The Endless Summer

bruce brown, mike hynson, robert august

It’s hard to believe summer’s almost over.  It’s at about this time I start thinking that it would be nice if summer never ended, which inevitably leads me to reflect on my favorite surf movie, The Endless Summer.  There are a ton of interesting bits of info about this movie classic, so I thought I would share a few of them that I discovered recently.


The Title

No doubt, filmmaker Bruce Brown nailed the title of his sixth movie, The Endless Summer.  His previous titles, which include Slippery When Wet (1958), Surf Crazy (1959) and Surfing Hollow Days (1961) were catchy, but suggested that they were strictly surf movies.  The Endless Summer, in contrast, embodies what many of us often dream about – perpetually warm, summer weather and sunny beaches.  It’s more than another surf movie;  it helped popularize the surf lifestyle by bridging the gap between actual surfers living along the coast and the many non-surfers residing inland.

Brown chose the title even before he started filming.  South Africa was his initial destination, but his travel agent told him that it would be cheaper if he kept heading east around the world than if he flew from California to South Africa and back.  And by crossing the equator, he could chase the summer season in both hemispheres...a virtual “endless summer.”  So in November of 1963 and each with $1,400 in round-the-world tickets in hand, Bruce Brown, Mike Hynson and Robert August set off in search of the perfect wave.  Their travels would take them to Africa, India, Australia, New Zealand, Tahiti and Hawaii before returning to California.

promoting the endless summer

Filming & Promotion

Endless Summer co-stars Michael Hynson and Robert August had worked with Bruce Brown before; both were featured in his 1961 movie, Surfing Hollow Days.  When asked to join Bruce in the Endless Summer adventure, Robert was barely 18 and fresh out of Huntington Beach High.  Michael was 21, looking for ways to avoid military service; the Vietnam war was brewing, and he wanted no part of it.

There are a bunch of captivating stories about stuff that went on behind the scenes during the four months of filming.  For example, it was Hynson who first saw a wave south their hotel at Cape St. Francis, so he wandered down there by himself.  After catching a few of those now- famous waves, he saw Bruce and Robert running down the beach toward him, surfboards and camera equipment in tow.  The ensuing surf session that Robert and Michael enjoyed is forever etched in the minds of those who have seen The Endless Summer.

I learned sometime later that the segment showing them traipsing over sand dunes was actually shot the afternoon after their epic session at Cape St. Francis.  The waves had shut down completely, so Brown got the idea to make it appear that the trek to the Cape was a long, arduous one.

After filming was complete, Bruce set his sights on getting his film into the hands of movie distributors. To do so, he had to prove it would appeal to a broader audience, not just to a bunch of rabid surfers.  So, Brown set out on a barnstorm tour of the U.S. in a motorhome, showing and narrating a 16 mm version of The Endless Summer in small theaters and auditoriums across the country.  Traveling with him to promote the movie were a cast of the period’s most elite surfers, including Hynson, Hobie Alter, Joey Cabell, Corky Carroll and Phil Edwards.  Robert August decided not to go, opting to enroll at Long Beach State to study dentistry.

On one occasion, Hynson recounted being behind the wheel of the motorhome near Wichita, Kansas – a city about as landlocked as one can get – and somehow got “off track.”  He recalled stopping at a city park and skateboarding with a group of local thing led to another and the movie ended up showing at the Sunset Theater in Wichita for two-weeks, selling out every night - despite miserable, snowy conditions.  Michael also remembers that the success of the Wichita showing is what prompted Brown to invest another $50,000 to have his movie produced in a larger 35 mm format.

From Wichita, Brown took his new movie to New York, where it showed for nearly a year at a small Lower Manhattan theater called Kips Bay.  It was such a success that it finally caught the attention of Cinema V Distributing, and after three long years, The Endless Summer won worldwide attention and went on to gross more than $20 million.

the endless summer original poster

The Iconic Poster

The emblematic Endless Summer poster was designed by a guy named John Van Hamersveld in 1964, who was just 22 at the time.  Van Hamersveld was the Art Director for the fledgling Surfer magazine, which John Severson founded in 1962.  Working from an image that producer/director Robert Bagley took of August, Hynson and Brown, Van Hamersveld was paid just $150 to create the iconic silhouette design.  I always thought the photo was from actual film footage (and specifically from Cape St. Francis), but it came from a photo shoot Brown had arranged with Bagley in 1963 at Salt Creek Beach, California...before the movie was actually filmed.

Despite the enthusiastic reception from live audiences around the country, Brown struggled to land a distribution deal.  Studios were skeptical of its appeal to non-surfers, and weren’t all that fond of Van Hamersveld’s poster design.  Apparently, they felt it needed “a little something more” to pique the interest of a broader population base.  Even when Cinema V Distributing agreed to take on The Endless Summer in 1966, Brown had to fight to keep the original poster design intact.  It worked out pretty well…the poster is part of the Smithsonian National Museum of American History collection.

robert august, mike hyson, bruce brown in an airport with surfboard

The Theme Song

Safe to say, Bruce Brown nailed the movie’s theme song as well.  Its haunting melody captures the very essence of the surf lifestyle like no other.

The Sandals were formed in 1962 in San Clemente, California.  Starting out as a high school band called the Twangs, the group soon changed their name to The Sandells (a combination of the word “sand” and “ells”, a popular ending for musical groups at the time).  Heavily influenced by The Ventures, The Sandells released their first album in 1964 with World Pacific Records, a label Brown had used for his earlier films. Through World Pacific Records, the Sandells met Bruce and gave him a demo tape; Brown was so impressed that he agreed to use several of their songs in his Endless Summer soundtrack, including, of course, the evocative theme song.  During this time, The Sandells changed their name again, this time to The Sandals, hoping it would reflect a more surfy vibe.  Check out this short video...I’m sure you’ll enjoy it.  In addition to hearing the beautiful theme song while some clips from the movie play in the background, it features Bruce Brown himself, explaining how he discovered the Sandals.

The Sandals - Theme song from "The Endless Summer"

The Sandals actually toured with Brown for a while after he first released The Endless Summer in 1964; they provided a musical background for Brown as he delivered his masterful live narrations.

While doing my research for this article, I found out that there is a new documentary out about The Endless Summer.  Called the Birth of The Endless Summer, filmmaker Richard Yelland chronicles the trip Dick Metz took from 1958 to1961 and the important role it played in the making of Bruce Brown’s movie.  The documentary premiered at the Newport Beach Film Festival in 2021, and was just released to theaters last month.  Might be worth checking out!

Until next time,