An Interview with Greg Schell: The Far Shore

In 1972, a young Kevin Naughton and Craig Peterson took to the road with surfboards, camera gear and an untameable desire for adventure. For ten years they scoured the planet in search of perfect waves and the experiences only a traveler on the road encounters. This film chronicles their journey.–from “THE FAR SHORE” video jacket.

Greg Schell is the young filmmaker whose dream it was to capture the youthful innocence of surf travel that Naughton and Peterson emboddied. His movie is both retrospective and introspective. It allows us, surfers of the 21st Century, to examine the surf travel of the past. But more importantly, “The Far Shore” requires that we seriously consider exactly what constitutes surf travel today and in the near future.

I urge you to check out this highly entertaining flick. Below is the manuscript from an impromptu interview with Greg.

S: Tell me what got this whole idea started, give me some background, how did this pipe dream evolve, what was the genesis of this?

GREG: Well I was at a party in Laguna Beach about six years ago and I walked into this beach house and I looked up on the walls, and there were these great old photographs that I had remembered from my collection of Surfer magazines. And I looked at my friend who took me to this party, and I was like, wow, were did this guy get all these photos and he, kind a like, hit me on the shoulder, and he’s like, “You idiot this is Craig Peterson’s house, this guys a legend.” And so I finally discovered the party I was at, was at Craig’s house. I ended up meeting Craig, I asked him if he had any old copies of his Surfer articles that he and Kevin wrote back in the ’70s and he said sure. So he got me a bunch of old magazines, I started reading all the stories, next thing I knew I envisioned this idea that the stories would make a great documentary some day. So I just put that idea in my head and I kept it.

S: Jump ahead to your college days in film school?

GREG: I’m in film school, yeah. San Francisco State has a graduate film program, so there I am. Senior year, I have to come up with at senior year project, and its got to take a year, and I am thinking God what am I gonna spend a year on that I’m still gonna be enthusiastic about? After working on something for a year…so I just decided that this was the way to go, make this documentary, and I contacted Craig and Kevin and they said, “Okay lets do it.”

S: What are you trying to convey in the movie? What is it you want people to leave the theatre with…what is the theme or purpose?

GREG: Well the theme of the movie, I think, is really this idea of free will and determination, and the idea that you can do anything you want, you know, within reason. You know here’s two guys who were teenagers in the ’70s, who decided to take off and go around the world looking for waves for ten years. They went through all the hardsships: malaria, dissintary, and passport hassles and dictatorships; just to catch a couple of waves. And so its really a story of adventure, determination and free will.

S: Which part of the movie do you feel best portrays that?

GREG: Definitely you could look at it as the whole trip…The ten year trip was filled with all kinds of ups and downs and little stories within the stories. But I think that West Africa was definitely the pinnacle of their adventures, because it combines all the elements of the faraway beach, outdoor on some remote coastline, civil war is happening. Angola and Zaire are in a civil war, and their stuck kind of in the middle they can’t leave. It’s that moment its like it could be sure terror or sure ecxtasy, and it kind a like their right in between. Its like finding perfect waves in the middle of a civil war, that in itself, to me, seems so cinematic. And when I started reading the West Africa articles that’s when it really clicked for me, that’s when it was like, “Okay.” The idea for a documentary crystalized as soon as I started reading about West Africa. Most people who have seen the film have come back to me and said that that was their favorite part of the movie, the West Africa section.

S: What kind of hurdles did you have to jump? Was your senior project professor all for it?

GREG: It’s funny, at first they were kind of disuading me from doing the story. ‘Cause they were like well, surfing, this is not really worthy of a graduate project. I tried to explain to them that it wasn’t just a surfing movie, it wouldn’t be a bunch of images of guys riding waves. It’s going to be a story. It’s gonna be like a Lewis and Clark, adventure story. So eventually I had to pitch it in front of a panel of academics, and then I had to go to through this question and answer deal with them.

S: Do others have to do that with their projects?

GREG: Everybody. They (academics) were going to fire as many questions…try and shoot me down.

S: How was that?

GREG: It was intense. It was like a soviet politburo, where it was like a big long table, and I stood up in front of the table in a tie. And I had to present my project with Kevin and Craig’s slides. And every ones presenting their projects about the Chiapas, whatever, you know their doing the history of poverty in America, and here I am pitching a surf movie. It was pretty funny, but I think I won it over after it was all over.

S: What did you get on your senior project, did you get a grade?

GREG: I haven’t been graded yet. It’s my Master’s. I need to go back and actually present it to them as my final, but I’m hoping for a good grade.

S: The theme of the movie is, as you say, free will and determination. And I see you personifying that, in the same manner as Kevin and Craig. You kind of represent that, in that you go this guys house, you meet him, you have a vision and you thought, “I can do this. If I put my head to it, and take each step as it comes, and conquer each step.” And your first step is walking into that party a few years back. It’s come to fruition…in a weird way. Before you came in here I was thinking — wow I wish I would have done that for my senior project. Hook up with these two legends…

GREG: It was timing, cause they had been asked before through out the years, but they never felt it was the right time, and they never felt someone could take the time to do it. And I told them, “Look I have a year to work on this project.” It ended up being two years. But at the time I said, “Look, I’ll take as much time as we need, I’ll go through the steps, baby steps you know, to make sure that this is the kind of film that we all want to present.” It wasn’t just gonna be my film and my film only. It was gonna be a collaborative effort.

S: Speaking of collaborative efforts, I know you’ve got a lot of footage from Craig and from Kevin, but in the movie you go back and revisit some of these places, don’t you?

GREG: Yeah we went back to Libertad.

S: Is that the only place you went back to?

GREG: That’s the only place we went back to because I felt since that was the first place they landed it would be a good place to start.

S: Did that help them rekindle some of their experiences you think?

GREG: Yeah, before that they were kind of…it just seemed like they were a little looser once we got down there. Maybe it was the heat, maybe it’s the food…

S: Maybe it’s the beer.

For video clips from “The Far Shore”, and more of this interview click on the “NEXT PAGE” link below.

Talk about this film on our Bulletin Board.