Great Highway team of Mark
Gunson, Krista Howell and Mark Ruegg with S.H.A.C.C Creative Director and
Curator Barry Haun, Kendall Nishimine and film focus Bill Hickey. Photo: Linda
Last Saturday evening, March 25th,
the Surfing Heritage and Culture Center was host to a special showing of the
film Great Highway. Over 13 years in the making by creators Mark
Gunson, Krista Howell and Mark Ruegg, Great
Highway covers the history and heritage surrounding the dynamic San
Francisco surf community. Spanning a timeline from the Gold Rush to present
day, the film left an enthusiastic and appreciative crowd in awe of its unique
take on an oft mis-understand community.
Director and Co-Producer Mark Gunson
may have summarized the message of the film best when asked in a post viewing Q
& A on what his intent in making the film was. “It’s just that I knew this
was a story that needed to be told. It’s so important to me… to so many people.
I wanted to capture what brought us here, how deep the roots are.”
Along with co-producer Krista Howell
and cinematographer Mark Ruegg, Gunson and his team produced a feature length
film that bleeds passion and commitment that is relatable to any waterman.
Featuring over 60 interviews, including the likes of the late Fred Van Dyke in
addition to Michael Ho and Dickie Keating to mention a few, Great Highway reads more as a passionate
biography than a documentary. The intensity of the relationship between the Bay
area’s watermen (and woman, oh the women of The Beach) is somewhat novel.
Surrounded by such a dynamic urban environment, the reality of a water based
existence in such proximity to what has evolved into one of the world’s major
metropolis hubs is a fascinating study. It was a beautiful message to hear as
character after character revealed the humbling and balancing presence of an ocean
environment we often fail to appreciate through its shield of intense fog covering
Who knew that the Ocean Beach dunes
once blocking the city’s citizens held a community built right up to the sea
made up of vehicles called “Carville”. Who knew that the Ho family has deeply
seeded roots in the San Francisco surf community? Who KNEW that San Francisco
once held the world’s largest outdoor swimming pool whose lifeguards and
workers were largely responsible for rooting surfing to the area?
Highway presents us with lots of “who knew” moments. One after another
through the moments of unearthing history we are met with an opportunity to
appreciate what ties our community together as opposed to divides us.
Having spent quite a bit of time living
in the Northern California surf community, I have come to respect their much-deserved
sense of protection in the name of preservation. Neither promotional or
exposing, Great Highway does a
fantastic job of respectfully and honestly telling a story that needs to be told.
In possibly the most underwhelming
moment of summarization, an interviewee reminisced that ‘Every day we would
roll up to the seawall to check the surf, we would be greeted by SOMEONE
claiming that “they would be out there, as big as it got, no matter what.”
You don’t make the rules. The Beach makes the rules.”
Taking care of itself, the San
Francisco surf community has existed beautifully indifferent to the outside
world despite of its incredible urban surrounding. In a world in which we often
hear familiar stories of the pursuit of the unfamiliar, Great Highway was a refreshing reminder of the depth and importance
to the environment in your own backyard that doesn’t inquire but it in fact
demands your respect.
A few stoked Great Highway attendees. Danica Elbertse, PT, Christian
Wach, Tyler Warren, Henry Ford and SHACC’s Barry Haun. Photo: Linda Michael
If you missed the screening, we have copies available.
The film, Great Highway, covers the history of surfing in Northern California. Winner of the Golden Gate Award at the San Francisco International Ocean Film Festival, screened at the San Pedro International Film Festival and accepted for the 2017 San Luis Obispo International Film Festival. Starring Jack O'Neill, Fred Van Dyke, Jack LaLanne, Michael Ho, Jeff Clark, Bill Hickey, Rod Lundquist, Dick Keating, Mozelle Angel, and many more.
Thank you to the filmmakers and our special guests, Bill Hickey, Gary Linden, PT, Tyler Warren, Christian Wach, our volunteers and our sponsors, O'Neill, Longboard Vineyards, Left Coast Breweries, Hawaiian Springs Water, and Kona Red. Click Here to order your copy.