I had just moved to Encinitas after a six-month stay on Maui when I met a group of surfers who had also recently returned from the Valley Isle and were visiting North County from their place of origin, Redondo Beach. The year was 1970, a moderate south swell was running at Swami’s and there was nobody out.
I had just paddled out when a car skidded into what was then a dirt lot and out piled a crew of six, including two surfers destined to become my friends — Steve Cleveland and Allan Tiegan. Steve, a regular foot, and Allan, a goofyfoot, dominated the mushy rights before we paddled in and spoke about our mutual friend Steve Oberg.
I had met Oberg while surfing Honolua Bay the previous winter and we had reconnected in his hometown of Cardiff. Later that evening everyone got together at somebody’s house in Cardiff and we had dinner and parted company. Three years later, while again visiting Maui on my way to Guam and later, Australia, I had everything I owned stolen. As it happened, the Tiegan family owned a house near Lahaina where Allan and Steve were living. There they fed me, housed me and took me to the airport when it was time.
In Guam I found good reef breaks and wrote Steve Cleveland, exaggerating the quality of the surf in true surfer fashion. If I had realized how adaptable he was, I would have been more cautious. Still, he showed up, ready to surf. And we did score some decent island-style right ledges a few days in a row. I left for Australia and he remained in Guam, only to be held up at gunpoint by a group of nervous junkies. Glad I missed that one.
Since Facebook was a lifetime away from being invented, I lost touch with Steve, drifting my way back to Cardiff where I have settled ever since.
We didn’t connect again until the early 1990s, when I told him my idea for the first longboarding film of it’s time, “On Safari To Stay,” starring then unknown surfers Joel Tudor and Wingnut. The film, which Steve produced and I directed and narrated, resonated with quite a few longboarders at the time, sparked my writing career and offering Steve the stimulus for his next film which he shot, edited and directed himself, “On Safari Again.” Departing from the Safari title, Steve’s next hit was “Another State of Mind.” Now, moving as far from as possible from safari, he delivers “Fresh Fruits for Rotten Vegetables,” which mixes long and shortboards along with an organic and generous offering of alternative surf craft.
But don’t let the title mislead you — this is perhaps Cleveland’s most hardcore film to date. More like a smoothie than a platter, Cleveland reveals without narration that surfing is whatever you dream it can be. A clean blend of the finest longboarders, finless practitioners and brash shortboards, accompanied by a driving soundtrack. It’s a long ways from Joel and Wingnut hanging five in Mexico to retro surf tunes. And it fulfills the greatest compliment possible for a surf film, sending you into the water the next day to try getting five-second barrels and 20-second nose rides.
A life well spent in the ocean reflects in a well-crafted and energetic state of the art surf film. Well done, Steve. See in the lineup and sorry I exaggerated about Guam. The waves at Pipes today were double overhead, offshore and spitting. Nobody out. It’s only a short drive to prove me wrong.
A nice feature via these times is that Cleveland’s latest can be previewed on YouTube and ordered through Surfcraft Media Production, by pushing a few keys and visiting www.surfcraftmedia.com.
Filed Under: Sea Notes