By Besha Rodell
By Patrick Range McDonald
By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
The recently completed A Brokedown Melody is the most fully realized of them all — a perfect balance of state-of-the-art surfing and high aesthetics. Shot in saturated, deep hues of blue, violet and amber — which serves to close the distance between the viewer and the action — the film seamlessly moves from moments of -aching beauty to seat-grabbing adrenaline. But it’s never over the top, always neatly calibrated to the overriding message, which is that to be a surfer is to understand one’s responsibility to both surfing’s past and its future.
Among the film’s many poignant moments is a jam session with Tom Curren and Kelly Slater. Curren is like the Steve McQueen of surfing, an almost mythical searcher and the heaviest influence on the Malloys’ and Slater’s generation of neo-romantic surfers, which includes other stars like Rob Machado. The sequence intercuts between them out in the surf in Indonesia, which includes some of Curren’s best moments on a board in 10 years, and on the sand, where they try to out-insinuate each other.
"You kind of have to be a surfer to get the humor in this," says Chris. But you don’t have to be a surfer to get the meaning of these two icons surfing together.
Later in the film, Slater, Machado and others are joined in the surf by local kids who are flat going for it on broken boards. You can feel the kids spurring on the elders and the elders inspiring the kids. The segment, laid over a stirring track by the Beta Band that includes a turn on a pretty wave by Slater that’s so insane Malloy freeze-framed it, is a hosanna to the transformative power of surfing to induce joy and exorcise cynicism. If your skin doesn’t get goosy watching this, you may be dead.
"Without being preachy or trying to tell people what to do, I wanted to, in a fun way, or in a simple way, just remind people a little bit about where we come from and what is there for everybody as surfers and that this carrot that people are trying to chase now, and the Hollywood depiction of surfing and the glory that comes with it, that there’s something more than that," says Chris. "But in a fun way."
It’s not a new thing, someone reclaiming something that has a pure heart from the maw of commodity and commerce. It happens in music, it happens in art, and it happens in surfing. But it’s a good thing, nonetheless.
"What you see on film and in magazines represents about 1 percent of the surfing population. What the Malloys represent is the rest of surfing; the way the rest of people experience surfing — going on trips, camping with friends, playing music and enjoying a beautiful setting. That’s the feeling you get when you watch their movies," says Machado. "I definitely want to be a part of it."
Before I knew all this stuff about the Malloys, before I knew about their work with Surf Aid, or teaching autistic children to surf, or that they had taken a big pay cut to leave surfing giant Hurley to develop an environmentally sensitive ocean division with unfashionable Patagonia, or that they had turned down big bucks to do a Sunkist commercial because they don’t think soda is good for kids — before any of that, I knew there was something different about these guys.
I had seen them in Step Into Liquid — Dana Brown’s mega–surf flick from last year — in a segment that took place in Northern Ireland. They were teaching kids on both sides of the schism there to surf and maybe find some common ground in the bargain. That was cool and one of the movie’s touching moments, but also impressive was how the brothers turned the burly surf on the northwest coast of Ireland into a playground. People from the village came down to gawk as if they were watching aliens land. But the brothers came across as incredibly humble and grounded. There was something different about them and I wanted to know what it was.Keith checking damage after heavy surf.
I thought I found my answer more than a year later when I finally watched photographer and artist Alix Lambert’s Box of Birds documentary, which aired on PBS and which followed the Malloys from a surf trip in New Zealand to their family’s ranch in Ojai. Her film introduced me to Mary Malloy, the youngest of the Malloy siblings, the one who doesn’t surf.
By the time I get around to asking about Mary, the brothers and I are sitting at an authentic Mexican cafeteria, one of the few remaining traces of old Ventura, a place that’s in the middle of a franchise takeover they say has caught the town all but unawares.