: Did you guys ever think about settling down in any of the places you visited on your 10 year journey? You met some people who stayed and have made lives for themselves in some of the spots you visited. What brought you back to California? Were you ever close to just writing California off?
Kevin: Many times, yeah.
Craig: Kevin probably was more than I was. I was kinda restless, and kept looking at the world map and thinking, "Where else?" But Kevin had a really strong affinity for Ireland.
Kevin: I always had a little bit of regret that I didn't just stay there. Even when I go back now I can't help but second guessing if I would've been better off just staying there.
G-C: Really? What was it about Ireland?
Kevin: Well, when I was first there in the mid-70's, it was one of those surf scenes where every surfer in the country knew each other. It's so rare to go to a place...
G-C: You'd have to go back to the 50's here...
Kevin: Exactly.. Or the 40's in California when all the surfer's knew each other on the coast. And that's how the situation was in Ireland and it was the 70's! And everybody was just so stoked and there were so many good spots and it was such a good vibe and to be right in there -- to slide in -- as an outsider to slide in to the inside on that -- was such a great deal. It made me want to stay. And it still has that feeling in a lot of ways. Even though there are hundreds of surfers now...
G-C: Surfing is really good there? Is it like a Central or Northern California? Colder...
Kevin: The best thing about Ireland is the surf and the weather, and the worst thing about Ireland is the surf and the weather.
Craig: It changes. Every half hour it the wind will clock around.
Kevin: If you don't like the weather, just wait a half hour. Or the surf, wait a couple hours.
Going back to your question, "do we think about it a lot?"
I don't think about it too much, I don't usually reflect much back
on the past, but when you put it all together like how Greg shows
it in the film,"Man, I was surfing waves in Ireland, France,
Fiji, all these places" you get that sense that you've been
around and you have all these great memories. It sounds so exotic
when you talk to somebody, like at a dinner table for instance.
Maybe they don't surf and they say, "There's waves in Ireland?
Really?" And then you start to think you know this whole subculture,
these special little worlds...
Kevin: It's the same way when we went back to France last year. It was funny. I was there in the early 70's when there were still waves at La Bar. We went back a couple year's later in the mid-70's and at that point surfers were still really the fringe, renegades, in the whole social order of things. And now you go to France, and you see how established the whole surf industry is. They're using the surf image to sell everything from developments to douche bags!
Everything is surf, surf, surf. And I kind of have a tinge there of regret, "If we had just stayed there and hung out, we probably could've made a life for ourselves in the surf biz... And France is a pretty sweet place to live, if you want to get waves and all that. Plus you're near Spain! The only thing about France, you have to put up with all the Frogs! I can say that 'cuz I married one of them.
Craig: Yeah, what's funny, is that at that time, when we were there, surfers were the scourge in France. Hippies, druggies, the vermin! You know his girlfriend -- now his wife's mom -- was like, "Oh no! You're not going out with another SURFER!!!" But now, they're like, "Oh Kevin, he's so cute, he's a surfer!" You know in twenty years -- it's changed...
Kevin: I met my wife through Mickey Dori in a roundabout way. She showed up in La Fitenia, he'd given her a ride there, they were friends. That was 1976, '77. So we hung out with him...
G-C: Speaking of France, I thought that was a great sequence in the movie -- Craig transcribing Bob Dylan poems into French so he could score with the ladies! Craig you escaped France without a wife!?
Craig: I wanted to bring that one girl that was in the picture in the movie, back with me. I stayed on a little longer in France after Kevin left with his French girl. It was the wintertime in the Southwest, and fell in love with that one girl and wanted to bring her back to California. But, summertime was coming in Biarritz and that's when the playboys arrived in town. I had to chase them around in that car the Triumph Herald... but she got scooped up...Funny story about the Triumph Herald car you saw in the movie. We had bought that car for two skateboards and 80 bucks in Ireland!
Kevin: From a guy in northern Ireland one of our surf buddies. The Mighty Herald we called it!
