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Five Summer Stories


Well-crafted and wildly popular 1972 surf film made by Californians Greg MacGillivray and Jim Freeman. Although the MacGillivray-Freeman team had been making surf films together for over five years and were regarded as tops in the field, their previous movie, Waves of Change (1968), was a bit lost in the swirl of the early shortboard revolution and had been a box-office disappointment. It was agreed that Five Summer Stories would be their last surfing film, as both MacGillivray and Freeman were being courted by Hollywood studios.

Five Summer Stories cost $24,000 to make; which at the time was roughly double the going rate. It didn't break new ground conceptually, but its production values were outstanding across the board: the film was well-composed and color-saturated (including water photography by original surf moviemaker Bud Browne), the editing was smooth (with some perspective-lending clips from past decades), and the soundtrack was excellent (featuring the Beach Boys and Laguna Beach country rockers Honk, among other artists). Revered surf artist and cartoonist Rick Griffin was commissioned to do the film's poster; it was inspired, Griffin said, by a newspaper ad for the 1971 film A Clockwork Orange. (Griffin wasn't happy with the original version of the poster; in later versions the wax-offering surfer is wearing sunglasses.)

Five Summer Stories debuted to a full house at the 3,000-seat Santa Monica Civic Auditorium on March 24, 1972, and a Rolling Stone film critic wrote that the audience was "dazzled [and] stunned." Hawaiian surfer Gerry Lopez was the star of Five Summer Stories, supported by Jeff Hakman, David Nuuhiwa, Margo Oberg, Terry Fitzgerald, Bill Hamilton, Angie Reno, Corky Carroll, and dozens of others. Updated versions of the movie came out each year until 1978, and ticket volume remained high season after season.

After Five Summer Stories, Freeman worked on a small number of Hollywood-made movies, including Jonathan Livingston Seagull (1973) and The Towering Inferno (1974), then was killed in a 1976 helicopter accident. MacGillivray contributed to Big Wednesday (1978) and The Shining (1980), then went on to great success working in the IMAX big-screen format.

Surfer magazine in 1987 picked Five Summer Stories, Locked In (1964), and The Endless Summer (1966) as the three best surf movies of all time. Surfing magazine placed Five Summer Stories at #9 on their 2009 list of the "25 Greatest Surf Movies of All Time." Five Summer Stories was released on video in 1995.