From TRANSWORLD SURF February 2010.
WHAT REALLY WENT WRONG - 7 Dysfunctional Films That Changed The Way We Surf
Whether you're a fan of the ...Lost videos or not, there is no denying the fact that their first seven videos changed the surf world as we know it. The snowball that Chris Ward and Cory Lopez started when they rode their 5’5” x 19 ¼” boards at Log Cabins in 1994 is still rolling today with Dane Reynolds, Kelly Slater, and thousands of other surfers riding short, fat boards in all conditions. In video after video, …Lost pushed the limits of our voyeuristic appetites. Their ethos became their mantra; What’s Really Going On was not only the title of their second film, but a way of life that they would portray with each release. They didn’t script anything in their films – they truly showed what really went on. Starting in the sordid little world of San Clemente, California, they eventually went worldwide, the Lost crew brought their hair-burning, liver wrecking, party-all-night surf-all-day circus wherever they went, and in the process changes the way we all surfed forever.
1993 – DYSFUNCTIONAL a.k.a. MOMENTUM 3: THE WRATH OF CHICKEN
The notes on the back cover of this movie say it all – “Warning! This is not a pretty film. We don’t have a ridiculously high-priced budget to pay over-talented riders and high-paid cameramen to travel around the world and make us look cooler than we are.” This quote was reiterated by the host of the film, and one of many …Lost mascots, Chicken Willey. Shot mostly on someone’s mom’s borrowed camera, this lo-fi (really lo-fi) flick was Matt Biolos and Mike Reola’s first foray into the surf video racket. When they started …Lost Clothing, they were piss poor and didn’t have a cent to advertise, so they decided the next best thing was to do was make a movie. “We moved into the house in the San Clemente surf ghetto in 1992,” says Reola. “We didn’t have cars, we didn’t have any money, but we did have a lot of crazy friends who surfed really good. Basically, we’d film surfing all day, then we’d film all the parties we had at our house – and we basically had a party every single night – so the footage started piling up.”
There is some debate as to whether Taylor Steele’s Momentum series sparked their interest in making surf movies. Matt Biolos says it did. Mike Reola says it didn’t – either way, both of them were under the same opinion that if Taylor could do it, so could they. “We called it Momentum 3 as a joke,” says Biolos. “Taylor and those guys threatened to sue us, so we changed the name to Dysfunctional and went ahead and started to make fun of Taylor and his crew that much more.”
Dysfunctional was one of the first surf videos to show the athletes indulging in all things detrimental to their health: smoking, drinking, and lighting each others hair on fire. In between the infamous out-of-control behavior, they filmed their friends Mark “Scabs” Gabriel, Joe Crimo, Justin Matteson, Kasey Curtis, and an up-and-coming local grom named Chris Ward, who was fourteen at the time. The rawness and realness of the flick was just a glimpse of what was to come.
”We made Dysfunctional as a way to show what our idea of the surf lifestyle was all about,” says Reola. “We filmed in the everyday shitty waves, we didn’t turn the camera off when things started getting weird, and we opened up our whole world to everybody who was watching. It was like a reality show before there were reality shows.”
1994 – WHAT’S REALLY GOIN’ ON
Dysfunctional became a cult classic prompting bad behavior from groms, and shocked reaction from moms, but when What’s Really Goin’ On hit the shelves of surf shops, the …Lost crew had a bona fide game-changer on their hands. The tagline, “If you lost all Momentum on The Search for the Endless Hummer and your entire pathetic existence seems out of Focus… maybe it’s time to realize What’s Really Goin’ On…” …Lost had declared war on all other surf flicks.
Chris Ward, who was all but shunned by Taylor Steele and his Momentum crew, showed in one section titled “Chris Ward Age 15” that he was one of the best fifteen-year-old surfers the world had ever seen. As the production improved, the surfing got better, and the antics got gnarlier. Cory Lopez, who took a star turn in What’s Really Goin’ On, remembers the time filming for this movie as some of the best days of his life. “We were just going mad everyday,” he laughs. “We were just kids up late and up early every day”.
Along with their own footage, tapes from friends started pouring in from around the world. Reola and Biolos teamed up with Ryan Divel and Jason Kenworthy and packed a two hour VHS tape with as much surfing, partying, comedy, and real life as would fit. Tom Curren had a part, Kelly Slater got a part, and also a ration of shit from Chicken. “Where is he?” yelled Chicken into the camera. “The guy is our world champion, three months he’s here and every time I call f-cking Pat O’Connell’s house what do they tell say? ‘Kelly’s in the bathroom’”
Chicken served as host again for ON and even wrote the theme song. Once again, they filmed Chicken’s section intros in the living room of the now-infamous …Lost house. “I had Chicken convinced that the red light on the camera meant I wasn’t filming,” says Reola. “His ad-libs were ten times funnier than his actual takes, so every intro you see in the movie was him practicing his intro.”
