Nearly 20 years ago, Newport Beach resident Rick Chatillon was working at Newport Photographics when fellow local Ralph Meyers, Rick’s long time 22nd Street surfing buddy, came in to have his collection of old 16mm reels converted to video. Ralph, along with friend Tom Jewell, shot the movies during surfing’s golden era.
As Rick worked converting the archival footage taken in the 1950s and ’60s, he watched in amazement as the epic, early days of surfboard riding in Newport Beach unfolded before him. Rick couldn’t keep his eyes off the screen, and instinctively knew the tapes held something special; they captured a magical, transformational time in Southern California history that has molded our American culture, continues to influence fashion and sports, and ultimately has emerged to become a multi-billion dollar industry.
“When I first started watching the old reels that Ralph brought in, I felt like I had discovered buried treasure,” says Rick. “I literally could not get them out of my mind. Over the years I began to obsess about making a documentary depicting the evolution of surfing in Newport and what it was like more than 50 years ago when this sport and lifestyle centered on surfing began to take hold.”
So in 2008, with Tom and Ralph’s blessing, Rick and his wife, Ann, who also grew up in Newport Beach, began a quest to track down and interview all the talented surfers featured in the historic footage. The journey took them from Aspen to Maui to Malibu among other locations, and Rick’s dream started to become a reality.
Ann worked tirelessly compiling numerous vintage archival film and photography featuring Newport Beach. She methodically searched through the historic collections of varied resources including Sherman Library, First American Title, Newport Harbor Nautical Museum, Newport Beach Historical Society and the Balboa Historical Society. But mostly, Ann gathered stories, photos and movie clips from personal collections of longtime Newport Beach residents, including her parents and their friends, as well as those of the many interviewees.
Ann and Rick spent hundreds of hours combing through all of the content, painstakingly pulling together the inspirational story of the evolution of surf culture in Newport Beach. They collaborated with Grammy award-winning music composer and avid surfer himself, Philip Marshall, as well as Orange County Register surf columnist Jeff Malanca, a popular surf report radio personality and voice-over artist.
The result is a film that is a masterful compilation of the rare home movies, still photos and unscripted raw footage intertwined with interviews of legendary surfers including T.K. Brimer, Bobby Russell Brown, Don Craig, Ed Hardy, Ilima Kalama (1962 USA Champion), Ricky Lowe, Greg MacGillivray, David Nuuhiwa (1968 and 1970 USA Champion), John Peck, Ron Sizemore (1961 Champion), Eric and John Vallely, Walter Viszolay, and a host of pioneering surfers who first called Newport’s famous 22nd Street their home turf, living the dream every day.
Through it all, surfing’s influence on fashion is readily apparent, and the clothes seen in the movie could be the same kids are wearing today. Bermuda shorts were the fashion statement of the ’50s, the only difference is trunks were made then by talented moms with sewing machines. As Ann pointed out during our interview, “fashion doesn’t evolve, it revolves – you can really see it in the movie.”
In fact, some of the most recognized surf brands in the world started near 22nd Street Newport Beach. Bob Hurley of Hurley International was a premiere board shaper in the day and got his start there, as did Bob McNight, founder of Quiksilver USA. Think of OP, Hang Ten, Katin, Reef, Rip Curl, Billabong, O’Neill, Oakley, RVCA, Volcom, etc…. all have made a profound impact on the fashion industry.
Fast forward to the 2010 Newport Beach Film Festival where “Living It Forever” made its world premier to a sold out crowd at Newport’s landmark Lido Theater. By the end of the festival, their documentary would become one of the most popular films of the event – with festival producers adding two additional screenings to meet demand. The Chatillons would take home the Film Festival’s 2010 Orange County Filmmaker Award. Later that year, they also won the History/Archival Award at the California Surf Festival in Oceanside.
Even for those who know nothing about surfing or have never even heard of Newport Beach, “Living It Forever” unfolds in a way that has audiences yearning for carefree days, when hitting the beach and being with friends was all that mattered. More importantly, it brings full circle a time in history – that rare “tipping point” – when the obscure lifestyle of the surfer first began to influence mainstream America, ultimately becoming the legendary inspiration it is today.
On Thursday, Sept. 8, Ann and Rick Chatillon will be honored again, this time during a private opening reception of the “Living It Forever” exhibit that will be on display at Bloomingdale’s Newport Fashion Island kicking off at the evening’s “Fashion’s Night Out.”
The display, complete with vintage photos and surfboards featured in the film will remain on display at Bloomingdale’s on the Men’s Main Level through September 18. For more information, log on to www.livingitforeverthemovie.com or call 949-230-1557.
Lynn Selich resides in Newport Beach and can be reached at [email protected].