The Ghetto Juice Interview with Robert August

RA-Sqaure.jpg

Fifty Filthy Years of the Endless Summer: The Ghetto Juice Interview with Robert August

Think about it. Bruce Brown has been getting pats on the back for his film The Endless Summer for over 50 years now and we’re sure not a week goes by that someone doesn’t come up and tell him how epic that movie is. The Endless Summer has survived all eras of surfing, and has become the most iconic surf film of all time. Groovy then, and even sicker today! We caught up with Endless Summer star Robert August to talk about being involved in the most important surf movie in history and here’s what he had to say.

Interview by Skip Snead

Ghetto Juice: When you got the call from Bruce Brown to be a part of The Endless Summer, did you have any idea the impact the film would eventually have on the world of surfing?
Robert August: Oh no. I mean, I was in all of Bruce’s old movies before The Endless Summer, so I knew him from when I was a kid, when he was in the military in Hawaii, and my brother in law was also in the military so I spent a lot of time in Hawaii surfing with Bruce. And later on when he started making movies, I was in all those movies. Anyway, Bruce’s movies were always a little better than the other guys who were making ‘em back then. They were just lecture films in high school auditoriums. So just from the scope of the movie, and going all over the world, and Bruce calling me I was sure it was going to be the best surf movie. I had no idea it would play in regular movie theaters all over the world, you know, and attract what it did. I was pretty sure it was going to be Bruce’s best movie, or anyone’s best movie, just because the scope of what we were doing….

GJ: Talk about the day you got the call from Bruce to be in the movie…. What went through your mind?
RA: Well, at the time I was still a senior in high school, just getting ready to graduate. I was a good student, an A-student, and student body president in Huntington Beach, and I was focused on being a dentist, and the first time he mentioned it to me, I said, “No man, I’m just getting ready to graduate and I want to go to a University somewhere” … I was just figuring out where to go. And he said, well, you know, if you can stop by the office down in Dana Point I wanna to talk to you. So I said, OK, I’m going down to Trestle this weekend and I’ll stop by. I did and he had this map of the world on the wall and I said, my gosh, we’re not just going to Mexico for a few weeks, this is a big deal. So he explained everything to me, and I talked to my mom and dad and a few teachers at school I respected and I got the same response from my parents who said, “Are you crazy? Go” And the teachers said the same thing! There’s no way anybody can get an education like this. You can always go to school! So I called Bruce and said, hey, I’m in! Next thing I knew I was at all these strange embassies in Los Angeles getting all these weird shots for all these strange places we were going and the next thing I know we’re on our way to New York to get on a plane to cross the Atlantic to Africa …

GJ: And scored! After Africa you headed to Australia right?
RA: Yeah more or less. There were no flights across the Indian Ocean so we went to Kenya, to Yemen, to Arabia, to India, to Singapore, to Jakarta, to get to Perth, Australia! That was where we had to go to get there. And we’d tried to find the beach, or we’d see a wave, and a lot of places we went weren’t even in the movie because there were no waves, or nothing interesting happened.

GJ: You guys didn’t have boardbags back then, so how’d the boards hold up?
RA: Back then boards all had double 10oz. top and bottom, they weighed 45 pounds and you could hit ‘em with a hammer and not much would happen. They were pretty beat up after seven months but they were still rideable.

GJ: Talk about New Zealand and Australia and that leg of the trip….
RA: Well, you know, we met a lot of people, and they could surf, there was a little surf in Perth and Melbourne and quite a bit around Sydney. There were some pretty good surfers there. Just in the luck of going surfing, there wasn’t much surf in any of the places. We looked, we traveled, we made friends and then went on to New Zealand where it was cold. We got some surf there. Surfed Raglan and a few other places that were fun. It was cold there.

GJ: So it wasn’t really summerlike?
RA: Well we thought because it was Christmas time and we were in the Southern Hemisphere that it would be warm, but it was cold. We didn’t have any wetsuits.

GJ: How long would you surf for without wetsuits back then?
RA: We stayed out. As long as there were waves we stayed. You don’t get cold when you’re 18.

GJ: I’m curious how you managed to find surf without reports or forecasts and stuff we’re used to nowadays. Did you just show up and if there were waves there were waves and if not, not?
RA: Yeah, yeah. I mean, we had all kinds of dead ends. We’d try to find the map, try to get some direction, and try to find transportation. There were no car rental agencies. We’d try and find a taxi cab guy who would take our boards and us to the beach. There was a lot of stumbling around trying to figure out what to do but at the end of seven months we got some great waves and had some fun.

