Event will feature appearances by cast members of the 80s cult classic surfing movie
The 35th anniversary screening of the 80s surfing cult classic, “North Shore,” (1987) will be held at the Arlington Theatre this Thursday at 7 p.m. The event is being put on by the Carpinteria-based organization LISTEN to Turtle — an online “North Shore” fan community group created and run by Cynthia and Dan Terry — and will feature appearances by cast members including Matt Adler (Rick Kane), John Philbin (Turtle), Nia Peeples (Kiani), and Gregory Harison (Chandler).
Proceeds from the event will be donated to the Hui O He‘e Nalu, a nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving and promoting Hawaiian culture.
The film centers around Rick Kane, a college-bound teenager who wins a wave tank surfing competition in his native Arizona and uses the winnings to travel to the North Shore of Oahu for a summer of surfing with the pros.
“I had an experience of going to Hawaii to surf for the first time when I was 15 years old,” Matt Adler told the News-Press when explaining his inspiration for Rick. “It was so different, it was so much more powerful and the ocean was just so much bigger and had so much more energy, and I remember that feeling of being really like a deer in the headlights, really like off balance and not ready and scared. And I think I just drew upon that feeling of exuberant innocence (when playing Rick).”
What then follows is a fish-out-of-water-turned-hero story classic to movies from that era in which Rick learns lessons in surfing, Hawaiian culture and life from an eclectic group of North Shore locals and climaxes with his performance in the main event of the Pipeline Classic surf competition.
While the movie was considered a box office flop for Universal Pictures (it raked in a little over $3.8 million during its 1987 summer release), the movie would eventually reach cult status after the film started circulating on VHS, resulting in a widespread, multi-generational fan base that continues to come together both online and at events such as the 35th anniversary screening — which came as a surprise to both Mr. Adler and John Philbin, who starred as Turtle, a surfboard sander who serves as one of Rick’s moral compasses in the film and helps acclimate him to the North Shore community.
“It wasn’t a big hit or anything, it was kind of a flop for Universal so I never thought twice about it again, I just continued my life,” explained Mr. Philbin. “And 20 years later someone invited me to a screening, and there were just two generations — now there’s three generations — of people that it’s like their favorite film. And when I heard about that kind of appreciation for my character and that film which I love, I was just like ‘Well that’s just ironic and wonderful and beautiful,’ and I’m really happy about it.”
“I think we knew it would be big in the surf community for a period of time just because as surfers, we didn’t get the opportunity very much to see ourselves on screen,” added Mr. Adler. “And it really kind of just disappeared very quickly out of the box office. Now looking back on it, it’s just amazing to me how this thing caught on so hard to who it did. It’s still a pretty limited audience, but those who love it just love it.”
Despite this surprise at the film’s cult classic status, both actors shared similar views on why they think the movie continues to capture new audiences and stay alive among older ones.
“When you are a certain age and a movie just grabs you that way, it reminds you of that part of your life that brings back a lot of good memories, and you want to pass that on,” Mr. Adler said. “And “North Shore” is this little gem that is from an era of filmmaking that is gone. That 80s movie innocence, that sincerity, like a “Karate Kid” type of movie that is just not made anymore. It was the end of an era of movie making.”
“The parts of it that ‘don’t hold up’ — the corniness of it, the parts of the movie that are kind of hokey — are the kind where when you reach back and watch it again, those are the ones you laugh at, those are the ones that make it really fun to watch again,” he continued.
“I just think the morality of the film is great. It’s not about being cut throat, dishonest, commercial, or competitive,” Mr. Philbin added. “People love and appreciate the heart and soul that was behind that film: the great love of the North Shore of Oahu; and the love and respect for surfing and the ocean, 80s style movies, and sincerity. There’s no irony in the film, we weren’t trying to be slick — we were very sincere.”
In addition to its classic feel-good-era aesthetics, another prominent and remembered feature of the movie is its depiction of Da Hui, a forerunner group of the Hui O He‘e Nalu nonprofit that exercised a de facto monopoly over allowing film companies to operate on the North Shore of Oahu, and were known for their brand of intense localism in response to the increasing number of tourists that flocked to Hawaii beginning in the 1970s.
“(Da Hui) made this movie possible. They were the water patrol and if anybody wanted to film on the North Shore, you had to hire them in order to make sure that other people and other Hui members weren’t surfing on the waves you wanted to film,” explained Mr. Philbin. “In order to get the shots that Don King filmed with me surfing Pipeline (on the North Shore of Oahu), I would go out with a guy — I think his name was Teddy Bear — and he would paddle out and he would say to the 50 guys that were trying to get a wave: ‘Hey listen up everybody, shut your mouth and listen to me! When this guy wants to go for a wave, when this guy paddles for wave, raise your hand Turtle!’ — and I would raise my hand, totally scared at this moment — ‘Just give this guy the waves he wants and we’ll be out of your hair.’
“So I got to go on any waves I wanted that day with Teddy Bear for the next two hours. That was a highlight of my acting and surfing life, and I will never forget it, and I will never forget the Hui for doing that for me. That production didn’t happen without them,” he continued.
“They were absolutely essential I think. Especially in those days, and I’m sure the same is true now, you couldn’t do anything in the water without (Da Hui) assistance, expertise, and lifesaving skills,” added Mr. Adler. “And in terms of story, they were essential — they’re such a huge part of the North Shore and the Hawaiian experience, so I was glad that the screening is going to benefit the Hui O He‘e Nalu. The work they do in preserving Hawaiian culture and events that highlight Hawaiian culture is very important.”
To buy tickets for the 35th anniversary screening of “North Shore,” visit axs.com/events/443046/north-shore-35th-anniversary-tickets. Tickets may also be purchased at the Arlington Theatre, located at 1317 State Street in Santa Barbara.