South Whidbey Record


Age can’t stop surfers from accepting a new challenge in movie at The Clyde

January 10, 2013 · Updated 1:49 PM

Woody Brown, perhaps the most legendary of all surfers, is one of 10 older surfers featured in “Surfing for Life.” Debra Valis and Steve Shapiro were able to meet him before he died. Others can see him in “Surfing for Life,” Jan. 13 at The Clyde. /


South Whidbey has an aging population, it’s surrounded by cold water, surfers are few and far between, so what could be more inspiring than “Surfing for Life,” which will be screened at The Clyde on Sunday, Jan. 13?

After viewing the film in Langley, it’s doubtful that older islanders will flock to Seawall Park for a quick dip and bout with hypothermia. But the 10 amazing old surfers in the film might inspire them to accept the challenge of trying something — anything — to add meaning, challenge and even a few thrills to the latter years of life.

The film has a local angle. Producer and writer David L. Brown is a childhood friend of Debra Valis, who owns Island Athletic with her husband Steve Shapiro, and he’s a more recent friend of South Whidbey’s resident surfing guru, Drew Kampion.

Valis said she saw the film featured in the New York Times Magazine, contacted Brown and arranged to see a screening in Santa Cruz, Calif. Not only did she and her husband see the film, they met some of the “stars,” including the legendary Woody Brown, inventor of the catamaran; and Fred Van Dyke, a pioneer in surfing enormous waves in Hawaii. Brown, 91 when the film was made, has since passed away.

“It has everything that South Whidbey audiences like,” said Valis of the film. “Cool old people with a passion for surfing, rare archival surfing footage and an inspiring message to live it up at every age.”

Kampion, former editor of several surfing magazines, among them Surfer, Surfing, and Wind Surf, has known producer Brown since 1997 when he wrote a long feature about Brown for one of the magazines.

“An inspired maker of documentary films with a passion for surf and sea,” is how Kampion describes Brown. “David has undertaken one of the most important tasks on the surf culture’s bucket list: to interview and tell the stories of the earlier generations of surfers and waterfolk that laid the foundation for our modern global subculture.”

David Brown, an Emmy Award-winning filmmaker based in San Francisco, will be present at The Clyde on Sunday and will host a question and answer session. He has produced, written and directed over 80 productions and 13 broadcast documentaries on social, nuclear, environmental, health, engineering, technology, peace and justice issues. His documentaries have received over 85 international awards, including three Emmy Awards, and have been broadcast on PBS and in 16 countries.

Second feature explores brain

Besides Surfing for Life, which lasts 68 minutes, a second of Brown’s documentaries will be shown at The Clyde’s double feature.

“Going the Distance: Journeys of Recovery,” lasts one hour and tells about survivors of traumatic brain injuries. Brown said it was inspired by Bob Woodruff, who as an ABC news anchor reporting in Iraq suffered a severe brain injury when a roadside bomb exploded.

After watching the film, Woodruff called it the best documentary he had seen on the subject.

As for Surfing for Life, it was acclaimed by many, including the San Francisco Chronicle which called it “a treasure … perhaps the most intelligent treatment of surfing ever captured on film.”

Brown described Surfing for Life as the first documentary to honor the roots and the pioneers of surfing through inspirational portraits of older surfers still surfing after age 75 or 85.

“It’s pretty uplifting for these hard times,” he told the Record.

Narrated by actor Beau Bridges, the film interweaves the life stories of these vital and healthy elders as told through interviews, contemporary day-in-the-life footage, contemporary surfing footage and a wealth of extraordinary archival material including images of several of the world’s finest early surf filmmakers and photographers.

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