Delaney, Bill


Reserved and meticulous filmmaker from Ventura, California; producer of Free Ride (1977) and Surfers: The Movie (1990). Delaney was born (1946) in Santa Barbara, began surfing in 1962, and started shooting surf photos three years later. In 1965, Delaney and Bill Hubina showed boardmaker-inventor Tom Morey a gritty, paint-on form of surfboard traction they invented called Slipcheck. The three marketed it as an aerosol spray for several years.

Delaney attended the Brooks Institute of Photography in Santa Barbara in 1969, served in the army, freelanced photos to Cycle magazine, then returned to surfing. Free Ride was his first film, and the most memorable footage showed a red-hot new generation of surfers, including future world champions Shaun Tomson, Wayne Bartholomew, and Mark Richards, riding the North Shore during the wave-rich season of 1975–76. The impact of Delaney's movie was such that "Free Ride winter" and "Free Ride generation" are still in use.

Delaney's $70,000 film wasn't a milestone in creativity, but it was nonetheless a testimony to his skill as a cameraman, editor, and sound scorer. Surfing magazine called Free Ride "a finely cut and polished diamond," and Surfer said it "conveyed the essence of the surfing experience." Updated versions of Free Ride followed in 1978 and 1983, each a critical and box-office success.

In 1987 Delaney made Waterborn, a promo short for Gotcha surfwear, and the following year he began shooting his Gotcha-funded Surfers: The Movie, a more ambitious but less-focused effort than Free Ride, combining new footage with vintage clips from the '50s, '60s, and '70s. Surfers cost $400,000. Surfers: Take Two, a revised edition, was released in 1991. The surf video had by that time replaced the surf movie as the sport's primary cinematic form, and Delaney, satisfied with his two-and-a-half film oeuvre, returned to the car industry.

Delaney was profiled in 50 Years of Surfing on Film, a 1997 cable TV series produced by Opper Films. Surfers The Movie: Then and Now, with 30 minutes of new footage shot by Delaney, was released to DVD and briefly toured a small number of theaters in 2008.