The board members who loved ‘Surf’s Up’

The animated flick was a bit of a washout at the box office, but real wave riders gave it a thumbs-up. And now maybe Oscar will too.

A great La Times article on Surf’s Up. Stuff about your’s truly on page 2.


No one was more obsessed with film’s realism than John Clark, who led the wave animation team and recently won an Annie for his work. He grew up near Slater’s home break in Cocoa Beach, Fla., and started surfing when he was 5. He never let up.

Clark considered the waves as important as any character in the movie and scoured surf videos and photographs for every conceivable angle. He was obsessed with guarding against visuals or story lines that would “make surfers groan.”

“My goal,” he says, “was to fight tooth-and-nail to ‘keep it real.’ ”

One of the film’s most dramatic — and real — moments is a wipeout scene in which the aspiring penguin champion is pounded and dragged under by a succession of dark, monster waves, modeled after Mavericks’ dangerous break. Clark says he drew from experience. “I know what it’s like to be annihilated by huge waves.”

And by smaller ones.

During the film’s production, Clark suffered a freak accident while surfing head-high waves in northern Malibu. The tail of his board sliced the bottom two-thirds of his eyelid, denting the eye itself.

“I scared everyone out of their wits,” he says. “I was the only one animating waves at the time.” But two surgeries and six days later, Clark was back at work — and back in the water.

Clark says that although everyone was disappointed by the film’s showing at the box office, the Oscar nomination “is confirmation that the movie is as good as we thought it was. . . . I wanted my part to be such that it was the one movie that came out of Hollywood that surfers really liked.”

The dude got it right.

As the review in Surfing magazine put it: “For the first time ever, Hollywood doesn’t make us want to quit surfing, it makes us want to go surfing.”



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