Lo-fi 1992 surf video filmed, edited, and produced by 20-year-old San Diego filmmaker Taylor Steele; a 40-minute punk-rock-scored calling card for a group of rising teenager pros, including Kelly Slater, Shane Dorian, Ross Williams, and Rob Machado.
Momentum's footage was shot exclusively in Hawaii, California, and Mexico, and was edited into a series of minifeatures: one- or two-minute segments on a particular surfer, or a slightly longer feature on a surf break. Momentum cost about $5,000 to produce, and doesn't have any narration, surfer interviews, ambient beach or ocean noises, slow motion, or water photography. The soundtrack is filled with loud, fast, jackhammering songs by Southern California neo-punk bands like Offspring, Pennywise, Bad Religion, and Sprung Monkey.
Steele's debut effort was an instant hit, described in a Surfing magazine review as "a vital document of contemporary surfing," and sold more than 15,000 copies at a time when few videos hit the 5,000 mark.
Momentum's energy was undeniable. So was the fact that it had no interest in the sport's grace, texture, versatility, and sensuality, and was all but humorless in the bargain. Age, more than anything, seemed to determine how a surfer felt about Momentum. "Most surfers over 25 found it to be crude and exhausting," the Surfer's Journal noted. "Most surfers under 20 took to it like a new religion." Dozens of young aspiring filmmakers, recognizing that they, too, could make a movie more or less as good as Momentum, flooded the market with Momentum-style copycat videos throughout the '90s.
Momentum II, Steele's follow-up, was released in 1993. Momentum: Under the Influence, an homage of sorts to the original movie, came out in 2001. Steele himself, meanwhile, went on to make richer, more cinematic surf movies.
Slater, Machado, and the rest of the Momentum stars, while most often referred to collectively as the "New School," are sometimes called the Momentum crew, just as Shaun Tomson, Wayne Bartholomew, and Mark Richards were known as the Free Ride generation, after the 1977 movie that helped make them famous.
In 2007, Surfing had at #3 on their "25 Greatest Surf Movies of All Time" list.
The Momentum surfers reunited in 2012 for a 20th anniversary celebratory surf trip to the Mentawai Islands.