When this documentary-in-progress finally gets the “wrap” later this year, surfers around the world will get an incredible look into not just how, but how well our sport and equipment has evolved over the past 50 years. Bethany Beach, Delaware videographer Dan Herlihy and shaper extraordinaire Jim Phillips have combined creative talents to make a film that traces the evolution of the “hot curl” finless and finned shape (late 1930s to the early ’50s), both through historical footage and then straight into moving images of Hawaii’s master waterman Bonga Perkins on them. Along with Dan’s son, Colin, and Nalu Froiseth (grandson of surfing pioneer Wally Froiseth), these guys are riding shiny, newly built AND priceless replicas of both finless and 2nd-generation finned Hot Curl shapes. Jim “crafted” the boards (remember, this is the wood era) in just a few short months for the film project. No fiberglass here, only traditional spar varnish, like the guys did way back then. Wax is optional, but when you watch them drop into overhead Haleiwa, a seatbelt would seem more logical.
“We really want Bonga and Colin and Nalu in sizeable surf for all of our shoots, as big a wave as they want to put these boards into is fine by us,” Dan commented after a morning of filming with Bonga in double-overhead surf at Haleiwa. “We’ll wait for next fall to work with Nalu in early season Makaha and pick up where we left off with Bonga and Colin. Bonga’s really itching to get these boards out at Sunset to prove a few things to himself and to the project, so we’ll just fire up the camera and let him (Bonga) work his magic. So far we’re blown away by what the guys have done — especially with Bonga’s strengths. This is as much a documentary on Bonga’s abilities as an incredible, all-around surfer, as it is a feature showcasing the hot curl shapes and the generations that rode before him.”
For shaper Jim Phillips, the project is beyond sweet. He finally gets to sit back and watch the guys turn all of his hard work (mowing balsa and redwood into 10’ 6” and 11’ 0” finished shapes) and put the boards through their paces in some serious island juice. “It’s interesting to watch Bonga and Colin handle the speed from these boards,” said Phillips, “and control the weight down the face and then into trim. Just watching them paddle for a wave from a dead stop is different than foam. There’s that glide effect that comes from the weight and wood’s properties. You can sit outside of everyone and paddle into speed verrrry quickly with none of that start/stop momentum foam reacts with.”
This film project is on hiatus for the summer, so Jim’s heading back to his California shaping bay at Channin’s with Bonga’s recommendations (and a few shape changes of his own). He’ll grind out a couple backup models for the upcoming autumn surf/shoot. Dan flies back home to edit down the footage he’s shot so far and Colin just has to be patient till dad hands him a return ticket back to Hawaii.
As for Bonga, he’s already in his own world, ready to surf his outrigger canoe at Outside Avalanche if a late season swell gives him a crack at it. After working out with a finless, dome-bottomed canoe in huge surf, riding that 45-pound hot curl shape next fall will seem as light as a feather. Look out Sunset Beach, and stay tuned for Episode 2 of a great saga. – Bernie Baker