GJ: What memory from the trip sticks out the most?
RA: All the friends we made around the world, and to see people in the infancy of our sport, you know, just trying to figure out how to catch a wave and go left and go right. Their enthusiasm. You know, Mike and I were two of the better surfers anywhere back then. So they were curious and that was memorable. And seeing the world, seeing how people live … it was a pretty eye opening experience.

GJ: How did being part of The Endless Summer change your life?
RA: Well, it made me stay in the world of surfing. I was going to be a dentist and when I got back, I went to University, and I was just kind of enthralled with school and my mind was kind of wandering about the whole scope of my life, of a lifetime. So I went to see my dentist, he was a surfer and I talked to him about being a dentist and he didn’t paint a very rosy picture at all about what he did. He did not enjoy it. He said, “Where I’m happiest is in a surf shop. I love it. It’s a positive atmosphere, people are going surfing or getting a new board or going on a surf trip.” He goes, “I could hang out in a surf shop all the time, and I went, wow! By then Bruce’s movie was in every theater in America so I called Jacobs of Jacobs SurfboardsI was riding his boards thenand I go, “Hey, can I get a job?” And he went, oh yeah, anything you want, man. So I did. I got a job in a surf shop and my dentist was right: I loved it! Positive happy atmosphere all day long. And that’s still what I do today. I make surfboards, talk to people about waves and where they’re going, what’s the tide and stuff like that. It’s a great environment.

GJ: Back then the surf industry was pretty much non-existent. Did you see the potential for a worldwide explosion of surfing and the birth of a billion dollar surf industry like we have today?
RA: No. I never even looked at the future. I thought this was great. Everybody was trying to surf. All the main production came from California so I started doing some promotion, started doing some traveling and started my own brand. All I wanted to do was sell a few boards, make a couple t-shirts and make a living and keep surfing. So I never even thought about growth and the future or anything else. Just wake up in the morning and go at it!

GJ: Bruce Brown mentions that if one had enough time and money it could be possible to follow the summer around the world. Did you guys have to fund yourselves or did Bruce foot the bill?
RA: Well, he didn’t have a lot of money either. I think back then he borrowed some money on a house he had in Dana Point and he said, look, plane tickets, you guys, are about $1800 which back then really seemed like a lot of money but he said, I promise, when I start showing the film I’ll pay you back. So I sold my car and paid for my ticket. Mike (Hyson) came up with the money somehow. But when I got back, Bruce paid me back for my ticket once he started showing the film.

GJ: What kind of car did you sell for the ticket?
RA: It was a 1958 Chevy Impala. I wish I still had that car. A fabulous car (laughs).

GJ: Well if you still had the VIN number you might be able to track it down.
RA: (Laughs) Yeah, I wonder whatever happened to that car.

GJ: Were there any moments on the trip when you thought Bruce was crazy for doing the movie?
RA: No. Every day was an adventure. And he didn’t have any disasters or starvation or anything weird. I had diarrhea for about a month which was really exciting, but you know it didn’t keep me from going surfing.

GJ: But how did you guys fund the trip once you were on the road? Did Bruce just carry a grip of cash?
RA: Bruce had money for food and cabs and stuff like that.

GJ: Really, seven months’ worth of food and money?
RA: Yeah, he took care of all that.

GJ: Where did you guys sleep and stuff? There weren’t many night time scenes in the movie….
RA: Yeah, well during that whole trip, from Cape Town up to Durban, we were with that Terrence guy, and he had sleeping bags and tents, and we’d make a fire at night, get up in the morning and go.

GJ: Good ol’ Terrence of Africa!
RA: (Laughs) Yeah.

GJ: Did you ever stay in touch with him?
RA: No. He was a pretty old guy when we made the film and it wasn’t too long after that that he died. And he didn’t stay in touch because there was no communication back then. You wrote somebody a letter. And who knows how long that would take to get to Cape Town.

GJ: When you got home from the trip, were you allowed to talk about your experiences or was it under wraps until the film came out?
RA: Oh sure. No there were no rules. Bruce was making a movie. It took him a while to make the film when we got back, to actually present it to high school and civic auditoriums. It was all live onstage commentary with a turn table with music. There wasn’t no conversation about “don’t tell nobody anything” … it was just gonna be another surf movie and we were sure it was going to be the best surf movie ever. I didn’t think it would be in every auditorium or movie theater in the world though.

GJ: That’s amazing that you knew it was going to be such an amazing movie before it came out.
RA: Yeah well we just thought it was going to be the best surf movie, because where we went and all the waves we got, but we never thought it was going to be as big as it was. You didn’t have to be a surfer to like the movie, anybody could watch the movie and like it.

