Movie combines old school surfing and new-wave filming

The film “Peel” is produced by two locals, including the grandson of Bruce Brown, who made the surf classic, “The Endless Summer.”

By Vicky Godal / Special to The Malibu Times

With a modern style combining feature with documentary, local filmmakers Wes Brown and T.J. Barrack recently produced a surf film titled “Peel.” Although the film is new, Brown clearly has his pedigree within the first family of surf films. In 1966, Brown’s grandfather Bruce Brown made history with his film, “The Endless Summer.” Surf films up to that point had been documentary sports programs as opposed to actual surf stories. Brown changed all that when he followed two surfers to Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Tahiti, Hawaii and California in search of the perfect wave. Almost 40 years later in 2003, Brown’s son Dana shot “Step into Liquid,” a documentary featuring the lifestyles of dozens of world famous surfers and exploring secret surf spots around the world. Wes Brown recalls growing up in this family of filmmakers.

“I can remember sitting on a chair behind my grandpa and father when I was 11, watching them edit “‘The Endless Summer II,'” Brown said. “Later I worked on ‘Step into Liquid’ with my pops for three years when I was just starting college. Then after that I started Little House Productions with T.J. I think I’ve worked on about 20 films now. ‘Peel’ is the third film we’ve directed together.”

Brown became interested in shooting in Peru after reading Thor Heyerdahl’s book, “Kon Tiki,” which details the 1947 4,300-mile journey of Heyerdahl and five companions from Peru to Polynesia. The journey, which took 101 days, was undertaken in a replica of an Aboriginal balsa raft that Heyerdahl named the “Kon-Tiki.” Heyerdahl took the journey to test his theory that the ancient Peruvians could have reached Polynesia in rafts. Heyerdahl also surmised that the Peruvians may have been the founders of surfing as opposed to the belief that the Polynesians brought surfing to Hawaii. This hypothesis was the original motivation behind “Peel.” However, as the team filmed the country and its inhabitants, a different story emerged.

“Really, we were trying to explore the history of the country,” Barracks said. “It’s not just about waves in a film; it’s deeper than that. The country has been riddled with war and chaos since the Spanish tried to colonize it 500 years ago. Their history is there, hidden under layers of political turmoil, terrorist attacks and so on.”


Brown also sees “Peel” as a story about Peru. “Beautiful in its ruggedness, Peru is unforgiving and raw,” he said. “It borders some heavy countries, like Colombia and Ecuador. You fend for yourself, especially in the rural parts of the coast. Inland, there’s the Amazon rain forest. On the coast, it’s drier than the Sahara desert with about two inches of rain a year.”

One place in Peru captured the filmmaker’s attention much as it did Ernest Hemingway’s decades ago, the fishing village of Capo Blanco. “It’s secluded in the north near Ecuador,” Brown said. “You drive dirt roads for hours, winding down paths along the coast to the town. Capo Blanco is where Ernest Hemingway holed up, drank daiquiris and wrote ‘The Old Man and The Sea.’ We caught a swell there that was a solid eight to 10 feet. It lined up perfectly, creating perfect barrels for our North Shore boys, Jamie Sterling and Mark Healey. They nailed it.”

Barracks was equally impressed with their time in Capo Blanco. “It was simply mystical,” he said. ” The sun was setting, eight to 10 foot waves were barreling in and no one was around. You can’t script stuff like that. We got some amazing footage.”

The filmmakers have specific thoughts on what they hope viewers will experience by seeing “Peel.”

“The film is so visually pleasing and the music is hypnotic,” Barracks said. “Yet at the root, an amazing Peruvian culture is revealed. Peru has a long storied tradition with surfing and it’s rooted deep within the culture; however that history is really unknown to the rest of the world.”

Brown added, “We wanted to take people on a rugged road trip, like Baja in the ’60’s, unknown and unexplored. About a third of country has roads next to the beach. So it’s dirt trails for hundreds of miles with unreal waves everywhere.”

Distributed by Monterey Media, “Peel” will have a tricoastal theatrical release this summer and will be released on DVD in late September.

For more information about “Peel,” go to www.

The Malibu Times is the first newspaper in Malibu, serving the community since 1946.

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