WRGO introduced us to another …Lost mascot, Randall, who slept in the backyard of the …Lost house and served as a butler of the crew – mostly just for free beer. Ask any surfer who came of age in the early 90s where this flick ranks in their all-time favorite list, the answer will no doubt be near the top – What’s Really Goin’ On is a true modern classic.
1995 – WHAT’S REALLY GOIN’ WRONG
What’s Really Goin’ On showed us what life in San Clemente at the time was like, and even though we saw pretty much every minute of debauchery and carnage, some footage deemed “too gnarly” by crew members was left out, only to be resurrected for the rawest and most celebrated film in the series – What’s Really Goin’ Wrong (yeah, this is the one that started with Randall’s epic slam while attempting a drop-in on the …Lost ramp) was both a commentary on how far surfing had come, as well as how far the burnouts had fallen.
Chris Ward’s status as one of the world’s best was solidified in a section called “A Week In October,” while fellow San Clemente up-and-comer turned addict Chris Orr’s status as a drug casualty was also showcased. “We weren’t glorifying the partying,” says Reola. “We were just showing what was really happening to us and the people we were surrounded by. At the time Chris Ward was becoming one of the world’s best, other people were taking a different path. Some people didn’t like to see real life. They wanted the candy-coated dream life of Kelly Slater – that just wasn’t reality.”
The level of surfing was raised again in What’s Really Goin’ Wrong. Rising up with Chris Ward was Cory Lopez – the two became a two-man wrecking crew of every wave on Earth, dominating Lowers and smashing everywhere from The Wedge to Rocky Point. It was in What’s Really Goin' Wrong that the world first saw Wardo and Cory charging massive, chunky Log Cabins on little plug boards – 5’5” tall and 19 ¼ wide to be exact – the section was called “Old Fish/New Fish.”
These “fish” sessions opened the minds of what could be ridden in bigger waves. And while fish boards started flying out of surf shops weeks after this flick was released, the ramifications of these video parts are still echoing today. “I get inspired watching those parts of Wardo and Cory riding those boards,” says fish fan Dane Reynolds. “I still get psyched watching those parts, and every time I ride a fish, I get flashbacks of those guys riding 5’5” x 19 1/4” boards.”
What’s Really Goin’ Wrong upped the freak factor as well. The now-infamous hair-burning scene where Dave Dixon sprays Randall’s hair and head with a hair-spray lighter torch is now surf lore, but then it was an everyday occurrence at the …Lost house. New weirdo cast members came into the fold as well. Gilligan was introduced to the surf world with his rambling speech, ending with the question, “What do you have to say to the kids out there?” Gilligan, after convincingly stating that he’d be world champion until he dies, casually and confidently tells the groms out there, “Buy my posters” – a catchphrase for every fan of the …Lost films worldwide. Inside jokes filmed at the …Lost house became common banter in every lineup and grom crash pad around. Our parents had no idea what we were talking about when we mentioned things like “The Mexi-Vac.” The …Lost movies were our own little secret – for better or for worse, a lot of us grew up with these flicks as our guide to life… scary.
1996 – ON THE ROAD WITH SPIKE
For the first time, the crew left the …Lost house and went on tour, kind of. An English surf filmmaker named Spike who made “weird 90s surf flicks with bad rave music” contacted Reola and Biolos and formed a partnership for a new …Lost release. The …Lost crew took Spike’s footage and along with their own cameras, toured the world on the cheap capturing epic footage. Chicken stayed home, and the de facto hose became Strider Wasilewski. On The Road With Spike was less of a commentary of surf society as it was a straightforward surf travel flick shot in France, Australia, Hawaii. And who could ever forget the fateful trip to Cabo with Wardo, Cory Lopez, Strider, and friends? This trip summed up the …Lost mentality better than anything. “We could have been any group of guys from anywhere,” remembers Matt Biolos of the infamous Cabo trip. “It was you classic surf/party trip that any crew of friends would love to be on.” These guys knew how to have fun. They ripped into the bars as hard as they ripped into the surf. Highlighted by an inner-tube session from hell in a heaving Cabo shorebreak, On The Road With Spike showed what happened when the freaks were unleashed on the world – no girl was safe, no country off limits, no wave would go unripped, and now grommet would be left unabused – just ask Taj Burrow, who received a flogging at the hands of Tom Carroll, Ross Clark-Jones, and friends. This little episode shot fear into the hearts of grommets worldwide, hoping never to hear the words “Code Red”.