GJ: Talk about your life before the film, and growing up surfing and stuff….
RA: Well my dad surfed, you know, from when he was a kid and we lived right on the beach in Seal Beach and I surfed every day of my life, and he took me to Hawaii when I was 8, and that was in 1953. There was no L.A. airport. We flew from Burbank to San Francisco and San Francisco to Hawaii it was about a 16-hour propeller flight. We surfed Waikiki with hardly anybody around, it was great. I had a fabulous childhood. My dad surfed with me. We were always camping out down in Baja, California and I never even saw any other surfers down there. We camped and surfed and fished and then when I was about 14 I started traveling with Bruce, you know. I was in other movies before The Endless Summer. I was in a whole bunch of people’s movies before Endless Summer. So I was always traveling. I was ready to go.

: Did you consider yourself a pro surfer back then?
RA: No, there was no pro surfing. It was all just fun. We just went to the beach. There was hardly any organized surfing, certainly not any professional surfing. We didn’t get paid for anything, maybe a free surfboard or something. Jacobs used to pay for us, like when I’d go to Hawaii in the wintertime he’d pay for my ticket and that was about it.

GJ: But you didn’t look at it as a “sponsorship” back then, it was all just fun?
RA: Yeah, just fun. We all just surfed. We wanted to go to Hawaii and ride big waves. Back then, if you didn’t go to Hawaii in the winter to ride big waves you were a chicken.

GJ: So after the film you took up a job with Jacobs in the South Bay … how long after that did you start your Robert August Surfboards label?
RA: Well, let me see … I moved back to Huntington after a while. You know, in the South Bay the waves aren’t that great. I ended up getting up early in the morning and driving to Huntington to get some waves, and then drive back to the South Bay to work. Finally I just went, nah, man! By then I was a good shaper and just became sort of a mercenary, you know, anybody who had the money I’d shape for, and I shaped for about four or five different surf shops, finally I realized everybody’s buying these things because I’m shaping ‘em and my work was getting really good. So I opened up my own retail store on Main Street in Huntington and it always did well.

GJ: What led you to moving to Costa Rica?
RA: I moved here to live here about three years ago, but it was in 1989 when a bunch of us first came down here. The Department of Tourism in Costa Rica approached me and said why don’t ya come down here and do some filming and let the people know about the waves down here so I gathered up some guys from Australia and Hawaii and California and we all flew down here and got some great waves. Then a few years after that Bruce and Dana Brown were making The Endless Summer 2 and we touted it, said, hey, it’s beautiful down here and there’s a lot of good waves. And we came down here and filmed the first part of The Endless Summer 2 here in Costa Rica … and so it was my birthday, I got kind of drunk and bought some property not knowing why but I ended up building a house and came down here for years, for vacations, and family and making our own videos and three years ago decided to see if I could actually live here.

GJ: Talk about your son Sam growing up in a surfing family?
RA: Oh yeah, Sam was a great young surfer, and his mom was real athletic, and I played basketball and was a pole vaulter and played all the sports, and Sam was a great athlete, and a great surfer and somewhere along the line he decided he wanted to be a baseball player and I supported him on that, next thing I know I’m at the L.A. airport and he’d going to Spring Training with the Astros as a starting pitcher.

GJ: No kidding??
RA: Yeah, I was like, oh my gosh, he did it! I was flying all around the country watching him play baseball. He did great. He had three elbow operations, and the last one was the Tommy John surgery and after that he said, Dad, I’m just average now, I don’t want to pitch anymore.

GJ: Surfing’s been your life. How’s your health and how has your body been holding up after all these years?
RA: Yeah, well, I’ve never had any major illness or any broken neck or anything. I’m still pretty healthy. I watch my diet, I eat good food and I weigh the same as I did when I graduated high school. I’m in good shape.

GJ: What’s the key to keeping the stoke Robert?
RA: I think masturbation, a lot. (Laughs).

GJ: Classic!
RA: (Laughs) No, I don’t know…. Obviously a sense of humor. Life’s short you’ve got to have some fun. I do other sports. I play golf. I’m not very good but I like it. I have a 14 year old daughter and I watch her play basketball.

GJ: Is she a surfer too?
RA: Yeah she’s pretty good. We just got back from Australia. Took her over there and we went up and saw the Noosa Surf Festival, which is pretty amazing, and an amazing adventure for a young surfer girl. And it was good for me, too. It was great.

GJ: You’re always stoked to surf, huh?
RA: Yeah, I’m always looking forward to the next paddle out, the next surf, and who’s going to be there, yeah. It’s still exciting.

