Some people climb mountains. Others run marathons or play golf. And then, there are those who love to ride the rolling sea. Chasing Mavericks pays tribute to big wave surfing legend Jay Moriarty who drowned a day before his 23rd birthday in the Maldives. His untimely death was not caused by a murderous wave or terrifying tsunami. Friendly, helpful, smiling Jay (which is how everyone who knew him remembers him) died while he was preparing for the Deep Blue Open surfing contest.
Mavericks, the production notes of this biopic tell us, is a surfing destination in Northern California known for giant waves measuring 35 to 80 feet. While shooting for the movie, Gerard Butler who plays the part of Jay’s guru, Frosty Hesson, almost lost his life. We were not surprised since Butler performs most of his own stunts. In the film under review, his onscreen relationship with Jay (Weston) evolves into a father/son connect.
The bonding is deepened by a shared love of the sea and emotional storms in their personal lives- Frosty’s wife Brenda (Abigail Spencer) who hoped her surfer dude would become a responsible spouse, passes away; Jay’s abusive father abandons the boy and his mother Kristy (Shue).
Undeterred, Jay dreams of surfing the biggest waves in the world, starting with the mavericks of California’s Santa Cruz coast, where, when the weather is just right, gargantuan waves rise up from the deep. Frosty trains Jay to breathe, dive, and swim for extended periods underwater. He toughens the kid mentally and emotionally through meaningful conversations. And more. Jay is hectored into recording observations and emotions on paper. So beautiful and touching are Jay’s expressions, you know the boy has all the makings of a writer.
The highlight of the movie, jointly directed by British helmsman Michael (The World is not Enough) Apted and American director Curtis (L.A. Confidential) Hanson, are the surfing scenes; both sound design and spectacular camera work exalt the glory and power of nature, of sea and firmament. The emotional warp and weft of the narrative though comes from the people who touch Jay and Frosty’s lives.
Depressed single mom Kristy borrows money from her golden-haired son who works overtime at a pizzeria, and is smitten by childhood sweetheart Kim (Leven Rambin) Perennially hounded by some jerks at high school (who address him as “trash”) Jay turns the other cheek, striving all the while to overcome hurdles and impressing Kim As the student learns to overcome fear and come to terms with his absentee dad, the mentor learns to cope with loss and grief. The end-credits show the real life Jay who had a premonition his life was akin to a candle in the wind.