180º South: Conquerors of the Useless

A Journey to the Wilds of Patagonia, Chile

At this year’s film festival, pro-surfer and current filmmaker Chris Malloy premiered his latest celluloid creation titled 180º South. The documentary chronicled adventurer Jeff Johnson’s more than 5,000-mile-long trek from California to Patagonia, Chile, a route that Douglas Tompkins, founder of North Face, and Yvonne Chouinard, creator of Patagonia adventure clothing, traveled in1968.

The film is fascinating, entertaining, and beautifully shot, as anyone who has seen it would attest. Equally as satisfying — and stunning — is the movie’s companion book 180º South: Conquerors of the Useless. And it provides a much more extensive story of the journey — both the original 1968 trek and Johnson’s more recent adventure.

The book, like its moving-picture counterpart, is part history, part travel journal, part photo essay. Separated into four sections, 180º South begins with a composition by Chouinard, who reveals how he and his buddies 1968 trip to the wilds of Patagonia transpired. Historical photos and stills from a movie (Mountain of Storms) they made of their trek accompanies Chouinard’s engaging storytelling. Next, Malloy tells the harrowing story of how a wicked knee dislocation took him out of competitive surfing and set him on his path to filmmaker, and ultimately, to the 180º project. Then it is Johnson’s turn to shine literarily as he chronicles his journey in absorbing unguarded prose. The book finishes with verbatim conversations between Chouinard, Johnson, Malloy, and Tompkins. Throughout are photos of such caliber they could easily be framed and mounted in an art gallery.

180º South’s packaging and pages are elegant enough to make it a desirable coffee table addition; the prose crisp and compelling enough to make it a fascinating read.


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