Andy Warhol made a surf film once… and boy was it a humdinger.
Andy Warhol is known to many people as the outlandish artist with the bowl blonde haircut (wig) and flair for painting (screening) Campbell’s soup cans and the odd movie star on canvas.
50 years ago Warhol discovered surfing and made a feature length surf film, San Diego Surf that was more Fifty Shades Of Gray than The Endless Summer.
Surfing and art have been intertwined in many different ways over the years. In California artists like Rick Griffin surfed and designed posters for surf films and rock stars. In Australia many surfing artists gravitated towards surf companies designing posters and T-shirts. Mambo was a surf company built on surfing artists coming together to create some of the most memorable images of the beach and Australiana that the country has seen.
In the USA during the late fifties, early sixties film and rock stars were drawn to the beach as a ‘cool’ place to hang out. In many ways it made sense that New York artist Andy Warhol, who had made a fortune making new art and surrounding himself with the coolest people around would one day stumble upon surfing as another outlet for his creative juices.
So in May 1968 Warhol with co-director Paul Morrissey, cast and crew in tow descended on the San Diego surf suburb of La Jolla known for its waves, art and affluence.
For two weeks Warhol and Morrissey shot the film in and around San Diego using local surfers and actors from Warhol’s ‘The Factory’. The film has no real plot to speak off and is full of sexual innuendo with an emphasis on middle aged couples trying to hid their homosexual tendencies whilst trying to become surfers at the same time. Dialogue… try this on: Ingrid Superstar (really) to surfer dude with Dennis Lillee mutton-chop sideburns. “What do you think about all this space exploration going on?” she asks. “Oh, I don’t know,” he replies. “It’s groovy. Maybe they can find some waves there too.”
San Diego Surf was never fully completed at the time. Less the two weeks after filming was completed Warhol was shot by Valerie Solanas in New York and the film was shelved until 1995 when the Andy Warhol Foundation commissioned Paul Morrissey to finish the film.
You can find bits and pieces of this epic art surf film on YouTube. Be warned its no Big Wednesday and the closing scenes are bound to offend… which is exactly how Warhol would have wanted it!
By John Foss