GJ: Tell me about your most recent surf session in Costa Rica.
RA: Well we all went up to Ollie’s Point on a boar, and Witch’s Rock, but the surf at Ollie’s Point was so good we didn’t even go back to Witch’s. It was overhead and we had some friends down here, got some waves, and one of the little girls who went with us who wants to be a photographer—she’s got a pretty good camera, and we got her to the beach with all her equipment wrapped up all water tight and she got some stills and the Brazilian Surfer’s Journal was here doing an interview with me, and watching me shape and everything, and she submitted one of her photos of me surfing at Ollie’s point and the little girl got it published with her photo credit. It was pretty cool.

GJ: Did the response to the film when it came out blow you away?
RA: Yeah, well, they had a premier and we all went and watched it and I went, Holy Cow, man this is great! Plus it was so personal for me, it was like my home movie of my trip. There was all kinds of great stuff that was in the movie. It captured the whole spirit of travel and waves and the people you meet and funny stuff, and Bruce was a great filmmaker, and his commentary was funny and interesting.

GJ: Did you guys ever party and go out and meet chicks and stuff like that when you were making The Endless Summer?
RA: Yeah man, we had fun.

GJ: What country had the best nightlife?
RA: I don’t know … the whole time we were in Australia we didn’t get many waves so the guys there were really trying to entertain us, and there was always some kind of party going on all the time. And in Cape Town in South Africa, which was a small community of surfers, so they always had something fun going on at night. A little dancing, a little smooching.

GJ: Localism’s gnarly in the world of surfing. Did you ever deal with anything like that during the seven months around the world making the film?
RA: Not at all because there were hardly any surfers anywhere. Everybody was just excited and curious to see us, mainly to watch us surf. There were some pretty good surfers down in Australia and they were open to see what we were doing, they wanted to check out our boards, that weren’t very high tech back then, all the boards were pretty similar: they were all 10-foot, flat and weighed 45 pounds. That’s what we had.

GJ: Surfboards have come a long way since then!
RA: Yeah, it was difficult riding those heavy things. I see the movie and I go, oh my god, I rode that thing pretty good.

GJ: It’s amazing you guys spent seven months on the road and never had anything stolen or anything bad happening.
RA: Nope we never had a disaster or physical accident or anything. We had trouble communicating with people in different countries but we survived.

GJ: Talk about being the first modern surfers in Tahiti….
RA: Well we were the first surfers in a lot of those places. We tried to find waves in Tahiti and Fiji and we certainly weren’t aware of Tavarua Island out there, but we traveled around the island, didn’t find anything, and left and then went to Samoa and didn’t find anything there.

GJ: That’s crazy that you didn’t find surf in those places!
RA: I know, well, people are still finding new surf spots all over the world. That’s part of the fun of surfing, doing some exploration and staring at the map and trying to go where nobody’s gone. You look at the map of the South Pacific and there’s a thousand islands! There’s got to be so many waves!

GJ: Can you believe that it was you who got the call from Bruce, that you were one of the guys who was a part of Bruce’s amazing film?
RA: I don’t think about it a lot, just when I talk about it, at that age to do what we did. Like I said, Bruce Brown was only 26 years old, it’s pretty amazing what he did. Next time you watch the movie, there’s water shots in there, him and one other guy who was one of his promoters built that plexi-glass water housing for the 16mm crank up camera. There was no battery. You had to crank it manually and you’d get 45 seconds and it would stop and you’d have to crank it up again. This was way before the Go Pro! So watch the movie again, and it’s easy to see when we were using that camera, and the quality was great. It’s pretty amazing engineering for a 26-year-old, and he’d made 3 or 4 movies before then. Bruce Brown was really a visionary filmmaker.

GJ: Do you still have a desire to discover more surf the way you guys did it back then?
RA: Well I don’t think I’d buy a plane ticket to a strange place and do the exploration myself. I’m 68 years old, and I’m raising a 14-year-old daughter, but if somebody’s going somewhere, I’m still up for the adventure but I want a tour guide and I want to know what kind of lunch there is and I want the rental car to be ready when we get there. But no, I’m not going to hitchhike to some place.

GJ: Well it’s been an honor to talk to you, Robert. And on behalf of surfers all over the world thanks for going on that trip 50 years ago …. It truly changed the way we live!
RA: Well thank you. It was just the spirit of adventure and travel. You know, I talk to people who say it didn’t make me want to get a surfboard but it made me want to go somewhere, so I saved up my money, bought a ticket and went somewhere.

GJ: Oh and one last question: If there was a third guy who could’ve went on the trip with you guys, who would you have picked?
RA: I don’t know, I’ve never been asked that. Bruce didn’t have a lot of money, and we didn’t have a lot of space …

GJ: Maybe a girl?
RA: I don’t know … if we would’ve brought a girl it would’ve ruined my nightlife.

all photos courtesy Bruce Brown Films, LLC


Posted by: Ghetto JuiceGhetto Juice at: 02 Jun 2014 14:40




Here are some other articles you might be interested in.


