by Corky Carroll
I just received a press release about a new movie coming out about Lifeguards. Not just any lifeguards though, the ones that work at the worlds most dangerous surf spots. Pipeline, Waimea Bay, etc. etc. These are some of the most skilled water people on the planet and some of the most unheralded.
For pretty much my entire life I have been a surfer, closing in on 70 years in the water. A lot of that time I have been under the watch of lifeguards, even if I wasn’t really aware of it. A lot of the time that I wasn’t, I really wish I was. Even in small surf things can happen. In big surf the chances of something bad happening are far greater and it’s a great thing to have somebody on hand in the event that the bad thing that you never thought would happen, and didn’t see coming, actually does happen. And these things do happen all the time. There is a great line in a Jackson Browne song that goes, “don’t think it won’t happen just because it hasn’t happened yet.”
I have always had tremendous respect for the guys who put themselves on the line each time they jump in the water in life and death situations to save somebody else. Just as with a fire fighter running into a burning building this is serious stuff. And big wave lifeguards don’t have any protection. A movie about these people is long overdue.
Going beyond the fact that this is a great concept for a film is the fact that the people who made this film are the cream of the crop as far as not only being experts at what they do but also lifelong dedicated surfers themselves. Surf Star Marty Hoffman, son of legendary big wave surfer “Flippy” Hoffman, nephew of Walter Hoffman (one of the all-time greats) and cousin of World Champion Joyce Hoffman, is the Executive Producer. The film is made in conjunction with MacGillivary Freeman Films, known for epic IMAX masterpieces as well as some of the best surf films ever made. Greg MacGillivary himself being a lifetime Orange County surf regular. And the film was written by my former college from my years working at SURFER magazine, Jim Kempton. Jim was Editor when I was Ad Director. We spent many a “working” afternoon surfing at Cottons Point and Trestles. It would be hard pressed to arrange a more competent and knowledgeable team to make this tribute to some of the bravest and selfless people on Earth.
“Big Wave Guardians” will be released nationally at the end of June. I got a chance to see a rough-cut version and was thrilled beginning to end. The footage is breath taking. The interviews are fantastic, the whole thing is just amazing. When I finished watching it I sat there flashing back on times when I personally had to save somebody and how hard it was. I am not trained to do it, as with most surfers. But sometimes somebody gets in trouble and you have no choice but to help them. It’s easy to be drowned by somebody who you are trying save from drowning, trust me on that. I will never forget when I was maybe 14 or so and living on the beach at Surfside. My cousin Gracie, who was the same age as me, went out swimming and got caught in a “rip.” I swam out to get her and she was so panic stricken that she just glommed onto me like an abalone and wouldn’t let go, almost downed us both. I had no idea of what I was doing, I just knew that I had to save her. If it were me in trouble I certainly would hope my fate would rest in the hands of one of these people who know what they are doing, and in fact are inventing and developing new and better ways to do it, many times on the fly.
Great subject and great movie. EVERYBODY who sets foot in the ocean should see it. And certainly every surfer. Might want to make you want to stop by that lifeguard tower on the way in and say thanks.