The Endless Summer (1966) & Step Into Liquid (2003)

The Endless Summer (Bruce Brown)
Step Into Liquid (Dana Brown)

Welcome to the month of December and DOC-ember, the month where in as many interesting documentaries as possible will be viewed. And you know what, living in the state of Ohio, I know all about weather and seasons and all that other crap. We sometimes have all four seasons in the same day, and December is a cold month. The idea of an “endless summer” does sound pretty appetizing right now then, I must admit, and long have I heard of this film. I really wanted to check it out, so I grouped it with director Bruce Brown’s son, Dana, and his documentary, Step Into Liquid. Both films are about surfing, and both films do it in a similar fashion, but after this double feature, I had a definite preference.

I know little of surfing myself, having never been, but after seeing these films, I regret not giving it a try when I was in Hawai’i. The films capture the sport in such a beautiful way, both visually and conceptually. What Bruce Brown does with his film is seem to capture the true attitude of the sport, both with his voiceover narration and the easy going nature of the leisurely journey of two surfers across the globe, in search of the perfect wave in what they deemed an “endless summer”. Dana Brown on the other hand, attempts to capture the universality of the sport by showing us different cultures, locations, and the enthusiasts of the sports. At the end, it is hard to decipher the true difference between the two. The adventure and journey is constructed in a very similar way.

However, The Endless Summer drips of authenticity, whereas Step Into Liquid simply feels like a well constructed knock-off. And I suppose now would be a good time to say that I saw Step Into Liquid first and I still felt this way. It just comes off as less interesting. The Endless Summer on the other hand, seems to fit perfectly into its time period. Surfing is still around today, and it has its crowd, but the feel of Bruce Brown’s film feels natural, feels real. 1966 and a time to spend months abroad searching for the perfect wave it right. I don’t know how else to say it other than The Endless Summer is a film of its time, and that is what makes it as great as it was. Step Into Liquid instead feels more at arms length than the personal feel of The Endless Summer. Both feature great camera work and capture the magic of the sport, but The Endless Summer is the better film by a lot for me.

The Endless Summer

***1/2 – Great

Step Into Liquid

**1/2 – Good

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