Riding the wave back in time
Like a hungry beast, the wave rises in a storm of liquid and foam, ready to devour the figure riding a glistening surfboard through its predatory curl.
This and other impressive images were projected for viewers attending the screening of Jamie Budge's documentary "The Living Curl," which is about southern California surfers in the 1960s, presented by ZJ Boarding House at Santa Monica's California Heritage Museum last Friday night.
After a day with mercilessly hot temperatures, visitors were invited to pull out their blankets and lawn chairs under breezy palm trees to enjoy free popcorn and to see and hear Budge traveling back in time while he narrated the entire film live.
Through the grain of eight-millimeter film stock, "The Living Curl" tells the story of the rise of surfing at the beaches of California’s shores before massive development forever erased lonely valleys and untamed beaches where surfers could roam like renegades and mythical heroes.
The images Budge captured at the time are a personal record, but also a grand adventure.
Budge, a former Santa Monica College student, revealed that he would cut class to go out in search of these moments that are now immortalized.
Waves both serene and monstrous covered the screen with “curls so wild and unruly, that you think they were alive,” Budge described.
Under the constellations of hanging lights and shady palm leaves, "The Living Curl" felt as if it evoked a way of life so alien to our fast-paced, jaded age.
Budge emphasized that surfing is not a sport so much as a way of life, but said that the cradle from which it grew had been ravaged by modern, corporate development.
“Salt Creek used to be like an empty beach; now there are world class hotels and condo developments across the street,” he said. "Like the devil we took something that was clean and clear and loved and sold it so we could make a living out of it."
A Faustian bargain had not only been struck at the cost of untouched beaches, Budge said, but also of film making that was not profit-motivated.
“It’s no longer about how good we can make a movie," he said. "Now, when a film comes out it’s all about, how much money did we make? We ought to rediscover the fun, and everybody ought to rediscover their individual creativity, even if it’s to put it on YouTube.”
But while Budge is enthusiastic about what young people can accomplish these days on YouTube, watching "The Living Curl" outdoors in Santa Monica on a summer evening was a reminder that despite overpowering changes in society, there are still some enjoyments that cannot be lost with age.