Wiki Syntax Enabled: Complete All Fields


Fifty Filthy Years of the Endless Summer: The Ghetto Juice Interview with Robert August

Think about it. Bruce Brown has been getting pats on the back for his film The Endless Summer for over 50 years now and we’re sure not a week goes by that someone doesn’t come up and tell him how epic that movie is. The Endless Summer has survived all eras of surfing, and has become the most iconic surf film of all time. Groovy then, and even sicker today! We caught up with Endless Summer star Robert August to talk about being involved in the most important surf movie in history and here’s what he had to say.

Interview by Skip Snead

Ghetto Juice: When you got the call from Bruce Brown to be a part of The Endless Summer, did you have any idea the impact the film would eventually have on the world of surfing?
Robert August: Oh no. I mean, I was in all of Bruce’s old movies before The Endless Summer, so I knew him from when I was a kid, when he was in the military in Hawaii, and my brother in law was also in the military so I spent a lot of time in Hawaii surfing with Bruce. And later on when he started making movies, I was in all those movies. Anyway, Bruce’s movies were always a little better than the other guys who were making ‘em back then. They were just lecture films in high school auditoriums. So just from the scope of the movie, and going all over the world, and Bruce calling me I was sure it was going to be the best surf movie. I had no idea it would play in regular movie theaters all over the world, you know, and attract what it did. I was pretty sure it was going to be Bruce’s best movie, or anyone’s best movie, just because the scope of what we were doing….

GJ: Talk about the day you got the call from Bruce to be in the movie…. What went through your mind?
RA: Well, at the time I was still a senior in high school, just getting ready to graduate. I was a good student, an A-student, and student body president in Huntington Beach, and I was focused on being a dentist, and the first time he mentioned it to me, I said, “No man, I’m just getting ready to graduate and I want to go to a University somewhere” … I was just figuring out where to go. And he said, well, you know, if you can stop by the office down in Dana Point I wanna to talk to you. So I said, OK, I’m going down to Trestle this weekend and I’ll stop by. I did and he had this map of the world on the wall and I said, my gosh, we’re not just going to Mexico for a few weeks, this is a big deal. So he explained everything to me, and I talked to my mom and dad and a few teachers at school I respected and I got the same response from my parents who said, “Are you crazy? Go” And the teachers said the same thing! There’s no way anybody can get an education like this. You can always go to school! So I called Bruce and said, hey, I’m in! Next thing I knew I was at all these strange embassies in Los Angeles getting all these weird shots for all these strange places we were going and the next thing I know we’re on our way to New York to get on a plane to cross the Atlantic to Africa …

GJ: And scored! After Africa you headed to Australia right?
RA: Yeah more or less. There were no flights across the Indian Ocean so we went to Kenya, to Yemen, to Arabia, to India, to Singapore, to Jakarta, to get to Perth, Australia! That was where we had to go to get there. And we’d tried to find the beach, or we’d see a wave, and a lot of places we went weren’t even in the movie because there were no waves, or nothing interesting happened.

GJ: You guys didn’t have boardbags back then, so how’d the boards hold up?
RA: Back then boards all had double 10oz. top and bottom, they weighed 45 pounds and you could hit ‘em with a hammer and not much would happen. They were pretty beat up after seven months but they were still rideable.

GJ: Talk about New Zealand and Australia and that leg of the trip….
RA: Well, you know, we met a lot of people, and they could surf, there was a little surf in Perth and Melbourne and quite a bit around Sydney. There were some pretty good surfers there. Just in the luck of going surfing, there wasn’t much surf in any of the places. We looked, we traveled, we made friends and then went on to New Zealand where it was cold. We got some surf there. Surfed Raglan and a few other places that were fun. It was cold there.

GJ: So it wasn’t really summerlike?
RA: Well we thought because it was Christmas time and we were in the Southern Hemisphere that it would be warm, but it was cold. We didn’t have any wetsuits.

GJ: How long would you surf for without wetsuits back then?
RA: We stayed out. As long as there were waves we stayed. You don’t get cold when you’re 18.

GJ: I’m curious how you managed to find surf without reports or forecasts and stuff we’re used to nowadays. Did you just show up and if there were waves there were waves and if not, not?
RA: Yeah, yeah. I mean, we had all kinds of dead ends. We’d try to find the map, try to get some direction, and try to find transportation. There were no car rental agencies. We’d try and find a taxi cab guy who would take our boards and us to the beach. There was a lot of stumbling around trying to figure out what to do but at the end of seven months we got some great waves and had some fun.

