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Joe Surf: 50 years later, a return to where it all began

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Robert August, a star of the legendary 1966 surfing film “The Endless Summer,” shows a poster of the movie in 2014.
(File photo)

Just got off the phone with Robert August. (Seriously, just called him at his home in Costa Rica and he picked up. How cool is that?)

Anyway, August is known for his part in the iconic surf film “The Endless Summer” and for his business, Robert August Surf Co. And now, 50 years after the film’s release, August is back in the spotlight in the new film “Return to Cape St. Francis,” which premieres Monday at the Newport Beach Film Festival.

The film literally brings August back to the surf spot in South Africa where it all began and now has come full circle, as joining August on the trip were several current and former Huntington Beach High surfers as well as HBHS surf coach Andy Verdone, who directed the film.

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Robert August and his daughter Christine walk the sand last summer in Huntington Beach.
(Joe Haakenson)
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August embarked on his original journey 50 years ago after graduating from HBHS as the student body president, having no idea his plans for college would quickly take a sharp detour when filmmaker Bruce Brown took him a and fellow young surfer Mike Hynson on the journey of a lifetime.

So when Verdone approached August with the idea to make a return trip, August jumped at the chance.

“It was amazing,” said August, who turns 71 this year. “The kids who went with me to South Africa were my age; I had just graduated from Huntington when we went to make the (original) film.

“So it was real similar, and for them to do what I did, it was super. They had great waves, and we saw elephants and lions and stuff like that. It was amazing. I can’t wait to see the film; I still haven’t seen it.”

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The HBHS surfers, past and present, who took the trip with August included Tomas King, Jacob Baker, Jeremy Guilmette, Davis Freud, Tyler Killeen, Christian Seebold, John West, Brad Monroe and Luke Young.

August noticed that much has changed in South Africa since the 1960s with the end of apartheid, but the waves were quite similar to those he surfed 50 years ago. Most of the surfing, however, he left to the kids.

“I surfed a little bit with them, but I didn’t surf the 8-foot Jeffreys Bay,” August said. “Incredible. I couldn’t have even gotten out there. There’s no comfortable place to paddle out, there’s no channel or anything, you just have to gut it out through 8 feet of whitewater. The kids are tough and they can duck with the shortboards. It wasn’t easy for them either, but boy I’ll tell you, they are a bunch of good surfers.”

The new film doesn’t follow August’s original journey, wave for wave, a suggestion August made during the process of making the film.

“They wanted to go to New Zealand to finish off the movie because we did New Zealand in `The Endless Summer,’ ” August said. “But we were there in the middle of their summertime in December. But if we went there in August, that’s the middle of their winter, and the waves weren’t phenomenal, so I suggested we finish the movie up in Costa Rica. We know it’s going to be warm and tropical, the waves are always good, and the plane tickets are a lot cheaper.

“It ended up great. We got great surf here. The kids got fabulous waves at Witch’s Rock, the famous surf spot. Everything was cool.”

August will travel from Costa Rica to see the film on Monday, the only showing during the film festival. To purchase tickets, go to newportbeachfilmfest.com.

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Surf films

Other surf films worth checking out at the festival include “Dirty Old Wedge,” “Fish: The Surfboard Film,” “Fire and Water,” “Standing on Water,” “The Biggest Board: Surf City USA’s Epic Ride,” “View From a Blue Moon,” “Mad Dogs,” “Psychic Migrations” and “Beauty & Chaos.”

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Keeping up with Kanoa

Huntington Beach’s Kanoa Igarashi finished equal-13th in the Margaret River Pro in western Australia last week, the third World Championship Tour contest in the World Surf League season.

Through the three contests, Igarashi sits tied for 18th place in the world rankings. San Clemente’s Kolohe Andino ranks fourth, Santa Cruz’s Nat Young is ninth and Santa Barbara’s Conner Coffin is 11th.

The next WCT contest is the Oi Rio Pro in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil starting May 10.

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Court is in session

Santa Ana’s Courtney Conlogue continues to surf consistently well, no matter the wave. She reached the final heat for the third consecutive WCT contest, losing the final to Aussie Tyler Wright in the Woman’s Margaret River Pro last week.

With two second-places finishes and one first-place finish, Conlogue is ranked No. 1 in the world, followed by Wright and No. 3 Carissa Moore of Hawaii, the defending world champion.

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JOE HAAKENSON is a Huntington Beach-based sports writer and editor. He may be reached at joe@juvecreative.com.


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