Santa Cruz Good Times

Apr 20th
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From Jay to Jonny

film chasingmavChasing Mavericks’ star Jonny Weston rides the Hollywood wave and brings surf icon Jay Moriarity to life

Only a handful of Hollywood films shot in and around Santa Cruz—and that are about the town for that matter—have managed to excite locals with quite the fervor of Chasing Mavericks, which hits theaters Friday, Oct. 26. 

Of course, The Lost Boys comes to mind, and director Dana Brown’s surf documentary Step Into Liquid stands out, the latter outing, shot nearly 10 years ago, more so because it featured local surf icons like Ken “SkinDog” Collins and Darryl “Flea” Virostko. But from the get-go, Chasing Mavericks—originally dubbed The Men of Mavericks—sparked interest because it was to bring to life the captivating take of the unique bond/mentorship between locals Richard “Frosty” Hesson and Mavericks titan and the late Jay Moriarity, who died in 2001 at the age of 22 in an accident in the Indian Ocean. Chasing Mavericks, directed by Curtis Hanson and Michael Apted, and which stars A-lister Gerard Butler (stepping into Frosty’s shoes) and newcomer Jonny Weston (as Moriarity) began filming here in October of 2011.

Beyond featuring hundreds of local extras, it promises to bring a compelling story to life and to give the rest of the country a glimpse at our picturesque liquid bounty and the locals who thrive in and around it. But more importantly, it captures Moriarity’s unique way of living—that “Live Like Jay” motto and all of its significance. GT caught up with the 24-year-old Weston, a native of South Carolina, to learn more about the film, Moriarity’s spirit and the importance of living in the “now.”

That … if you find something that you love, just to go for it—as hard as you can, completely go into it full on, but don’t forget to live in the moment along the way.

Certainly, I wasn’t as good [as those surfing Mavericks]. I had never surfed a wave over 10 feet. So I had gotten trained by Brock Little, the Hawaiian surfer. Bob Pearson [of Pearson Arrow Surf Shop] took me out. It was my choice to surf it [the big waves]. As far as the filmmakers were concerned, they would have been fine getting a stunt double to surf, but I wanted to do everything. I jumped right off the rock and surfed the biggest waves I’ve ever seen. So … I got better pretty quickly—out of necessity.

It was. I followed Bob Pearson out. He took me to Cowells and Mids and I just paddled right behind him and dove right in. It was scary but I am an adrenaline junkie anyway. I can hold my breath for pretty long. I used to do sponsorship skateboarding. Cement is harder than water so I was always not that afraid in the end.

I went to college at University of South Carolina and dropped out of chemistry, and to fill a class, the only spot they had left was a theater class. It was so annoying but I took it and then I thought it was the greatest thing; the most socially creative. I dropped out of school immediately and moved to New York to start acting. I was 19.

Man … it’s an adrenaline rush and an extreme version of life. I live for that kind of thing. I’m easily bored. I’m living, like Jay did, to live in the moment. And it took him a lot of time but I think he finally understood that when he was in his twenties. He wasn’t always aggressive trying to improve himself; he was living in the moment. I’m still not at that point but acting is one of those things that forces your mind into the ‘now.’ And I love people—exploring them. It’s the best thing in life. And I don’t think there’s a faster path to that than that.

I have two older brothers and they were a huge part of life; we were very close. We used to run around and get into trouble. That’s what I came from—that exploring nature. But one of my biggest influences of all time would probably be one of my soccer coaches, Coach Darlington, from high school. He was always trying to get me to push myself really hard. No excuses. I always hated him but it paid off. I think that’s what life is all about … when you push through the hard stuff and it pays off.

This film is a lot bigger than me. It has a lot more to do with a lot of other people than just me. It’s part of a bigger message. It isn’t a movie about me at all. The attention is a bit misguided, coming at me directly, and I feel that a lot of actors take it very personally, but I am supporting this film and what it means; the message it sends. So the attention I get, I don’t take it personally.

film johnjohnson.chasing

WHAT’S SOME OF THE BEST ADVICE YOU’VE BEEN GIVEN ABOUT LIFE? From Brock Little. I had had other surfing lessons with other people but I went out with Brock thinking he would be the most particular, hardcore guy of all time. He saw how I had been trained, and he was like, ‘Dude, if you’re not having fun, you are not going to get better. I can give you all the technical advice in the world but you’re not enjoying yourself! You are going to suck forever.’ So, that’s the best advice I’ve ever heard.

I think he’s incredible. I think he has a lot of advice and wisdom to impart. And to not listen to him … you’d have to be a fool.


The Santa Cruz County Conference & Visitors Council (CVC) is riding the Chasing Mavericks, wave, too, with the launch of its "10 Prizes in 10 Days Chasing Mavericks Giveaway.The contest is designed to "inspire and pay homage to the surfing culture in Santa Cruz."

To that end, the CVC has teamed up with local businesses to offer both instant prizes and a grand prize package.

How it works: daily Chasing Mavericks-related prizes will be given away through instant giveaways on the Visit Santa Cruz County Facebook page for more information. Some of the instant prizes include overnight stays at the Santa Cruz Dream Inn, pizzas and T-shirts from Pleasure Pizza. Not to be left out: movie tickets and posters, and a Chasing Mavericks movie location map.

The contest runs until midnight Friday, Nov. 2.

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