It’s hard to overstate Bruce Brown’s influence on the surf universe. The Endless Summer is one of the most successful documentaries of all time. It turned the non-surfing masses onto the ‘sport of kings.’ Perhaps bigger than that, it taught surfers what it means to be a surfer. Basketball, baseball, and football players do not dream of playing on some court/field on the other side of the world, but surfers do, and that blueprint was laid down indelibly by The Endless Summer.
On Any Sunday, Brown’s 1971 film about motorcycle riding, depicted the sheer stoke of getting on a bike and kicking up some dirt. It’s about freedom and friendship. It’s a celebration of life on two wheels.
In the wake of his passing, I thought a lot about Bruce Brown, his films, and the millions of people he touched. One of them is Wingnut, star of The Endless Summer II. Wingnut had the good fortune of traveling around the world with Brown, retracing the steps of the first film. I called him up to get his take—
“Bruce Brown gave me the greatest opportunity of my life. He ended up becoming a friend and a mentor and a father/grandfather for our family. He raised such great kids that they didn’t mind that I ended up spending up as much time with their dad as they did. It was the whole family that allowed me to force my adoption upon them.
He always believed the best in people. Life might prove you wrong, but it’s better to go through life assuming the best. His house was always open for friends and family and partial strangers.
There was a neat little deal when we were making The Endless Summer II, and we were getting ready to leave Indonesia, and my wife had flown out—it was the only country that we could afford to bring her to visit. Bruce was getting ready to leave that last day and he said, ‘Here, I’ll give you 500 bucks, why don’t you write up a little report on some facts that I can use for the movie—you know, population, geography, what makes Indonesia unique.’ And I just looked at him and I said, ‘Bruce, that was in the back of the airplane magazine when we landed.’ And he goes, ‘I don’t care where you get the information, here’s 500 dollars.’ He wanted us to have some pocket money to enjoy our week in Indonesia after the shooting of the movie stopped.
I met a lot of great people through Bruce—surfers, moto guys. Bruce really showed us that our worlds get bigger by the friends that we make. Our sports are more lifestyle sports than ‘sports sports,’ and because of that we end up meeting people who we want to share our lives with.”