Yesterday I watched Ride the Wild Surf (1964) starring Fabian, Tab Hunter, Barbara Eden, and Shelley Fabares - among others. I was pleasantly surprised to find a surfing movie that, though it had its clichés, was not corny and actually had a story-line, not unlike my beloved Gidget (1959).
The film tells the story of three college age guys (though only one's actually in college) - Jody Wallis (Fabian), Steamer Lane (Tab Hunter), and Chase Colton (Peter Brown) - who love to surf and are spending the Christmas holiday on the Hawaiian island of Oahu at Waimea Bay, where the waves are at their biggest.
Shirts off ;)
Once the boys land in Hawaii they learn of a competition that is held every year where the last surfer to successfully ride the mammoth waves becomes "King of Wiamea" and gets his name on a surf board. Last years champ was Eskimo (James Mitchum) and he's back to retain his title.
When their not surfing however, the boys also find love on the island and the film traces their individual relationships in between the magnificent surfing scenes that spend more time on showing actual surfing than the actors faces.
Fun Fact: From late 1962 to March of 1963, the waves in Hawaii were especially large due to certain weather conditions. Jo and Art Napoleon shot footage of actual surfers and then wrote a script to go with it.
Jody is the beach bum of the group, who gave up on the idea of being an oceanographer when college proved too hard. He meets the (surprisingly sexy) Brie Matthews (Shelley Fabares of The Donna Reed Show). At first she thinks he's reckless, but then she discovers another side. She helps him see that he shouldn't give up on his dreams when he hits a snag.
Chase is the college student, and according to Augie Poole (Barbara Eden), a square. She tries to get him to loosen up, then worries when he actually does. Their meeting is the most memorable, as tomboy Augie challenges Chase to wrestle and quickly throws him on his back (she's a black belt).
Steamer is the hardworking orphan who falls in love with the lovely Hawaiian native Lily Kilua (Susan Hart). Their troubles stem from her mother's hatred of surfers - Lily's father ran out on them to chase the waves in Bora Bora ten years earlier and hasn't been heard from since. Love triumphs however when Mrs. Kilua realizes she had a hand in driving away her husband with her strong views against too much fun.
Eskimo (James Mitchum)
The surfing competition at the end is exciting to watch and made credible by the extensive use of surfing shots. Altogether, this was a delightful movie and I definitely plan on purchasing it on dvd one day. The cast, storyline, and authentic setting make for a fun summer film that can be watched year after year.
Ride the Wild Surf will be airing again on TCM again on September 1st at 4am ET.