Son, Go Ask Your Father
The sons of Robert August and Bruce Brown interview their dads about their own “Endless Summer.”
With Darryl Cadiente | August Photos Courtesy Robert August Surf Company | Brown Photos by Jim Collins / Courtesy Newport Beach Film Festival
As a follow-up to the 50 Years of Endless Summer icons feature, we asked Sam August and Dana Brown to interview their dads, asking questions that they and our readers wanted to know. The 5 Questions they asked their legendary fathers, and the answers by Robert and Bruce, are below.
Their comments will give you renewed appreciation for just how monumental this not-so-simple movie idea was 50 years ago. Even a mundane task like waxing your surfboard was an adventure “back in the day.” OK, hands up if remember a time before surf wax when, like Robert and Bruce, you bought paraffin wax from the supermarket and it took hours of careful craftsmanship to get your deck to bead even a little? So what’s Robert’s favorite surf spot? How did Bruce and Robert originally meet? Read on…enjoy!
5 Questions from Sam August to Robert
SAM: What’s your life’s biggest influence?
ROBERT: No doubt my dad, Blackie August. He was all about travel and adventure–surfing, fishing, diving in Baja–all while raising a family.
SAM: As you travel the world and meet people that ask: “Where are you from and how did you end up starring in “The Endless Summer?,” what do you say?
ROBERT: I’m from Southern California. I grew up in Seal Beach. My dad surfed. I surfed from the time I was a little boy. By the time I was 13- 14, I could really surf. I was in all of Bruce Brown’s movies way before “The Endless Summer.” Then around the time I was about to graduate high school, Bruce had an idea for a movie, so I stopped by his office in Dana Point after surfing Trestles, and he had a map of the world and told me his idea, traveling the world for eight months. I was focused on a career as a dentist, but spoke with some teachers and my parents, and they were like, “You should do this. You can always go to a university. Who has a chance to do this?” And that was the start of a lifetime in surf.
SAM: When you think “Iconic California Lifestyle,” what comes to mind and what does it mean to you?
ROBERT: Well, iconic from what era? I’ve been here for 70 years, when I was the only one who surfed. Things have changed a lot. The early parts have been phenomenal and fantastic, then some not, with people going, “What the hell are we doing?” For me to move back to Huntington Beach and see the changes, to watch the surf team that now has a coach and competes, I love seeing that. They train to surf just like volleyball or any real sport. I don’t know, Huntington Beach is a great place to live, right now.
SAM: How did your wax work while traveling into different climates during “The Endless Summer?” And, with no board bags for air travel, how did those boards survive?
ROBERT: The wax we bought from the grocery store, paraffin wax, worked for different purposes. The water in Cape Town was so cold the wax got extremely hard and slick, it was very tough to surf! While near the Equator near Nigeria and Ghana, the water and air as so hot the wax melted completely off our boards! For board air travel, the double 10-ounce glassing made our boards extremely durable–but very heavy, nearly 40 pounds. When we returned, just some of them were scratched and my fin was coming loose a bit.
SAM: What’s a surf spot that you will never forget? And, what is your current favorite surf spot?
ROBERT: Cape St Francis, aka “Bruce’s Beauties,” in South Africa, is a magical unforgettable dream to stumble on … heavenly waves with nobody in sight. Today my favorite spot is “Witches Rock” beach break in Costa Rica. Not too many crocodiles, and offshore winds make the wave quality very high, while the estuary consistently is moving the sand to give slight diversity to the surf!
5 Questions from Dana Brown to Bruce
DANA: As you travel the world and meet people, they inevitably ask the requisite: “Where you are from and what do you do?” What answer do you give them most?
BRUCE: I’m from California, and I’m here to make a movie.
DANA: Where is the strangest place that you have run into anyone that has knowledge of “The Endless Summer?”
BRUCE: There was one guy who said that he saw “The Endless Summer” and it changed his life. I said, “So you took up surfing?” and the guy goes, “No, I became a disc jockey in Texas.” So I guess people of all walks of life look at it and are inspired to follow their dreams.
DANA: When you think “Iconic California Lifestyle,” what comes to mind and what does it mean to you?
BRUCE: Back in the day, we didn’t call it “lifestyle.” That was something that somebody invented along the way. In Dana Point, I was just doing what I wanted to do and figuring out a way to stay at the beach and in the ocean. I mean, Severson (John, founding publisher of Surfer Magazine and early surf producer/director) and I did movies and Hobie (Alter, waterman pioneer, creator of the Hobie Cat, surf shaper, and founder of the Hobie company) made surfboards. Again, it was a way to stay at the ocean, go surfing, and not be in a really crowded city environment.
DANA: Have you ever wondered what might your life look like if you did not make “The Endless Summer,” or it wasn’t such a life-changing success? How do you think it’d be different, if at all?
BRUCE: Well, I never thought about it, to tell you the truth. I just felt lucky that it was successful. It wasn’t by total accident. I mean we really hammered away to finally get it into movie theaters and stuff. I know my neighbors growing up were like, “When are you going to get a job? You can’t be doing this.” Then when the movie became a success, they’d all come up and say, “We’re so proud of you, we knew it all the time” … and I was thinking: “Bullshit!”
DANA: How did you meet Robert August?
BRUCE: I’ve known him since he was a little kid (Robert had been in most of Brown’s previous movies from the time he was 12 or 13). Blackie, Robert’s father, was my hero. If you had a girlfriend, you’d want to bring her around because he’d swear. At the time, we’d be going, “Wow! That’s so cool!”
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