I honestly cannot remember the last time a movie brought tears to my eyes, but CHASING MAVERICKS brought my emotions to the surface more than once. Based upon the true story of Jay Moriarty, a surfing legend who was 16 when he first surfed the elusive “Mavericks” huge waves off the coast of California. For 6 years, he dominated the surfing world winning competitions worldwide until his untimely death as he was freediving in the Maldives in 2001. He was inspired and taught how to surf the big waves by a neighbor mentor, Frosty, played by Gerard Butler who had to learn how to surf for the making of the film and almost died when a huge double wave hit him and took him under as they were filming.
The movie starts out when Jay was only 7 years old and rode his first wave on a patched up broken board he found in his garage that had belonged to his father who had just abandoned his family.Jay’s mother, masterfully played by Elizabeth Shue goes through a myriad of emotions and ups and downs, ranging from depression and drunkenness to pride and concern for her surfing prodigy’s safety. Ms. Shue is probably best known for her performances decades ago as Marty McFly’s girlfriend/wife in the “Back to the Future” movies although recently she was in “Hope Springs”, “Piranha”, “Hollow Man”, and has a recurring role on the CSI TV series.
As his love of surfing grew from that first time riding a wave, Jay began to draw the attention of avid surfers around Santa Cruz, California where he grew up, in particular his neighbor, Frosty Hesson. Frosty was one of four surfer enthusiasts who had discovered a hidden cove along the coast where the waves grew to amazing heights due to the depth of the water and configuration of the underground shelf that was ideal for gigantic, but dangerous waves, known as the Mavericks.Jay found out about the true existence of the legendary mythical Mavericks and became obsessed with conquering the monster surf, and convinced Frosty to teach him the skills he needed in order to successfully challenge them. This movie kind of reminds me of “The Karate Kid” where a kid who has endured teasing and bullying for being a non-conformist, is taken under the wing of an older mentor who ends up getting as much out of the experience as his student. Somehow he manages to keep pushing his lackluster mom to keep her on time at her job and to not fail, works his job at a pizza shop, and excels in his devotion to master his surfing. In the movie, his training and apprenticeship is depicted as lasting 12 weeks, but in reality, it spanned 2 whole years, consisting of physical, mental, emotional, and research including some 55 essays Jay had to write and rewrite. When Jay finally conquers the gigantic 30 foot waves, his moment was caught on camera and became an iconic image on the cover of Surfer magazine with this gutsy 16 year old kid riding on top of a monster. Seconds after the photo was snapped, Jay wiped out, became separated from his board, and tons of water came crashing down on him, pounding him and pushing him deeper and deeper. After several minutes underwater, the devastated audience who had been watching erupted into uncontrollable joy when he resurfaced alive and well. Rather than admitting defeat, Jay was reunited with his board and once again paddled out to attack the beast. In the movie, for dramatic effect, it takes place the first time Jay tackled the huge waves, but in reality was several months after his first ride on them.
The slogan “LIVE LIKE JAY” has become his mantra and memorial around Santa Cruz where he grew up and lived. His wife, Kim Moriarty recently said, “‘Live Like Jay’ doesn’t mean you have to be a tough, big-wave surfer. Jay knew that, even for him, that would eventually end. It means find out what you’re here for and follow it. Be true to yourself and treat others well.”
“Chasing Mavericks” will hit theaters on October 26. Take some tissues, for both tears of joy and pain. I think the world would be a much better place if we all could “LIVE LIKE JAY”!
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