SURFING FOR LIFE: Inspirational Film on Older Surfers
Presented by KQED to public television stations nationwide Available April 14, 2001 via American Public Television (APT). (check local listings for time and station).

SURFING FOR LIFE, an entertaining and inspirational portrait of nine older surfers still riding waves in their 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s, will be distributed by American Public Television to public television stations nationwide beginning April 14, 2001. Produced and directed by award-winning filmmaker David L. Brown, this remarkable documentary journey portrays the "sport of kings" as a uniquely powerful metaphor for passionate involvement and life's possibilities as we all grow older. This is a film for all audiences that details the fascinating lives of heroic role models who are "following their bliss" and staying active and engaged into their seventh, eighth and ninth decades.

Narrated by acclaimed actor Beau Bridges, SURFING FOR LIFE blends compelling life stories told through interviews, contemporary day-in-the-life footage, and a wealth of rare archival material including images from several of the world's finest early surf filmmakers and photographers. Through these insightful profiles and a healthy dose of humor, this dynamic film challenges the negative images of aging presented in America's youth-obsessed culture.

SURFING FOR LIFE not only challenges ageism, it also weaves a tapestry of unforgettable stories that embody many universal aspects of the human experience. The surfers' tales reveal, among many lessons, courage in the face of adversity, the power of the human spirit and a celebration of values and relationships that contribute to rich, meaningful, well-spent lives. Some examples:

  • after living through the attack on Pearl Harbor, John Kelly (age 81) is transformed into a life-long peace activist;
  • Anona Napoleon (age 60) survived a paralyzing diving accident then used faith, will and visualization to achieve a miraculous full recovery;
  • Woody Brown (age 88) feeling reborn after "working with love" as a volunteer at an adult day health center; and
  • Fred Van Dyke (age 70) speaking for everyone who is dealing with the challenges of aging as he copes with the painful decision to quit surfing 25 foot waves at age 60.
With life-embracing warmth and humor, the older surfers in SURFING FOR LIFE overturn the common perception of surfing as an activity only for young people and, in the process, make an important and eloquent statement about the human potential of later life. Audiences and critics alike confirm that this is one of the most memorable and uplifting films on growing older ever produced.

SURFING FOR LIFE Subject Bios:
John H. "Doc" Ball at 93 is the oldest living American surfer, and he still skateboards and surfs without a wetsuit in Shelter Cove in Northern California. He has been riding waves since 1929 and wrote the classic book about early California surfing, CALIFORNIA SURFRIDERS (1946). A dentist and a professional photographer, he captured more classic surf images from the 1930s through the '50s than any other photographer. He co-founded the State's first surf club in Palos Verdes, is a great storyteller, a legend among surfers (and surf photographers) and a warm and generous spirit, still "stoked" about life. His fearless skateboarding sequence is the unforgettable ending to SURFING FOR LIFE.

Woody Brown is 88 and lives in Maui, Hawai'i where he surfs every chance he gets. He became a national flying hero in the '30s, a Hawaiian big wave surf hero in the '40s and--after inventing the catamaran--a yachting world celebrity in the '50s. Woody's great stories are illustrated by several of the classic photos and film footage of him surfing huge Hawaiian waves in the '40s and '50s. His sequence as a volunteer at an Adult Day Health Center in Maui where he is "working with love" clearly reveals Woody's extraordinary compassion, charm and humor.

Anona Napoleon, a 60-year-old Hawaiian native, has surfed for 48 years in Hawaii. She was a championship surfer and kayaker in the late '50s and '60s, winning the prestigious Makaha International Surfing Championship in 1961. This victory followed a miraculous recovery from a paralyzing accident only a year earlier. A warm and gracious example of Hawaii's "Aloha spirit," she is a college humanities lecturer who has five sons and nine grandchildren who surf--often together. Her family's "Napoleon's Holiday," when the full extended family skips school and work to spend the day together surfing, is a high point of SURFING FOR LIFE.

Fred Van Dyke, 70, is a legendary pioneer of big wave surfing. He moved from California to Hawai'i in the '50s to surf the big waves, taught with his friend Peter Cole at Punahou School and wrote several classic surf books including 30 YEARS OF SURFING THE WORLD'S BIGGEST WAVES. A physical fitness enthusiast, Fred still surfs the 10-footers regularly and gives multi-media presentations on healthy aging and surfing throughout the country. The emotional center of SURFING FOR LIFE is his recent painful decision to confront his fear and give up surfing the huge waves with which he had become so identified.

Rabbit Kekai is 79 and a legendary Hawaiian beach boy, waterman and world-class big wave surfer. He began surfing at age five in 1925, became the first practitioner of "hot-dog surfing" and nose-riding in the late 1930s, then became a top beach boy to the stars. Winner of countless international surfing contests, he is still a world-class competitive surfer, story-teller and another gracious embodiment of the Aloha Spirit. He recalls that his eyes still "light up" when his wife says, "Go surfing."

Shay Bintliff, M.D. (64) is an emergency room physician, mother of two and surfer for 35 years. She has travelled the world, studied with Meher Baba in India and performed stand-up comedy. When the surf was good, she recalls leaving word with her secretary that she was off to a "board meeting." Extremely energetic and affable, she embraces life, love, nature and the challenges of aging in her wise observation that "change is inevitable; it's the growth that optional." Her stories about peak experiences and family are high points of the documentary.

John Kelly, 80, is a renowned pioneer of Hawaiian big-wave surfing and one of the first surf board designers. A war hero, musician, conductor and dedicated political activist, he founded the seminal environmental organization "Save Our Surf" in 1965 which has opposed environmental threats to Hawaii's coastal zone and blocked over 30 proposed developments. His sequence recounting the Pearl Harbor attack and its aftermath -- when his Navy job forced him to place dead American and Japanese soldiers face to face in the same coffin, an experience which transformed him into a life-long activist -- is a high point of the film.

