Just how hungry are we for a surf movie that speaks a common language? Well, if last Saturday’s turnout at Dana Brown’s Step Into Liquid premiere at Santa Barbara’s Arlington Theater is any indication, we could use a few more shipments of cultural nourishment. Now. More than {{{4000}}} people attended the long-awaited picture during the one-night engagement, including Tom Curren, Kelly Slater, the Malloy brothers, Pat O’Connell, Shaun Tomson, Brad Gerlach, Mike Parsons and, of course, Dana’s famous Dad, Bruce. The event also coincided with a heavily attended auction and autograph-signing session at the Santa Barbara Maritime Museum, which helped raise tens of thousands of dollars for the fledgling institution. “I can’t thank Dana, Bruce and the Step Into Liquid crew enough,” said museum development director Theresa Smith. “To coincide such an inspirational movie with our cause at the museum was a dream come true. I owe everything to those guys.”

Smith wasn’t the only one singing praises for the Step Into Liquid crew. After brainstorming for his next big film project in early 2000, the son of the Endless Summer resolved not to hash out a predictable ES 3. Instead, Brown decided to paint a surfing masterpiece with the broadest, brightest strokes possible. Easier said than done, but the final result comes pretty damn close. What other surf movie gives equal weight to Lester Priday in icy, 1-foot Sheboygan and Laird Hamilton hydrofoiling huge Jaws? James Fulbright chasing super-tanker wakes in the Gulf and teeny wahines charging the shorebreak at San Onofre? Taj Burrow drawing space-age lines and Robert August cross-stepping Costa Rica? The Malloy brothers’ braving giant Ireland and bridging the cultural divide between Protestant and Catholic children with a single surf lesson? None this reviewer has seen.

Brown not only makes every board-carrying member special in Step Into Liquid, he unifies them, saying, we’re all just “in it for the ride.”

And the audience was right there with them on Saturday, cheering from takeoff to kickout. Brown did a fantastic job of stringing it all together with witty narration, smooth transitions and colorful commentary from an entire spectrum of waveriders. But those are just the technical merits. Underneath it all is a celebratory spirit that’s sorely lacking in the vast majority of surf films. As one Arlington Men’s Room patron observed, “Being a surfer never felt so good.” — Evan Slater

[Look for Step Into Liquid at a theater near you this summer. Or, for more info, log on to www.stepintoliquid.com.]