‘Endless Summer’ At Salt Creek Beach
Howell Noble of Wahiawa is a Facebook friend of mine.
Like me, Howell enjoys posting scenic photos on his page or commenting on others. When the longtime surfing enthusiast recently posted the iconic image for the legendary surf movie The Endless Summer, the site of the actual photo used for the original poster really piqued my interest.
Howell said he had surfed at Salt Creek Beach near Dana Point many years ago, and knew this was where the original photo of the three surfers was taken. Much has changed, as you might imagine, from the time when surf documentarian Bruce Brown followed two guys from California around the world “in search of the perfect wave.” This is the 50th anniversary of the poster and original release of the film that inspired so many.
On a recent drive along the Pacific Coast Highway in Southern California, I hiked down to the beach that is now fronted by the magnificent Ritz Carlton Hotel. Salt Creek Beach Park may be surrounded by a luxury hotel and multimillion-dollar homes these days, but it’s still quite wide and fairly un-spoiled. I saw numerous surfers catching the 2- to 3-foot perfectly shaped waves that rolled in on a late winter morning.
“The movie The Endless Summer (released in 1964 and again in 1966) was probably one of the major events in the growth of surfing as a major international sport,” says Fred Hemmings, the former Hawaii state senator who got to know surfing’s first great champion Duke Kahanamoku in Duke’s later years, and then became a world surfing champion himself in the 1960s.
“You have to remember that surfing was considered kind of a cult pastime in the early 1960s. It didn’t have the traction or credibility it has today,” Hemmings says. “Back then, the only way we could see surfing images was watching old 16mm films at the Roosevelt auditorium.”
Hemmings just happened to be surfing at Ala Moana Bowls one beautiful Hawaii day when he spotted “a guy with a camera sitting on top of a surfboard at the end of the wave,” he recalls. “I didn’t know who he was, but I surfed by him and did a little 360 as I went by, watching the camera the entire way.”
Hemmings didn’t know it at the time, but that impromptu move made him world famous. The photographer was Brown himself, who had been to the North Shore previously and who was now getting some extra shots of surfing on the town side of the island. The 16mm images were bumped up to 35mm, and that one ride ended up in the final cut of the movie.
“My whole surfing life I’ve had people come up to me and say, ‘Aren’t you the guy from The Endless Summer?’”
Hemmings, along with Brown and the stars of the original movie, Mike Hynson and Robert August, plus the poster creator John Van Hamersveld and many others involved back in the ’60s film have been invited to speak at Surfing Heritage Museum’s celebration of The Endless Summer May 3 in Huntington Beach, just about a half-hour up the coast from where the original photograph was taken.
Times may have changed, but partially thanks to the inspiration taken from the movie and its promotional poster, the passion for the sport of surfing grows exponentially every year. For lifetime surfers like my friends Howell Noble and Fred Hemmings, they wouldn’t have it any other way.
“My life is an endless summer,” says Hemmings.