GJ: What memory from the trip sticks out the most?
RA: All the friends we made around the world, and to see people in the infancy of our sport, you know, just trying to figure out how to catch a wave and go left and go right. Their enthusiasm. You know, Mike and I were two of the better surfers anywhere back then. So they were curious and that was memorable. And seeing the world, seeing how people live … it was a pretty eye opening experience.

GJ: How did being part of The Endless Summer change your life?
RA: Well, it made me stay in the world of surfing. I was going to be a dentist and when I got back, I went to University, and I was just kind of enthralled with school and my mind was kind of wandering about the whole scope of my life, of a lifetime. So I went to see my dentist, he was a surfer and I talked to him about being a dentist and he didn’t paint a very rosy picture at all about what he did. He did not enjoy it. He said, “Where I’m happiest is in a surf shop. I love it. It’s a positive atmosphere, people are going surfing or getting a new board or going on a surf trip.” He goes, “I could hang out in a surf shop all the time, and I went, wow! By then Bruce’s movie was in every theater in America so I called Jacobs of Jacobs SurfboardsI was riding his boards thenand I go, “Hey, can I get a job?” And he went, oh yeah, anything you want, man. So I did. I got a job in a surf shop and my dentist was right: I loved it! Positive happy atmosphere all day long. And that’s still what I do today. I make surfboards, talk to people about waves and where they’re going, what’s the tide and stuff like that. It’s a great environment.

GJ: Back then the surf industry was pretty much non-existent. Did you see the potential for a worldwide explosion of surfing and the birth of a billion dollar surf industry like we have today?
RA: No. I never even looked at the future. I thought this was great. Everybody was trying to surf. All the main production came from California so I started doing some promotion, started doing some traveling and started my own brand. All I wanted to do was sell a few boards, make a couple t-shirts and make a living and keep surfing. So I never even thought about growth and the future or anything else. Just wake up in the morning and go at it!

GJ: Bruce Brown mentions that if one had enough time and money it could be possible to follow the summer around the world. Did you guys have to fund yourselves or did Bruce foot the bill?
RA: Well, he didn’t have a lot of money either. I think back then he borrowed some money on a house he had in Dana Point and he said, look, plane tickets, you guys, are about $1800 which back then really seemed like a lot of money but he said, I promise, when I start showing the film I’ll pay you back. So I sold my car and paid for my ticket. Mike (Hyson) came up with the money somehow. But when I got back, Bruce paid me back for my ticket once he started showing the film.

GJ: What kind of car did you sell for the ticket?
RA: It was a 1958 Chevy Impala. I wish I still had that car. A fabulous car (laughs).

GJ: Well if you still had the VIN number you might be able to track it down.
RA: (Laughs) Yeah, I wonder whatever happened to that car.

GJ: Were there any moments on the trip when you thought Bruce was crazy for doing the movie?
RA: No. Every day was an adventure. And he didn’t have any disasters or starvation or anything weird. I had diarrhea for about a month which was really exciting, but you know it didn’t keep me from going surfing.

GJ: But how did you guys fund the trip once you were on the road? Did Bruce just carry a grip of cash?
RA: Bruce had money for food and cabs and stuff like that.

GJ: Really, seven months’ worth of food and money?
RA: Yeah, he took care of all that.

GJ: Where did you guys sleep and stuff? There weren’t many night time scenes in the movie….
RA: Yeah, well during that whole trip, from Cape Town up to Durban, we were with that Terrence guy, and he had sleeping bags and tents, and we’d make a fire at night, get up in the morning and go.

GJ: Good ol’ Terrence of Africa!
RA: (Laughs) Yeah.

GJ: Did you ever stay in touch with him?
RA: No. He was a pretty old guy when we made the film and it wasn’t too long after that that he died. And he didn’t stay in touch because there was no communication back then. You wrote somebody a letter. And who knows how long that would take to get to Cape Town.

GJ: When you got home from the trip, were you allowed to talk about your experiences or was it under wraps until the film came out?
RA: Oh sure. No there were no rules. Bruce was making a movie. It took him a while to make the film when we got back, to actually present it to high school and civic auditoriums. It was all live onstage commentary with a turn table with music. There wasn’t no conversation about “don’t tell nobody anything” … it was just gonna be another surf movie and we were sure it was going to be the best surf movie ever. I didn’t think it would be in every auditorium or movie theater in the world though.

GJ: That’s amazing that you knew it was going to be such an amazing movie before it came out.
RA: Yeah well we just thought it was going to be the best surf movie, because where we went and all the waves we got, but we never thought it was going to be as big as it was. You didn’t have to be a surfer to like the movie, anybody could watch the movie and like it.

