Before the internet and the ability to stream any surfing movie at any time on demand, there were local gatherings to view the latest surf films.
In the 1980s and 1990s, these showings were usually tucked inside university auditoriums. I remember seeing movies at Texas A&M University at Galveston, at the University of Houston at Clear Lake and even at my alma mater, Sam Houston State University.
The film showings were raucous affairs that drew large crowds to watch dispatches from all across the globe. There were trips to Indonesia, Africa, New Zealand, Australia, and, of course, Hawaii detailed in these movies, moments frozen in time that our little surf community lapped up with wave-starved fervor.
The venues were filled with friends, acquaintances and others you’d only see in the water during surf sessions, all of us hooting and hollering as the surfer on screen blazed across blue-green walls and buried himself deep inside barrels the size of semi-trucks.
No matter what conditions we’d endured recently along the Texas coast — and sometimes these flat spells could last weeks — we were all excited to watch beautiful waves breaking on exotic beaches and imagine ourselves sampling some of these same delights on future trips.
The man behind nearly all of the surf-related movies shown along the upper Texas coast back then was John Jones. John, who has been a fixture on the Texas Gulf Surfing Association competitive scene for decades (as a competitor and in a leadership capacity), was the purveyor of stoke, the man who spread good surf cheer from one coastal town to the next.
Nowadays, I don’t see John as often as I used to, but he’s still surfing, winning in the TGSA and traveling the world looking for the best waves he can find.
But I’ll always be grateful for his dedication in bringing Texas surfers the opportunity to gather in large groups to see magnificent waves come to life, waves that most of us could only dream about or see in the pages of the surf magazines.
The surf film — like most everything else in the media landscape — has been forever altered with the ease and quick fix afforded by the internet. But man, I miss those days when we waited for weeks to see a film with a hundred other members of the local surfing tribe.
Hooting at the TV or computer screen just isn’t the same experience.