Surfer, Dude – Exclusive SurfShot Magazine Interview with Matthew McConaughey

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The boisterous indie surf flick Surfer, Dude kicked off a round of premieres across the country this September. The film’s premise: soul surfer Steve Addington, played by Matthew McConaughey, is trying to avoid submitting to the coarse corporate plans hatched by his new sponsors in order to continue riding waves. Trying to avoid being digitized for a cheesy surfing video game and a reality show gig, Addington must devise a plan to stay true to his rootsy nature, all while enduring 56 endless days of flat surf.

Helping Addington out: his manager, played by Woody Harrelson, guardian angel, played by Willie Nelson, and lady love, played by Alexie Gilmore. (And helping McConaughey out: Keith Malloy, stunting for the enthusiastic but beginning surfer.)

SurfShot Magazine catches up with McConaughey and director, Robb Bindler, for a poolside chat at San Diego’s Hard Rock Hotel.

What are surfers going to like about this movie?

McConaughey:
This film is sort of a call back, a bit of a throwback, to the roots and beginning of surfing almost before it was an organized competition. We got a soul surfer, our guy Addington, whose one love is to surf. Simplest dude on the planet. His one love is waves. Sort of beholden to nobody, [with a] gravy train sponsorship which basically says he can surf wherever he wants, whenever he wants…

Well, he comes back Malibu and it goes flat. He also finds out his sponsors have been bought out by a guy who wants him to live in his reality house, digitize him for his new video game “Free Surfer,” and this guy, our surfer Addington, is like, ‘Man, that’s not really me. I’m not really feeling it.’

And wakes up to another day of flat waves. Well, he goes a whole summer of 56 days, no waves…It’s sort of an anti-surf flick. Because it’s about that time that all surfers hate: when there are no waves, and what happens if you are landlocked and you cannot get access to a break. How do you navigate when you are on land? How do you keep a landgame– when you’ve got nothing to do in the water?

So it’s not a traditional, ‘Hey this is such killer surf footage, you know, we’re surfing all over these awesome breaks.’ We’ve got some good surf footage. Keith Malloy, he doubled me as the one who makes me look like I can surf–thanks Keith. So it’s about that drought when you don’t have waves, it’s not about when you do.

[There’s a] cool mystic philosophy in its backbone about brotherhood. About staying true, loyal to yourself and the people around you that you give a damn about, in those times when it doesn’t all make sense. And it’s all done with a wink. It’s absurd, it’s fantastic, it’s magic reality…We did it all with a wink and put this story and this character and this surfing culture because we’re like, ‘What a cool, free, organic, fun lifestyle.’ It’s about as simple at its core as any lifestyle can be.

You got a man, you got a board, and you got a wave. You don’t need a membership, you don’t have to pay dues, and what happens is that simple pure world gets flipped upside down and you’re forced into a very complicated situation. And all of a sudden, life that just seemed so easy, and you’re on your own natural clock–all of a sudden demands are put on you that you gotta start, you gotta play ball with The Man to get access to the thing that you want–and that’s waves.

Bindler:
We shot on Super 16 mm film.  We were looking at some really great surf movies from the seventies: Morning of the Earth and Crystal Voyager, Five Summer Stories, great movies that had sort of a back-to-earth consciousness to them. Sort of [a] country soul vibe that started in the seventies in Australia.  Sort of a precursor to the green movement that’s going on today, started by surfers.

They shot these movies in this great old film format, 16 mm, and so we thought, ‘Why not take a chance and use that format?’ Make a feature film set in the surf world. And the other impetus behind that is the character Matthew plays, Addington, is sort of a throwback to simpler time…He’s an analog guy in a digital world, [an] authentic guy being forced into some inauthentic situations. And we thought the film format alone would sort of help tell that story.

How did you interact with the local surf community while filming?

McConaughey:
It was easy. Most of them were in the water; we went out there and shot amongst them.  Our last day, we had a really great day of getting footage at Leo Carrillo. There were surfers all out there, and then we got out there and they knew the camera was trying to be on me sometimes and I was just a beginning surfer. I’m in the time where I’m paddling a lot, [but] as soon as I get in the right spot, we were hooting and hollering, cheering each other on. It was a ball…

You’ve talked about the conflict between the virtual world and the natural world. How will surfers connect with that tension?

McConaughey:
It’s happening today. There’s longboarders; there’s shortboarders. [A] shortboarder is more cut and thrash and right angles, banking off lips and it’s a speed, it’s an adrenaline rush. There’s a lot of competitive surfing…a lot of people are in the business of surfing. Surfing is a business for a lot of companies.

We’re not saying there’s anything wrong with that. We’re not saying, ‘That’s not what surfing should be.’ [I] think it’s cool that you put this character in there that never saw it as a business, but sort of all he did was chase waves, travel the world and chase waves.

Like I said, he was on the gravy train. You know, beholden to no one. And he comes back and finds out that he is beholden to somebody. And on top of that, he’s stuck in flatness. So both those things for this guy suck. And he’s just not standing up saying one thing’s right or wrong. He’s says, ‘Hey man I’m either feeling it or I’m not feeling it.’

And that’s [what] every surfer can get back from it. Every surfer can get back to that. Every surfer, they’ve been through a drought where there were no waves and it sucked. Now, surfers with some money have the capability to hop on a plane or get in the car and go where it is breaking. Some of them can’t. This guy in our movie can’t. And that’s again, that bites, you know.

Technology, though, well there’s all kinds of things. Like Slater’s working with these waves pools now, and we’re not saying that isn’t cool. That’s all fine. We’re…shining a light on the origination. Which is under the sun, man and his board. You don’t need a membership. That why it’s called the Pacific Ocean or the Atlantic Ocean. It’s God’s big
pond, go get in it.

But our movie is not trying to define what surfing is or what surfing isn’t. We made an absurd bit of a Caddyshack of surfing with some misfits, but also with some really good-hearted people. That, you know, their friendships and brotherhood help get them through some shitty times and there’s a lot of heart to the movie and in no way [are we] trying to say we know what surfing is. We’re not making any kind of comment like that. We know it’s a cool culture.  I know through this whole thing I found surfing, which I’m still doing and will continue to do.

Bindler:
For surfers, to have this conversation, I don’t think they’d even enjoy it. [Surfing is] an anti-intellectual endeavor, in a good way. And that’s a totally positive thing. Fu

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0 Comments to Surfer, Dude – Exclusive SurfShot Magazine Interview with Matthew McConaughey

  1. surfersean20
    surfersean20 February 21, 2009

    haha i got a bunch of video of this guy surfing in nicaragua when he was there this last summer.he is a pretty cool normal guy, but acts kinda homoish and is not a very good surfer

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