By WALLACE BAINE
For those who look upon the 2012 film “Chasing Mavericks” as a high-profile artifact of what it’s like to live in Santa Cruz, the theatrical release of the film last October was all well and good. But the real prize comes this week with the DVD/Blu-ray release of the film.
“Mavericks” did not exactly set the box office on fire when it was released last fall. It was, as most Santa Cruzans know full well by now, the fictionalized story of the late Santa Cruz surfer Jay Moriarity and his friendship with the older surfer and mentor Richard “Frosty” Hesson. Santa Cruz audiences generally responded well to the film, and many prominent people in the East Side surf community responded favorably to how Walden Media, the film’s producers, told the story and treated the community.
But the DVD release – the film is now available in stores – includes parts of the story that moviegoers didn’t get. Included as bonus extras on the disc are featurettes titled “Surf City” – a loving profile of Santa Cruz as a surf community – “Live Like Jay” and others. Taken as a whole, it represents the finished package of two years of “Chasing Mavericks.”
“Live Like Jay” works as a kind of short documentary on the life of Moriarity, who died the day before he turned 23, in June of 2001. It includes interviews with those closest to the story, including Hesson, Moriarity’s widow Kim, surfboard shaper and friend Bob Pearson and photographer Bob Barbour, the only one of the four not portrayed by name in the film. Barbour was a key figure in Moriarity’s short-lived but explosive career as a surfer. It was Barbour who shot the famous image of Moriarity’s wipe-out at Maverick’s in December of 1994 when Moriarity was just 16. That shot was shown briefly in the film with the film’s producer Brandon Hooper playing the unnamed photographer.
Barbour, in fact, was a close friend of Moriarity for almost a decade, having met him as boy of 12 or 13. Barbour followed Moriarity throughout his career, shooting hundreds of shots of the young surfer both in and out of the water.
Barbour’s photography, though short-changed in the film, is displayed to great effect in the “Live Like Jay” featurette. “I’m beyond happy,” said Barbour, one of the most accomplished photographers in the West Coast surf scene. “They really did me right with this thing.”
“Chasing Mavericks” – which starred Jonny Weston as Jay and Gerard Butler as Frosty Hesson – inevitably took liberties with the real story, and one of the most prominent featured Barbour’s wipe-out shot. In the movie, Barbour was among many boats in the water shooting Moriarity on the huge Maverick’s wave and Jay came to Barbour’s boat for another board because his leash has snapped.
“In fact,” said Barbour, who generally has a positive view of the film and Walden, “we were the only boat in the water. And Jay’s board snapped in half. We all knew there was going to be things like that in the film. But I don’t know why they did it that way. I mean, a board snapping in half has much more impact. From the perspective of someone from the Midwest or wherever, it was like, ‘Oh, his string broke.’”