For the last several months, I have been lamenting the loss of the full length surf film. It was a slow, quiet death... but the instant gratification of social media has cut the legs out from under what was once the heartbeat of surf culture.
Surf films had it all—board design, surf approach, locations, style, all the way down to the music that exemplified the culture. Whether it was Bruce Brown, Taylor Steele, Chris Malloy, or Thomas Campbell, surf films informed the lens through which we interpreted surfing.
I googled where to stream Chris Malloy and Jack Johnson's co-directed, 2000-flick Thicker Than Water, and unsurprisingly, the full film is available on YouTube. I still have the DVD in the drawer of our TV cabinet at home. Pretty sure I have the soundtrack on CD somewhere too. In the early 2000's, I bought every Malloy/Johnson/Moonshine/Brushfire film and record that came out. Listen, I get that in 2020 we're far too jaded for JJ Casual, but twenty years ago this film was like lighter fluid for my developing passion for surfing.
The surf cast includes:
Kelly Slater with hair
All the Malloy Brothers
One scene in particular stands tall in both my memory, and the arc of my career path—The Green Singlefin.
Skip ahead to the 19:37 mark of the film. This segment is often the first one that comes up in conversation, and many of my peers know immediately which board/scene you're talking about when you say "you know, the green board from Thicker Than Water".
That segment and the green singlefin inspired the very first surfboard I ever shaped. My sole aim was to emulate that board as I perceived it in this film—and the fun they had on it, by association.
Upon a rewatch all these years later, the board actually seems a little clunky and has an unusual amount of nose rocker. It's a great reminder of how far things have come in surfboard design in the last twenty years that the green singlefin was so unique and memorable at the time. Nowadays, you'd see eight boards more interesting than that just walking from your car to the waves. In the late 90's and early 00's, we were at the peak of the shortboard era, anything longer was either a "fun board" for learning or a "high-performance longboard".
I have another blog article about how the advancement of "Ride Everything" in surfing over the last two decades has made now as good a time as any to be a surfer, but we'll save it for another day.
In the meantime, transport yourself back to 2000 for 45 minutes and rewatch Thicker Than Water.