GJ: Talk about your life before the film, and growing up surfing and stuff….
RA: Well my dad surfed, you know, from when he was a kid and we lived right on the beach in Seal Beach and I surfed every day of my life, and he took me to Hawaii when I was 8, and that was in 1953. There was no L.A. airport. We flew from Burbank to San Francisco and San Francisco to Hawaii it was about a 16-hour propeller flight. We surfed Waikiki with hardly anybody around, it was great. I had a fabulous childhood. My dad surfed with me. We were always camping out down in Baja, California and I never even saw any other surfers down there. We camped and surfed and fished and then when I was about 14 I started traveling with Bruce, you know. I was in other movies before The Endless Summer. I was in a whole bunch of people’s movies before Endless Summer. So I was always traveling. I was ready to go.

: Did you consider yourself a pro surfer back then?
RA: No, there was no pro surfing. It was all just fun. We just went to the beach. There was hardly any organized surfing, certainly not any professional surfing. We didn’t get paid for anything, maybe a free surfboard or something. Jacobs used to pay for us, like when I’d go to Hawaii in the wintertime he’d pay for my ticket and that was about it.

GJ: But you didn’t look at it as a “sponsorship” back then, it was all just fun?
RA: Yeah, just fun. We all just surfed. We wanted to go to Hawaii and ride big waves. Back then, if you didn’t go to Hawaii in the winter to ride big waves you were a chicken.

GJ: So after the film you took up a job with Jacobs in the South Bay … how long after that did you start your Robert August Surfboards label?
RA: Well, let me see … I moved back to Huntington after a while. You know, in the South Bay the waves aren’t that great. I ended up getting up early in the morning and driving to Huntington to get some waves, and then drive back to the South Bay to work. Finally I just went, nah, man! By then I was a good shaper and just became sort of a mercenary, you know, anybody who had the money I’d shape for, and I shaped for about four or five different surf shops, finally I realized everybody’s buying these things because I’m shaping ‘em and my work was getting really good. So I opened up my own retail store on Main Street in Huntington and it always did well.

GJ: What led you to moving to Costa Rica?
RA: I moved here to live here about three years ago, but it was in 1989 when a bunch of us first came down here. The Department of Tourism in Costa Rica approached me and said why don’t ya come down here and do some filming and let the people know about the waves down here so I gathered up some guys from Australia and Hawaii and California and we all flew down here and got some great waves. Then a few years after that Bruce and Dana Brown were making The Endless Summer 2 and we touted it, said, hey, it’s beautiful down here and there’s a lot of good waves. And we came down here and filmed the first part of The Endless Summer 2 here in Costa Rica … and so it was my birthday, I got kind of drunk and bought some property not knowing why but I ended up building a house and came down here for years, for vacations, and family and making our own videos and three years ago decided to see if I could actually live here.

GJ: Talk about your son Sam growing up in a surfing family?
RA: Oh yeah, Sam was a great young surfer, and his mom was real athletic, and I played basketball and was a pole vaulter and played all the sports, and Sam was a great athlete, and a great surfer and somewhere along the line he decided he wanted to be a baseball player and I supported him on that, next thing I know I’m at the L.A. airport and he’d going to Spring Training with the Astros as a starting pitcher.

GJ: No kidding??
RA: Yeah, I was like, oh my gosh, he did it! I was flying all around the country watching him play baseball. He did great. He had three elbow operations, and the last one was the Tommy John surgery and after that he said, Dad, I’m just average now, I don’t want to pitch anymore.

GJ: Surfing’s been your life. How’s your health and how has your body been holding up after all these years?
RA: Yeah, well, I’ve never had any major illness or any broken neck or anything. I’m still pretty healthy. I watch my diet, I eat good food and I weigh the same as I did when I graduated high school. I’m in good shape.

GJ: What’s the key to keeping the stoke Robert?
RA: I think masturbation, a lot. (Laughs).

GJ: Classic!
RA: (Laughs) No, I don’t know…. Obviously a sense of humor. Life’s short you’ve got to have some fun. I do other sports. I play golf. I’m not very good but I like it. I have a 14 year old daughter and I watch her play basketball.

GJ: Is she a surfer too?
RA: Yeah she’s pretty good. We just got back from Australia. Took her over there and we went up and saw the Noosa Surf Festival, which is pretty amazing, and an amazing adventure for a young surfer girl. And it was good for me, too. It was great.

GJ: You’re always stoked to surf, huh?
RA: Yeah, I’m always looking forward to the next paddle out, the next surf, and who’s going to be there, yeah. It’s still exciting.

