The film is based on Jay Moriarity, a longtime Santa Cruz resident and legendary surfer who passed away in 2001 during a diving expedition in the Maldives. Moriarity was a world-renowned big wave surfer, earning his reputation at Mavericks in Half Moon Bay when he was only 16 years old. The film will focus on Moriarity’s surfing career, as well as the relationship between him and his mentor, Rick “Frosty” Hesson, played by Gerard Butler.
Monday’s shoot featured a scene in which young Moriarity, played by Jonny Weston, spends time with his girlfriend and future wife Kim, played by Leven Rambin. The two rode bikes up and down the boardwalk and sat on the beach, flipping through pages of a notebook.
Though surfers around the world recognize Moriarity’s talent, Santa Cruz residents remember him more for his notoriously down-to-earth persona. His influence on the community is palpable, as evidenced by the many locals who have come out to support the film. About 30 local extras were on the set, assuming the roles of patrons and employees of the boardwalk.
“I think that people are embracing the whole story of Jay, his impact on the surfing community and the whole oneness of Santa Cruz,” says Sherie Corona, a 43-year-old makeup artist who worked as an extra with her teenage son and daughter on Monday’s shoot.
It’s that love and admiration that the community has for Moriarity that has made this film so unique, says Corona. “I think people have really come together and enjoyed having [the cast and crew] here,” she says. “Typically you wouldn’t think that Santa Cruzans would like Hollywood people but it’s been really cool.”
It’s only natural that some locals would be apprehensive about a Hollywood portrayal of their beloved town and its surf legend.
“I hope they don’t glam it out because from what I’ve heard about him, he’s just a regular guy and that’s almost what was important about him,” says Ben Mullan, a 23-year-old Santa Cruz native who came to the shoot with his mother, fiancée and three brothers. “I hope they don’t turn him into something he wasn’t.”
But for locals who have been involved with the film, it’s clear that the movie’s producers are working hard to ensure that portrait is as close to reality as possible. Joel Domhoff, a Santa Cruz local and lecturer at UC Santa Cruz, worked as the local contractor in charge of organizing extras for the film through his media company, 831 Management.
“You’re talking about Frosty and about Kim Moriarity—it doesn’t get more Santa Cruz than that,” said Domhoff. “The fact that they’ve been involved with the producers and writers from the beginning … locals will have to be pleased because they’ve had a huge influence already in how the film’s been put together.”
With filming at the boardwalk complete, the cast and crew moved up to Half Moon Bay on Tuesday. The scenes shot there will capture local surfers conquering the now-famous surf spot’s notoriously large waves.
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