Peter Cole, 69, is another legendary big wave surfer who has been surfing for over 50 years. He graduated from Stanford, followed Van Dyke to Hawaii, taught at Punahou and is now a computer consultant. Like his friend Fred Van Dyke, Peter is extremely fit and continues to be a world-class gentleman and surfer. Unlike Fred, though, Peter continues to surf the giant waves on the North Shore of Oahu, the oldest surfer to do so. One of the most memorable scenes in SURFING FOR LIFE captures Fred and Peter playfully debating whether they skipped mandatory meetings at Punahou School when the surf was up.

Eve Fletcher, at 73 is one of the oldest women still surfing. A surfer for 40 years, she had a successful career as an animation supervisor for Disney Studios where she worked on SLEEPING BEAUTY, CINDERELLA and hundreds of films. She still surfs regularly with several surfers over 70 at San Onofre, the home of more surfers over 70 than any other beach in the world. Another high point of the film is classic 1958 footage of Eve and her friend "on surfin' safari" in Hawai'i where she became friends with Rabbit Kakai and lived in Fred Van Dyke's van which she bought for $75.

PRODUCTION CREDITS
Writer and Director: David L. Brown
Producers: David L. Brown, Roy Earnest
Narrator: Beau Bridges
Editors: David L. Brown, Shirley Thompson
Camera: David L. Brown, David Collier, Stephen Lighthill and others
Sound: Elizabeth Thompson, Steven Baigel, Rob Caughlan
Music Composition: Tom Disher; Sound Design: Paul Zahnley
Executive Producer: Seniority, Inc.
Presenting Station: KQED San Francisco

One paragraph synopsis
SURFING FOR LIFE, a vibrant one-hour documentary about inspiring well-spent lives, offers a totally fresh look at successful aging. Narrated by Beau Bridges, it profiles nine legendary surfers who model successful aging by staying active and engaged into their 7th, 8th and 9th decades. Through interviews, contemporary day-in-the-life footage, and a wealth of rare archival material, the film provides an eloquent and powerful antidote to the negative images of aging presented in America's youth-obsessed culture.

One sentence synopsis
SURFING FOR LIFE, narrated by Beau Bridges, is an inspiring and entertaining one-hour documentary profiling the lives of nine legendary surfers who model successful aging by staying active and engaged into their 70s, 80s and 90s.

CO-PRODUCER/ DIRECTOR/ WRITER BIOGRAPHICAL INFO:
David L. Brown, co-producer, writer and director of SURFING FOR LIFE, is an award-winning San Francisco documentary filmmaker who--over a 30-year career-- has produced, written and directed over 60 productions and 8 broadcast documentaries on social, nuclear, health and environmental issues. His documentaries have received over 60 international awards and have been broadcast on PBS and in several countries.

Recent work includes BOUND BY THE WIND, a moving documentary on the global legacy of nuclear weapons testing and the plight of the world's "downwinders" which has won 20 international awards including a CINE Golden Eagle, a Blue Ribbon at the American Film and Video Festival and a Golden Gate Award for Best Environmental Documentary at the San Francisco International Film Festival. It has been broadcast on PBS, in Canada (CBC), Japan (NHK), France (Canal+), Spain and several other countries;

Other recent productions includes: COMPUTER CLASSES (narrated by singer/actor Queen Latifah) and CROSSING THE DIVIDE, two 56-minute PBS documentaries on teens and digital technology, episodes in the "Digital Divide" series which aired on over 150 PBS stations and in Canada, Japan and the Netherlands; A QUESTION OF POWER, a 58-minute documentary narrated by Peter Coyote addressing the nuclear power controversy which received 16 awards including a Blue Ribbon at the American Film and Video Festival and was broadcast twice on public television; MAKE YOURSELF A PROMISE: EARTHQUAKE PREPAREDNESS FOR YOURSELF AND YOUR COMMUNITY, a 28-minute video produced in ten languages which received several awards including a CINE Golden Eagle; and FREE ZONE, a 58-minute documentary on the international nuclear free zone movement which received 13 awards and was broadcast on public television and in several countries.

Brown works in the film and television industry as a freelance producer, director, editor, cameraman, assistant director and production manager. He has produced several films on the elderly and his recent credits include work as producer/ director or cameraman for Greenpeace USA, dozens of non-profits as well as the BBC, NBC and CBS News. He teaches two classes in documentary filmmaking at the City College of San Francisco. His interest in surfing began, curiously enough, during high school in Denver, where the surfing scene, music and lifestyle were enormously popular in 1963-'65.

CO-PRODUCER
Roy Earnest, MSW, co-producer of SURFING FOR LIFE, has been a dedicated gerontological social worker for 22 years and an avid surfer for 33 years. Currently Director of Family Service Agency of San Francisco's Foster Grandparents and Senior Companion Program, he is past President of the Coalition of Agencies Serving the Elderly, past President of California Specialists on Aging and former Director of Catholic Charities' Aging Services in San Francisco. One of the co-founders of the Pedro Point Surf Club in Pacifica, he is the club's Surfari Coordinator for club-sponsored surf trips. In 1994, he was developing a series of consciousness-raising workshops on the human potential of later life when he met David L. Brown at the premiere of BOUND BY THE WIND and decided to collaborate on the production of SURFING FOR LIFE. This is his debut as a filmmaker.

 

SURFING FOR LIFE

the surfers

the filmmakers

distribution

critical acclaim

history of surfing

hawaiian culture

making of SFL

on 'the age wave'

discussion guide



 
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