‘The Present’ takes viewers on a 90-minute wave

I hadn’t been to a live surf movie in years when Thomas Campbell’s latest, “The Present,” flooded into La Paloma. Playing on the pun of living in the moment and a gift from the sea, “The Present” accomplished what every good surf movie should, yanking me away from taxes and the uncertain future of our beautiful oceans, into 90 minutes of excellent waves and the curious cast of characters who ride them. While Dan Malloy scored the deepest tubes, and Tom Wegner present(ed) the most interesting surf craft, it was 60-year-old Michel Junod who captured my thinking, building his own boards, pulling into some hefty slabs and noseriding as well as anyone. Thanks Michel — I’ve felt younger ever since.
There were some obvious and some not so obvious Bruce Brown/“Endless Summer” references, and some stoked sounds complements of the gremmies on hand and Ray Barbee and crew, who were also on hand for live music. The only downsides of Campbell’s art, to me, were that he revisited his original theme, one that many lifelong surfers already get — ride whatever board you like. That and the unnecessary reference to the film (yes it was film) being shot on 16 mm did nothing for me. I mean, if you can’t tell the difference between digital and film, and most of the audience can’t, who cares? Perhaps those beautiful Malloy close-ups might not have worked with a modern medium, but if I wrote this piece on an IBM Selectric why should I tell you about it? Otherwise, major kudos to the filmmaker for something that simulated the ebb and flow of my surfing experience.
In other surf news, Jed Noll has opened a surf shop in San Clemente. Actually, calling it a surf shop is like calling Jeffrey’s Bay a surf spot. Man, this was no ordinary surf shop. And it wasn’t just because all-time greats like Phil Edwards and Linda Benson were on hand, but I have never seen so many facets of the surf world represented in so small (the place is actually huge) a space.
The entryway looks pretty much like any other surf shop with some cool clothing and various other surf-related items. Looking up, however, things begin to change with fine collectable boards lining the ceiling. Walking the gauntlet of that candy store of succulent colored longboards from various shapers was difficult for anyone with a taste but no pocketbook for fine surfboards.
Moving on, some of the world’s most famous surf trunks were preserved under glass, including the “hotdoggers” made famous by Miki Dora at Malibu and Greg Noll’s jailhouse rockers that have become synonymous with the place. Beyond that are the boards ridden by those two surfing icons along with some of the most beautifully crafted wooden surfboards I have ever seen, coming from the skilled hands of Greg and Jed.
No real surf shop is complete without a shaping room, and Noll’s room featured a partially completed wooden big wave gun, that is, no doubt meant for display by someone with a lot more disposable income than I have.
Fellow writer Denny Aaberg was standing in the lot behind the shop along with his famed brother, Kemp. As the talk between Denny, Kemp and I turned to “hodads,” we reveled in our pre-surf identities when Butch wax, bellbottoms and Sir Guy shirts, buttoned to the top, were uniforms of choice, lowriders were the coveted vehicles and being a surfer was a disease we never realized we would someday catch forever.

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