Much has been written about the death of surfing’s soul—I, for one, am certainly guilty of such doomsday proclamations. But fear not, wave sliders, as rumors of such a passing have been greatly exaggerated. This Thursday, the S.B. Maritime Museum promises one fun-filled shot over the bow for all those who think the corporate masses have destroyed the Sport of Kings. Rescued from the depths of history by Montecito’s Scotty Starr, the long-lost 1960s surf film classic, The Living Curl, returns to the big screen, complete with a grooved-out, jazzy soundtrack, beer, tacos, and the filmmaker himself, Jamie Budge, who will narrate his movie live and direct. Once a fundamental calling card of the surf-movie experience, the live narration brings a sense of showmanship, wit, and community to a type of screening that’s all but extinct in today’s sea of red-carpet premieres and DVD release parties.
As for the film itself, what it lacks in contemporary high-gloss finish it more than makes up for with timeless longboarding from legends in their prime, like Miki Dora, Johnny Fain, and Lance Carson. Even better, it includes heaps of timepiece footage from an era of California surfing that all of us, no matter our age, would be foolish to forget. You get shimmery eyefuls of long-gone surf spots that were once a staple for Santa Barbarians. There is behind-the-scenes footage of the surfing side of Beach Blanket Bingo, the late, great Miki Dora flawlessly dancing Malibu at a time when you could still get a wave to yourself. There is the Cove at Rincon, spinning as perfectly as ever, before leashes or wetsuits had been invented, and my favorite, a sand-dune surfing session going down along Highway 1 just south of Pt. Mugu nearly two decades before the dawn of snowboarding. All in all, the film is exactly as Budge describes it, an ode to the “abilities, agilities, and finesse” of the California surfer in the days after Gidget first revealed our remarkable scene to the world. The Living Curl screens this Thursday, January 14, at 6 p.m., at the Santa Barbara Maritime Museum (113 Harbor Wy.). Call 962-8404 or visit sbmm.org.