With the gentle beauty of the crashing waves on the ocean, it’s cool to see why so many people want to ride them. In my home state of California, surfing is one of our biggest cultural images. Though I didn’t grow up in a beach town, I have a couple of friends who do and often spend their weekends on the shore, hoping to always get one more before they go back to their lives. There’s something mystifying about getting a board, and taking that ride along the ocean, often feeling you and the water have become one. Your taking this moment to defy how nature flows, feeling ahead of life.
Surfing for leisure is one thing, but to take it to the greater heights are another. Most surfers are not in it for a sporting career or the money, but rather just for the glory of having taken on the biggest waves. That’s part of the spirit of being a soul surfer, using the sport of surfing to respect life and it’s surroundings. Chasing Mavericks is about probably the youngest of these soul surfers. Jay Moriarity made himself famous for successfully surfing the Maverick waves in Northern California. Does this movie successfully portray his surfing philosophy as a way of life?
Chasing Mavericks isn’t a complete biopic, but more or less a coming of age story about growing up and his training that led him to that faithful day. Sixteen-year-old Jay Moriarity (played by Johnny Weston) has had a tough life from his father leaving his family to his mother who has no motivation for life. His only escape comes in the form of a surfboard. He has spent all of his free time surfing the Santa Monica waters, becoming one with the ocean. What drew him to the waters was when he was saved from a tidal current from local neighbor and surfer Frosty Hesson (played by Gerard Butler).
After seeing Frosty taking on the Mavericks with fellow surfing buddies, Jay decides that he wants to do it too. Being that he’s looked up to Frosty his entire life, Jay asks him to teach him to make that ride. Frosty agrees to help, not wanting a dead boy on his conscience. The next twelve weeks are spent paddling on the water, taking on breathing exercises, and writing about why surfing those big waves are necessary at this point. This would have all been interesting, if the main character was intriguing.
Though the movie clearly has a love for the art of surf, I’m not feeling that same reaction. My biggest issue is that Jay is a very boring kid. It’s like that the director was afraid of making him like a beach bum and tried to make him more normal. This makes Jay seem like he’s on autopilot. Chasing Mavericks benefits however from Gerard Butler as the kids mentor. This guy reminds me of every surfer I know, yet comes out as a very likable guy who cares for Jay like his own son.
I’ll give this three Maverick waves out of five. This movie will only interest surfing fanatics, but if you can get through the over hammy-ness of the melodrama, then you may like this. It doesn’t convince me that Jay was a true soul surfer, but there was clearly an effort.