GJ: Tell me about your most recent surf session in Costa Rica.
RA: Well we all went up to Ollie’s Point on a boar, and Witch’s Rock, but the surf at Ollie’s Point was so good we didn’t even go back to Witch’s. It was overhead and we had some friends down here, got some waves, and one of the little girls who went with us who wants to be a photographer—she’s got a pretty good camera, and we got her to the beach with all her equipment wrapped up all water tight and she got some stills and the Brazilian Surfer’s Journal was here doing an interview with me, and watching me shape and everything, and she submitted one of her photos of me surfing at Ollie’s point and the little girl got it published with her photo credit. It was pretty cool.

GJ: Did the response to the film when it came out blow you away?
RA: Yeah, well, they had a premier and we all went and watched it and I went, Holy Cow, man this is great! Plus it was so personal for me, it was like my home movie of my trip. There was all kinds of great stuff that was in the movie. It captured the whole spirit of travel and waves and the people you meet and funny stuff, and Bruce was a great filmmaker, and his commentary was funny and interesting.

GJ: Did you guys ever party and go out and meet chicks and stuff like that when you were making The Endless Summer?
RA: Yeah man, we had fun.

GJ: What country had the best nightlife?
RA: I don’t know … the whole time we were in Australia we didn’t get many waves so the guys there were really trying to entertain us, and there was always some kind of party going on all the time. And in Cape Town in South Africa, which was a small community of surfers, so they always had something fun going on at night. A little dancing, a little smooching.

GJ: Localism’s gnarly in the world of surfing. Did you ever deal with anything like that during the seven months around the world making the film?
RA: Not at all because there were hardly any surfers anywhere. Everybody was just excited and curious to see us, mainly to watch us surf. There were some pretty good surfers down in Australia and they were open to see what we were doing, they wanted to check out our boards, that weren’t very high tech back then, all the boards were pretty similar: they were all 10-foot, flat and weighed 45 pounds. That’s what we had.

GJ: Surfboards have come a long way since then!
RA: Yeah, it was difficult riding those heavy things. I see the movie and I go, oh my god, I rode that thing pretty good.

GJ: It’s amazing you guys spent seven months on the road and never had anything stolen or anything bad happening.
RA: Nope we never had a disaster or physical accident or anything. We had trouble communicating with people in different countries but we survived.

GJ: Talk about being the first modern surfers in Tahiti….
RA: Well we were the first surfers in a lot of those places. We tried to find waves in Tahiti and Fiji and we certainly weren’t aware of Tavarua Island out there, but we traveled around the island, didn’t find anything, and left and then went to Samoa and didn’t find anything there.

GJ: That’s crazy that you didn’t find surf in those places!
RA: I know, well, people are still finding new surf spots all over the world. That’s part of the fun of surfing, doing some exploration and staring at the map and trying to go where nobody’s gone. You look at the map of the South Pacific and there’s a thousand islands! There’s got to be so many waves!

GJ: Can you believe that it was you who got the call from Bruce, that you were one of the guys who was a part of Bruce’s amazing film?
RA: I don’t think about it a lot, just when I talk about it, at that age to do what we did. Like I said, Bruce Brown was only 26 years old, it’s pretty amazing what he did. Next time you watch the movie, there’s water shots in there, him and one other guy who was one of his promoters built that plexi-glass water housing for the 16mm crank up camera. There was no battery. You had to crank it manually and you’d get 45 seconds and it would stop and you’d have to crank it up again. This was way before the Go Pro! So watch the movie again, and it’s easy to see when we were using that camera, and the quality was great. It’s pretty amazing engineering for a 26-year-old, and he’d made 3 or 4 movies before then. Bruce Brown was really a visionary filmmaker.

GJ: Do you still have a desire to discover more surf the way you guys did it back then?
RA: Well I don’t think I’d buy a plane ticket to a strange place and do the exploration myself. I’m 68 years old, and I’m raising a 14-year-old daughter, but if somebody’s going somewhere, I’m still up for the adventure but I want a tour guide and I want to know what kind of lunch there is and I want the rental car to be ready when we get there. But no, I’m not going to hitchhike to some place.

GJ: Well it’s been an honor to talk to you, Robert. And on behalf of surfers all over the world thanks for going on that trip 50 years ago …. It truly changed the way we live!
RA: Well thank you. It was just the spirit of adventure and travel. You know, I talk to people who say it didn’t make me want to get a surfboard but it made me want to go somewhere, so I saved up my money, bought a ticket and went somewhere.

GJ: Oh and one last question: If there was a third guy who could’ve went on the trip with you guys, who would you have picked?
RA: I don’t know, I’ve never been asked that. Bruce didn’t have a lot of money, and we didn’t have a lot of space …

GJ: Maybe a girl?
RA: I don’t know … if we would’ve brought a girl it would’ve ruined my nightlife.

all photos courtesy Bruce Brown Films, LLC

Image RA-Sqaure.jpg