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Father-son story at the heart of surf film benefit

ENCINITAS —  On July 22, the La Paloma Theatre will host a special screening of the 1980s classic surf movie “Ocean Fever” to benefit the Reeve Foundation and spinal cord research.

But there is much more to the story. 

This is a story about a father and a son. 

A father who, despite creating some of the most endearing surf films during the heyday of the movie genre, counts his son as his greatest creation. 

A son who chokes up when talking about his father and wanting to pay homage to the man who he calls “his hero.”

This is a story about Steve and Dane Soderberg. 

La Paloma Theatre will host a special screening of the 1980s classic surf movie “Ocean Fever” to benefit the Reeve Foundation and spinal cord research.
Courtesy photo

“I know there are a lot of fathers and sons who are close, but this guy is literally my hero,” said Dane Soderberg, a 38-year-old real estate agent. “He is the kind of dad that I can literally count on my hand the number of times he told me what to do in my life, and every time he was spot on. That is why I am doing it, to honor him.”

Steve Soderberg, 70, has suffered from chronic back pain for years after a fall re-aggravated his surgically repaired spine. The former avid surfer has had to give up his passion, and he’s been largely confined to his home.

Before the injuries and surgery, the elder Soderberg was among the most popular surf filmmakers during the 1970s and 1980s. The campy, innovative genre reached its peak during the 1970s, as surfing continued its rise in popularity across the country. 

He filmed much of his 1976 debut film “A Matter of Style,” on his 18mm camera. The film, which is described as “an epic tale of the last of the long lost soul masters, charging it with the grace and style that made them legend,” featured some of the Western Hemisphere’s most popular surf breaks and surfing legends Chuck Cockle, Ted Ferris, Bolton Colburn, Tim Lynch and Dale Dobson.

Soderberg made two other noted films, “Ticket to Ride” and “Ocean Fever” before retiring in the late 1980s. 

“You never did it for the money; I was just obsessed with making a bigger and better film each time,” Steve Soderberg said. “It was said when it came to a slow end when video took over, it became a different genre. 

“With VHS, guys could just watch it on their TV, press pause and go get potato chips and beer and come back,” he added. “My plan was to always keep them entertained for an hour and a half and make it so their girlfriends could enjoy the film as well.”

But Steve Soderberg said the secret to his prolific filmmaking was adding new footage to some of his earlier work, allowing him to build on previous films and still show different aspects of surfing. 

But most importantly, “that gave me more time to spend with my son.”

Steve Soderberg said their special relationship began when his son was a kid, tagging along as his dad surfed and paddle boarded and filmed some of the legendary surfers of the time. 

“I am so proud of him, he is such a smart, hardworking guy,” Steve Soderberg said. “He totally surprised me with the (benefit), he told me out of the blue he was showing ‘Ocean Fever’ at La Paloma. I was just blown away that he was doing this in honor of me and for such a worthy cause.”

Dane Soderberg said he can’t be totally credited with the idea of the benefit, which was put together over the past three weeks. 

He and his wife were watching a surf film at La Paloma a month ago and she said that he should do something to honor his father. He took the idea and ran with it. 

Dane Soderberg talked to La Paloma owner Allen Largeant, who without hesitation allowed them to host the event at the facility, took the master copy of the film to a friend in Los Angeles who digitally remastered it, had his uncle, also his father’s poster artist, reformat the movie poster and had several major surfing influencers start posting about the benefit. 

“It has come to fruition really quickly,” Dane Soderberg said. “Everything fell into place pretty fast, and the response has been overwhelming. My gut tells me we will sell it out based on the word-of-mouth and the buzz, and that has been very encouraging.

“At first I was concerned with breaking even on the space rental, but I think now we will have enough to pay all of our expenses and make a donation to the Reeve Foundation, and that is thrilling to me,” Dane Soderberg said. 

He said that putting the event together has brought back childhood memories of watching his dad film surfers like Rob Machado, Dale Dobson and Todd Martin. 

“I just remember being so proud that this was what my dad did for a living, but I didn’t really understand how much of an impact he had until I started planning this,” Dane Soderberg said. “Now, I’m proud to know that people know him and have such love and respect for the role he played in that era.”

Steve Soderberg said that his son told him about the benefit two weeks ago, and it brought him to tears. Dane Soderberg made him promise one thing: that he would attend the event. 

“I promised Dane I would, and it will be a big thing for me to be there,” Steve Soderberg said. “It’s going to require a lot of standing and sitting, which are not my friends right now, but I am going to do it. I am going to be there.”

The screening begins at 8 p.m. July 22. Tickets are on sale at the La Paloma box office for $12.