Welcome to the first in our new Seminal Cinema Series here on Longboarder Mag online.
Over the coming months, we’ll be hitting up iconic longboarders from across the globe
to ask about the surf movies that shaped them. Consider it a great way to stack up your ‘watch later’ list with timeless classics and to learn more about the influential loggers whose lives they shaped.
First up, we’ve got Robert ‘Wingnut’ Weaver, one of longboard culture’s finest emissaries. Despite growing up in Newport Beach, he didn’t start surfing until he was 16, picking up a longboard at a time when doing so was still seriously unpopular, particularly among teenagers. However, his classical style and infectious fun-centric approach soon caught the attention of Bruce Brown, who thrust him into the limelight with a starring role in Endless Summer II, released in 1992.
Perhaps unsurprisingly then, Wingnut’s Seminal Cinema film of choice was the prequel; the original Endless Summer. First released in ‘66, it presented a radical shift to the surf film landscape, bridging the gap between the landlocked masses and the surfing tribe, reshaping the culture in the global psyche and creating a blueprint for surf travel filmmaking that has endured ever since. Here’s what it meant to Wingnut.
Hey Wingnut, can you tell me where and when you first saw Endless Summer?
I was about 17 and I’d just started surfing. I was living in Newport Beach and longboarding mostly at Blackies. It was the early 80s, so there were no surf films out on VHS, but Endless Summer would play on ABC throughout the summer alongside the Beach Blanket films. It was the first chance I got to really watch anybody surf on a longboard, besides the older guys I was stalking at Blackies.
Longboarding’s first resurgence was still a little way off at that point. How come you found yourself riding a bigger board than most folks your age?
I grew up bodysurfing at Corona Del Mar, but came to stand-up surfing really late. When I was about 16, a new neighbour moved in. He had a one-year-old son and didn’t really know what to do with him. One day I was mowing the lawn and he asked me if I wanted to go surfing. He had a couple of longboards and we went down to Blackies and that just got me started. It wasn’t that I didn’t think I’d ever transition to smaller boards, but I wanted to get good at what I was doing first. I just didn’t think it would take this long (laughs).
Did you make other surf buddies pretty quick who you’d then watch the film with?
No, it was a completely solo trip. I never watched it with anybody else because all the guys I was surfing with were all 15-20 years older than me, so they had jobs.
What do you remember particularly enjoying about it in those early years?
For me, a regular foot, it was all about Mike Hynson and trying to figure out how he was setting up turns and everything. I was in awe of how archaic the boards they were riding at that point were and just how well they controlled and surfed them.
Were there elements beyond the surf action that particularly resonated with you?
I really liked the whole travel thing. Growing up, my dad lived overseas a lot, he was building oil refineries, so we travelled a lot to go see him. By the time I was 17 I’d gone through Europe and Indonesia, so you know I had that travel bug. But with surfing, now I had something that I could look forward to doing when I travelled. It’s so strange to think I was in Indo in 1979 but I didn’t surf!
Was there a particular section from the film that stuck with you the most?
There’s obviously the Cape St. Francis stuff, just because of how magical that wave looked. But it was really more that very first stop in Senegal, when they’re trying to figure out that right-hander. You know they’re sharing that first wave, they’re pointing out the rock. I still remember the whole scene. It was just so interesting to me to watch them control and position and pivot those boards in a changing wave. As we all know, surf a crappy beach break and you’ll get really good. If you grow up just surfing a right-hand point break, good luck going left or dealing with a crappy beach break. That scene really showed their ability to adapt to a constantly shifting wave as opposed to the Cape St Francis segment which was so mechanical.
How many of the places in the film have you had the chance to travel to since?
I mean that’s what’s so funny about it, I think I’ve gotten almost all of them.
Not really, because I haven’t been to Senegal. But you know I’ve been to South Africa, Australia and Tahiti. I actually went and found El Stumpo in Tahiti! [the spot featured in the film]
I was with Ira Opper, working on the ASP contest at Teahupoo. We had a lay day, so we just started cruising around looking for a wave we could surf that wasn’t Teahupoo. Near the town there’s this one big reef pass that lets the wave come in right to the shore. After we surfed we went back to sit under the trees and as soon as we looked back at the wave, we realised exactly where we were; that this was El Stumpo! The stump is gone, it’s been eroded, but there’s no doubt that was the spot. It was a full chicken skin moment.
Was there anywhere else you’ve visited since that felt particularly special?
While filming for Endless Summer II, we went to Cape St Francis and we scored the little inside reef there. It was some total Bruce Brown magic again, because it doesn’t break that often and it only has a very small window of opportunity compared to Jeffery’s Bay. I just couldn’t believe I was there, making Endless Summer II, getting to surf this place after fantasising about back when I was surfing shitty lefts at Blackies.
Throughout your surf career, in all its various guises, do you think the spirit of the movie has played a guiding role?
Yeah, always, because it teaches you that it’s about the adventure as much as it is about the waves. You know when people ask me where my favourite wave in the world is, it has more to do with who you go with, because you’re sharing an adventure. The couple hours you’re going to spend in the water is one part of it, but it’s really about the whole trip to get there and that’s what Bruce instilled in me.