Robert August Remembers Bruce Brown

By Robert August
With: Ryan Waldron

Even as a youngster, Bruce was one of my best friends in the neighborhood and would always hang around my parents’ house in Seal Beach, California. Everyone seemed to gravitate towards our house because my Dad was sort of a mentor for all us kids who were getting into (at the time) the new sport of surfing.

Bruce’s dad actually had a little camera shop down on Belmont Street called Brownie’s Cameras so Bruce had a natural path of creativity from a young age. When we got into our teens, Bruce and a few other guys started putting together some very basic, 16mm surf films that would premier in local high-school auditoriums. Bruce would sit on the stage with a microphone and proudly narrate his surf film in front of the audience. At this point in surfing, these were really the only social events focused around the sport. In order to advertise, we would staple posters on telephone poles around town reading, “Surf Movie! Tonight at Newport Harbor High School”. So of course we all went, it was something fun to do! I generally had a pretty substantial surfing section in the films as well!

Bruce’s movies would always stand out compared to the other film makers at the time because he had more creative editing techniques and his narration was second to none. The movies would feature all the best local surfers (including myself). There was no money or anything involved, we just did it for fun.

After a few successful surf flicks, Bruce came up with the idea of chasing waves and summer-time around the world, calling it, The Endless Summer. For everyone who has seen the movie, you can see what a great success it was and truly the trip of a lifetime for us. At the time, I was 18 years old, valedictorian of my high school, and unsure whether or not I wanted to attend dental school. But after talking to a few respected teachers and my parents, they told me that dental school could wait; traveling the world would be a better education than anything I could receive in the classroom.

To this day, the Endless Summer trip still resonates with me because I was with my best friend, Bruce. After the movie was picked up by a Hollywood distribution company and blown up into a 35mm film, the movie could be shown across the nation and people had a very positive response to this new idea of traveling for the sake of surfing. I think the movie truly brought surfing into the mainstream and inspired a whole generation to get out of their comfort zone and try something new. 

Earlier this week, Wingnut rang me up and broke the news that Bruce had passed at 80-years old. I am still feeling very emotional today. Memories of Bruce continue to flood my mind as I reflect on our genuine friendship and the iconic surf trip we were lucky enough to share with the world. 

RIP Bruce Brown
1937 – 2017


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