Craig: ...He couldn't get it reregistered because of the tariffs and it wasn't really road worthy. We were going to drive from there to Sri Lanka, in northern Ireland... we broke down in France and ended up staying there longer. But, that car was falling apart. Kevin had left and I was hanging around Biarritz, you know chasing after these guys in there fancy cars from Paris, you know who were after the girl I liked...Finally, when it came my time to leave, I said, "I can't really sell this car so I'm just gonna leave it here parked on the street with the keys in it for some other surfers." So I left a little note in it about how to drive it, 'cuz it was missing third gear, so just go from second to fourth.
G-C: How do you find surfing in California these days?
Kevin: Well, like I said in that one story, sometimes I feel like Napoleon, after having the entire world in his rucksack, he's exiled to the tiny island of St. Helene to sit on the beach and watch the waves break... and brood over what went wrong!
That's how I feel about surfing in California -- Southern California -- feels like a sort of exile!
G-C: Where do you guys like to go these days?
Kevin: Ah... can't tell you that! Next question
G-C: I'll turn this thing (recorder) off...
[Laughter from all... then long, awkward silence ... More laughter]
Kevin: Well, I'm going to Tavarua next week. Always get a good warm water wave there...
Craig: South Africa last year. Went down there for 3 weeks and got two back to back swells at Jeffrey's. We'd always said to ourselves, out of all the travels, we've never been to Jeffreys... how can we call ourselves world traveler's if we've never been to Jeffreys!? So we made the trip down there... we rented Derek Hynd's house right on the point. God, man, we just scored! We were trying to get ready here and it was the springtime and the surf was just flat here for weeks on end. And we thought, "Man, how are we going to get in shape!? We're going to get there and it's going to be firing and we can't even get outside!" So we got there and it worked out great -- it was a small swell building so we got to get used to it. What a great wave! It's like everything everybody says. You're paddling back out to the point looking at these barrels just spitting down the point. And the great thing about J-Bay, is they still honor the system of, "If you got the wave, it's your wave." They won't hop you. And if you hop someone else, they get upset with you. Now there is the "point stuff" where you're going to hang close and if the guy eats it, you're welcome to take off.
G-C: An obvious question for you guys: How has surf travel changed over the 30 years since you guys first headed out?
Kevin: Oh just dramatically. There's no comparison at all. When we were doing it back then, and not just us, all the guys back then, were really traveling. Back then, it was really common to meet guys that were out there for weeks, months at a time. And now, it would really be euphemism to call it traveling. When I'm going to Tavarua ... which I really enjoy ... that's not traveling. that's going to Club Med for surfers. And having it all there and buffed out. And believe me, I'm not complaining about that. It's great. But it's not travel. You can't say you're traveling. like guys were in the 70's.
G-C: And that's mostly because of the jet-set culture?
Kevin: It's a surgical strike. Blow in, get it, blow out. And, I can see the reality of the situation, guys just don't have the time.
G-C: How about you guys? Looking at your story and watching the movie, that's one thing that really impressed me, that take your time mentality, no rush. Few people did it then, even less today. Did you just say, "Let's just take our time and really see the world?"
Kevin: Oh, we just didn't want to grow up! [Laughter] It's true.. Everything in life is give and take. You get one thing, you have to give up something else. While all of our friends and people we knew were settling in to jobs, careers and families, we were just coming back and taking any job we could to make a few bucks thinking about the next trip. So a lot of years went by when we were just doing that...
G-C: Did you ever have a sense or worry that "My buddies are getting jobs and careers" and almost a sense of "life is passing me by?"
Kevin: No it never really bothered me at all, 'cuz I figured everybody was getting out of the starting gate on that too soon anyway. Twenty was too soon to think about getting a house and a family and that whole deal. You know at twenty, I was thinking "I got a long stretch ahead of me in the track... I can start thinking about that stuff maybe when I'm thirty or thirty plus! In the meantime, I'm going to travel and enjoy it in my twenties because I don't think I'm going to be able to in my thirties and forties." And I like to think I was right by figuring that at the time. Back then I could go anywhere, I could sleep on a clothesline and it didn't matter to me as long as I was traveling. So we missed out on some stuff, sure, but, you can't have it all... You gotta choose what you want and go for that, and be willing to sacrifice something else that you're not going to get.
