The Endless Summer

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The Endless Summer
The Endless Summer (1966 Cinema V poster).jpg
Theatrical release poster by John Van Hamersveld
Directed byBruce Brown
Produced byBruce Brown
StarringMike Hynson
Robert August
Narrated byBruce Brown
CinematographyBruce Brown
Edited byBruce Brown
Music byThe Sandals
Bruce Brown Films
Distributed byCinema V
Release date
  • June 15, 1966 (1966-06-15)
Running time
95 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$20 million[1]

The Endless Summer is a 1966 American surf documentary film directed, produced, edited and narrated by Bruce Brown. The film follows surfers Mike Hynson and Robert August on a surfing trip around the world. Despite the balmy climate of their native California, cold ocean currents make local beaches inhospitable during the winter. They travel to the coasts of Australia, New Zealand, Tahiti, Hawaii, Senegal, Ghana, Nigeria and South Africa in a quest for new surf spots while introducing locals to the sport along the way. Other important surfers of the time, such as Miki Dora, Phil Edwards, Butch Van Artsdalen and Corky Carroll, also appear.[citation needed]

The film's title comes from the idea expressed at both the beginning and end of the film that, if one had enough time and money, it would be possible to follow the summer up and down the world (northern to southern hemisphere and back), making it endless. The original concept was born through the suggestion of a travel agent to Brown during the planning stages of the film. The travel agent suggested that the flight from Los Angeles to Cape Town, South Africa and back would cost $50 more than a trip circumnavigating the world.,[2] after which Bruce came up with the idea of following the summer season by traveling up and down the world.[citation needed]

The narrative presentation eases from the stiff, formal documentary of the 1950s and early 1960s to a more casual, fun-loving and personal style filled with sly humor. The film's surf rock soundtrack was provided by The Sandals, and the theme song was written by Gaston Georis and John Blakeley of the Sandals; the theme has since become one of the best known film themes in the surf movie genre.[citation needed]

When The Endless Summer premiered on June 15, 1966, it encouraged many surfers to travel abroad, giving birth to the "surf-and-travel" culture, with prizes for finding "uncrowded surf", meeting new people and riding the "perfect wave". It also introduced the sport, which had become popular outside of Hawaii and the Polynesian Islands in places like California and Australia, to a broader audience.[citation needed] In 1994, it was followed by the sequel The Endless Summer II, which was later followed by Step into Liquid, directed by Brown's son Dana, in 2003.


Bruce Brown started surfing in the early 1950s.[1] He took still photographs to show his mother what the draw of the sport was. While serving in the United States Navy on Oahu years later, he used an 8 mm movie camera to photograph surfers from California. Once Brown got back to the states, he edited his footage into an hour-long film. Surfer Dale Velzy showed it at his San Clemente shop, charging 25 cents for admission. Velzy bought Brown a 16 mm camera and together they raised $5,000 to make Slippery When Wet, Brown's first "real" surf film.[1]

In the winter of 1958, Brown went back to Hawaii to film the North Shore's big surf. On the plane ride over, the novice filmmaker read a book about how to make movies. Brown said, "I never had formal training in filmmaking and that probably worked to my advantage".[1] By 1962, he had spent five years making one surf film per year. He would shoot during the fall and winter months, edit during the spring and show the finished product during the summer. Brown remembered, "I felt if I could take two years to make a film, maybe I could make something special".[1] To do this, he would need a bigger budget than he had on previous films. To raise the $50,000 budget for The Endless Summer, Brown took the best footage from his four previous films and made Waterlogged.[1]

With the money raised from Waterlogged, Brown filmed The Endless Summer. He took the completed film to several Hollywood studio distributors but was rejected because they did not think it would have mainstream appeal.[1] In January, he took The Endless Summer to Wichita, Kansas for two weeks where moviegoers lined up in snowy weather in the middle of winter and it went on to selling out multiple screenings.[3] Distributors were still not convinced and Brown rented a theater in New York City where his film ran successfully for a year.[1] After the success of the run at New York's Kips Bay Theater, Don Rugoff of Cinema 5 distribution said he did not want the film or poster changed and wanted them distributed as is, thus Brown selected him over other distributors who wished to alter the poster.[4]


When The Endless Summer debuted, it grossed $5 million domestically[5] and over $20 million worldwide.[1]

Roger Ebert said of Brown's work, "the beautiful photography he brought home almost makes you wonder if Hollywood hasn't been trying too hard".[6] Time magazine wrote, "Brown leaves analysis of the surf-cult mystique to seagoing sociologists, but demonstrates quite spiritedly that some of the brave souls mistaken for beachniks are, in fact, converts to a difficult, dangerous and dazzling sport".[7]

In his review for The New York Times, Robert Alden wrote, "the subject matter itself—the challenge and the joy of a sport that is part swimming, part skiing, part sky-diving and part Russian roulette—is buoyant fun".[8]


The then-unknown break off Cape St. Francis in South Africa became one of the world's most famous surfing sites thanks to The Endless Summer.[9] The movie characterized Cape St. Francis as having the “perfect wave.”[9]

In 2002, The Endless Summer was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".[10][11]


In 1994, Brown released a sequel, The Endless Summer II, in which surfers Pat O'Connell and Robert "Wingnut" Weaver retrace the steps of Hynson and August. It shows the growth and evolution of the surfing scene since the first film, which presented only classic longboard surfing. O'Connell rides a shortboard, which was developed in the time between the two movies, and there are scenes of windsurfing and bodyboarding.

The 1994 film illustrates how far surfing had spread since 1964, with footage of surf sessions in France, South Africa, Costa Rica, Bali, Java, and even Alaska. The 1994 sequel follows a similar structure to the original, with another round the world surfing adventure reflecting on cultural differences since the first film was shot.[citation needed] The South Africa material includes a return visit to Cape St. Francis, where the “perfect wave” had deteriorated somewhat, due to onshore construction projects.[12]

In 2000, Dana Brown, Bruce's son, released The Endless Summer Revisited, which consisted of unused footage from the first two films, as well as original cast interviews.[citation needed]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i Ryan, Tim (October 2004). "Big Waves, Big Screen". Bruce Brown Films. Archived from the original on February 24, 2012. Retrieved May 26, 2010.
  2. ^ Bharath, Deepa; Connelly, Laylan (May 15, 2014). "Surfing through time". Huntington Beach Wave. p. 3.
  3. ^ Benning, Jim (December 11, 2006). "The Enduring Appeal of The Endless Summer". WorldHum. Retrieved May 26, 2010.
  4. ^ The Endless Summer - A Look Back at the Endless Summer (DVD). monterey media. 2010.
  5. ^ Tom Lisanti, Hollywood Surf and Beach Movies: The First Wave, 1959-1969, McFarland 2005, p270
  6. ^ Ebert, Roger (June 12, 1967). "The Endless Summer". Chicago Sun-Times.
  7. ^ "Surfs Up". Time. July 8, 1966.
  8. ^ Alden, Robert (June 16, 1966). "The Endless Summer". The New York Times.
  9. ^ a b Cosford, Bill (June 10, 1994). "Beach Culture". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved May 26, 2010.
  10. ^ "Librarian of Congress Adds 25 Films to National Film Registry". Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. 20540 USA. Retrieved September 30, 2020.
  11. ^ "Complete National Film Registry Listing | Film Registry | National Film Preservation Board | Programs at the Library of Congress | Library of Congress". Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. 20540 USA. Retrieved September 30, 2020.
  12. ^ “Fake Diamonds”, Surfer Magazine (July 22, 2010).

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