Miller, Sonny


Good-timing, hard-working, gravel-voiced surf filmmaker from north San Diego County, California, best known for directing The Search video series in the 1990s. "He was usually the last man standing at the bar or nightclub," Surfline wrote about Miller. "But he was also the first guy up in the morning, pounding coffee, checking the forecast, loading gear into the car, and pushing, always pushing, to get the shot."

Miller was born (1960) in San Jose, California, and learned to surf at age 11 after moving with his family to north San Diego County; that same year, he got a Super-8 camera and filmed and edited a surfing-BMX movie. He began his career as a still photographer for Surfer and Breakout magazines in the mid-'80s, and later worked as well for Snowboarder.

During the surf video explosion of the early and mid-'90s, Miller and a few other quality-minded holdouts continued to shoot 16-millimeter film rather than videotape; the resolution and contrast were better, the color more realistic, and film, unlike videotape, could be shot in slow motion. Edited versions of Miller's movies were then transferred to video, resulting in a far higher quality product than the programs originally shot on videotape.

In 1992, Miller began working on a series of promo videos for Rip Curl wetsuits, as part of the company's long-running "The Search" campaign, in which Rip Curl team members rode perfect waves in exotic locations around the world. Miller's Searching for Tom Curren won the Surfer Magazine Video of the Year Award in 1997. "He loved the unknown," surf writer Jamie Brisick said of  Miller, "and was at his best with a map spread across the steering wheel of a four-wheel drive vehicle on some washboard dirt road a hundred miles from the nearest town."

Miller's other surf videos include For the Sea (1994), Feral Kingdom (1995), and Tripping the Planet (1996). He also did did camera work for In God's Hands (1998), Die Another Day (2002), Riding Giants (2004) and Chasing Mavericks (2012), among other Hollywood-produced films, and appeared onscreen as a surf contest announcer in Blue Crush (2002).

Miller died in 2014, at age 53, from a heart attack.