Wow, what a rush! Although “Chasing Mavericks” isn’t the finest movie ever made, its a well put together tribute to a young surfer, Jay Moriarity, who died at age 22. The ocean scenes are magnificent, as only nature can provide. Gerard Butler, who plays 15-year-old Moriarty’s mentor, Frosty, actually surfed during the filming. While on “The Daily Show” with Jon Stewart, he related being trapped beneath a set of Mavericks’ waves before being rescued…
“Chasing Mavericks” opens with 8-year-old Jay (Jonny Weston) timing the waves off the Santa Cruz coast with friend Kim (Leven Rambin) and her ball-catching beagle. When the dog chases a ball onto the rocks and is about to be grabbed by a wave, Jay saves it but is knocked off by the crashing waves instead. Eventually, Frosty scoops the boy up onto his long board, then drives the kids and dog home, which for Jay is next door.
And so begins Jay’s love of surfing, at which he becomes very good. Since Jay’s father left him and his alcoholic/unreliable waitress mother (Elisabeth Shue), he has been taking care of himself and her. He is basically alone and living without affection, becoming independent and self-reliant, taking care of himself and his mother.
Skip ahead seven years and, besides surfing, he’s working in a pizza joint, sporatically attending school, and skateboarding. He is saving for a surfing monitor, like Frosty’s, but his mother keeps borrowing his money. Despite Jay’s sad circumstances, his best friend, Blond (Devin Crittenden), feels inferior to him and takes up with long-time bully/druggy, Sonny (Taylor Handley). Kim is older and only sees Jay away from school, not wanting to acknowledge their friendship or Jay’s crush on her.
Frosty Hesson, a part-time carpenter, has a patient/loving wife, Brenda (Abigail Spencer), a seven-year-old daughter, and a baby son. He’s forever skipping what work he has and ignoring needed repairs to their house to surf. His garage is filled with surfboards, one of which he evenutally loans to Jay. Brenda intuits that Jay needs Frosty’s influence in his life, but Frosty keeps his distance while watching the boy grow into the best surfer in Santa Cruz.
The awesome and dangerous Mavericks’ El Nino waves are rare and in 1987 were still a secret, known and surfed by only four hardcore boarders, including the still living Greg Long. However, early one morning, Jay steals a ride atop Frosty’s van and witnesses the tallest waves he’s ever seen. Watching Frosty and his three buds surfing thirty-footers makes him beg Frosty to teach him to ride the monsters. Brenda influences her husband to take Jay on, telling him that the teen will do it without his help anyway and probably get killed. Thus begins twelve weeks of hard work and wave education before the El Ninos arrive and soon depart. Tragedy and Jay’s 16th birthday arrive first.
In the brief meantime, the secret of Mavericks has been leaked and, on the historic day, the cliffs have become full of onlookers, newsmen, photographers, and eager surfers. Boats and dinghies haul surfers and boards out the half mile to where the swells begin. Frosty, Kim, and Frosty’s daughter watch Jay and Frosty’s three friends head out on their boards, not on boats. Only they know this place, this water, and can survive it.
(Danny and I used to live in Santa Cruz. It was great recognizing everything and remembering Mavericks.)