Bruce Brown’s endearingly stoked ode to surfing, The Endless Summer, is the first film to mythologize the idea of the perfect wave. In the famous 1966 flick, four, retro-looking bronzed dudes travel the globe, hunting for the world’s gnarliest and most beautiful swells.
At one point, they find themselves venturing through the hot dunes of Cape St. Francis, South Africa on a perfect, balmy day. When they finally make it to the coastline, to dramatic effect, the holy grail unveils itself: Just a few hundred yards off in the temperate ocean, these flawless five-to-six foot barreling waves crash perfectly into one after the other, a beguiling sight enough to make any surfer ache for a single ride.
As Mike the surfer leans back on his longboard, in disbelief, working his way up and down deck gracefully, Brown narrates one of the most famous lines in surfing movie history: “In the first five seconds, he knew that he finally found that perfect wave. The unbelievably clean shape of the wave compels Brown to say “they [the waves] looked like they were made from some kind of machine.”
In reality, no wave in the ocean can be so flawless. Unpredictable and violent, even the smallest of mush-burgers can prove deadly. If you paddle out, you should expect to take some reef or your board on the chin, as they are inevitable battle scars. But in 2015, Kelly Slater made the supposedly fictitious into a jaw-dropping reality, and all it took was “the push of a button” on a machine.