G-C: I recall a scene in the movie when you guys are camped out on a beach in West Africa. Seems like a pretty radical thing to do at any point in your life, let alone in your twenties. How did you deal with fear?
Kevin: Well fortunately, we were so young, we weren't even aware of that! We were too dumb to be aware of that. But you're right in a sense, if that were nowadays, we would be in harm's way. It would be crazy to do some of that stuff now. Crazy! But back then, it didn't seem like a big deal. When I was traveling. through Nicaragua on my own in the early 70's and then West Africa, and the Sahara, the world really was a different place then. It's gotten a lot more dangerous. We used to exchange stories with other travellers -- "I just got back from Afghanistan, you gotta go there! It's unreal." Guys wouldn't be saying that now!! But that was in the 70's, when, through the traveler's grapevine... there were very, very few places in the world you wouldn't go. It was a wide open world. And that's why we feel so lucky to have done it then, because nobody could've anticipated that the world would've changed so drastically and everything would've gotten so much more dangerous. Revolutions and civil wars... Of course there are people who are doing it now, but they're just a lot more aware of the situation there in. But back then, that wasn't really part of the equation for us, you know, "Are we gonna get killed or knifed or beat up or robbed." Of course we didn't look like there was much to rob at that point anyway! [Laughter]
Craig: You know part of it is, when you talk about it (the trips) or recount a story... it does sound heavy. But when you're in it, it's a progression. You're getting deeper and deeper and deeper into it. In context, you're entering into a heavy situation if you talked about it, but...
Kevin: Your sense of awareness is going deeper also.
Craig: We were aware. Those border guards, for instance, we would know what to do with those guys, how did get through that situation. Or somebody else, who is maybe thief, you just kinda knew how to identify the situation and get through it.
Kevin: Some of it too is just plain luck! Really. It's so true -- when you're on the road it's better to be lucky than rich! Better to be lucky than anything when you're on the road. We did meet people that came to bad ends on our travels, simply because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time. Ralph the guy we met in Ghana...the surfer from Hawaii... Let's face it, we were really lucky in a lot of ways.
Craig: We were extremely lucky.
G-C: Do you have any grand plans to move back to any of the places you visited? Ireland?
Kevin: No, I'm staying put for now. I accept the fact I'm living in the no surf zone. I have my two kids and they're going to school here. And I've got my business here and it allows me to take trips, not whenever I want, but I take a few trips a year, pretty much whenever I want to go. As long as I can keep doing a couple trips a year...
Craig: You use one place as your base where you use your waves for warm-ups, and hopefully some days it's good. And you've got your little secret spots -- or your corners -- when the tide is good or whatever that makes one place good. That gives you a little thrill. Then maybe you get a chance to go up or down the coast for one or two day trips with some friends. If you can do Baja, great! And then if you can two or three surf travel trips that's a real surf trip... you're getting in good condition for it, you're getting ready for it, getting psyched up, that's where it keeps the surf stoke ... and the travel stoke going!
Far Shore Soundtrack:
Hips - 'Rich Little Girl', 'Mona Lisa and the Last Supper',
Special thanks to Craig Peterson, Kevin Naughton, and Gregory Schell. All photos are courtesy, and property of Craig Peterson and PatrickM.
Hank Ten is an avid surfer, and enjoys scouring the California coast for waves. He prefers early morning go-outs at juicy beach breaks during the winter and is religious about rinsing his wetsuit. He also enjoys writing articles about surfing, music and triathlon. When the surf is flat, he enjoys open water swimming, having escaped from Alcatraz over a dozen times.
Hank, his wife Julianne and their dog, Willy, live in the San Francisco Bay Area.
E-mail him, at email@example.com.
Comments? Send an e-mail to Hank Ten at, firstname.lastname@example.org.
© Golden-Coast Productions, 2003