1997 – 5’5” x 19 ¼”
This number, 5’5” x 19 ¼” is hands down the most famous board dimensions in history. That may sound crazy, but think about it – what were the dimensions of Duke’s famous koa board? How wide was the board Kelly Slater won his first world title on? What size board did Tom Carroll do “the snap” on? Now, tell me what size board were Cory Lopez and Chris Ward riding throughout the mid 90s – that’s right, 5’5” x 19 ¼”, the only surfboard dimensions you know by heart.
Matt Biolos started shaping these little plugs in the early 90s, and after seeing these boards ripped to death by Cory and Wardo in the first few …Lost flicks, ordered started pouring into Matt’s shaping bay at a steady pace. He had shaped hundreds of these same boards before 5’5” x 19 ¼” came out, but when this video hit, the shit hit the fan in shaping rooms around the world. Every surfer needed a fish in their quiver, especially Chris Ward, who when asked what he liked most about surfing, simply answered, “Surfing with my friend and getting tubed.” Behind the camera a voice asks, “What friend?’ Ward answers, “My fish.”
The list of surfers who site this as their all time favorite …Lost film reads like a who’s who of modern surfing: Dane Reynolds, Dusty Payne, Makua Rothman, Ben Bourgeois… the list goes on and on. It can be argued that when Momentum One and Two came out, Kelly Slater’s flip nose boards with carbon fiber strips became the board of choice for the modern generation. But as far as sheer numbers and the lasting impression that 5’5” x 19 ¼” had on surfboard design – no video can touch it.
1999 - LOST ACROSS AMERICA VOL. 1
Surf videos had long neglected the East Coast as a surf destination. But Lost Across America changed that. Showing every type of conditions from macking Puerto Escondido to junky-fun hurricane surf at Sebastian Inlet, Florida. Lost Across America launched a thousand cross-continental road trips. The East Coast was holding – and whatever the waves lacked in quality and consistency, the girls made up in beauty and spirit. Lost Across America Vol. 1 showed us surfing how it really was, and it didn’t stray far from the formula that made …Lost movies as controversial as they were loved. Dane Reynolds even admits, “There were ones […Lost videos] before that, but I was a little too young, my parents didn’t like me watching that shit.”
Bruce and Andy Irons made a star turn in the Lost Across America series as well, a section titled “Brotherly Love” showed them as they started their rampage on the surf world – the rest is history. For the hours and hours of footage that filled LAA Vol. 1, the heaviest waves belonged to Shawn Briley, who tackles a few Pipe bombs that are worth wading through days of videotape to find.
1999 – LOST AT SEA
The …Lost crew left the nest again. Leaving the shores of San Clemente and Florida for the perfection and decadence of a classic boat trip on the Indies Trader 2 in the Mentawais. This video, shot all on one boat trip, The Lopez brothers, Andy Irons, the Beschen brothers scored in Indo and came back to land with a bona fide classic. Kelly Slater and his crew had scored Indo that same year in a movie called September Sessions, which was shot in beautiful sixteen millimeter and scored with elegant tracks from Jack Johnson and friends. Lost At Sea was shot in Hi8, and this motley crew surfed to punk rock from the likes of Frank Black and the Catholics. Both trips were phenomenal, and both videos made Indonesia the place to take your next surf trip too. The debate of which movie was better is a moot point – but if you were looking for rawness over perfection, Lost At Sea had what you needed, and we all know what boat drank the most Bintangs.
SO WHAT WENT RIGHT?
At first glance, the …Lost movies may have seemed like a mishmash of party footage, midday surf sessions, brain-cell destroying, drunken buffoonery, and surf-rat living – but taken in as a whole body of work, the discerning surf video connoisseur can see the genius behind these movies – yes, we said “genius” and “…Lost” in the same sentence. There’s a greatest hits retrospect of all these films in the works, and after you take in the two-and-a-half-hour walk down memory lane, you’ll see what we mean. Each song was meticulously placed, hours and hours of time was spent arranging the sections each movie to make the perfect arc – there’s no way anyone would sit through a two-and-a-half-hour surf video if it wasn’t entertaining you. “I guarantee that we put ten times the amount of time into these movies than any other moviemaker out there, surf movie wise,” says Mike Reola. “It takes somebody thinking this is the greatest shit ever. We wanted to bring this inside joke to the rest of the world. We brought reality to the table, and I think the world is better for it.”
WHERE ARE THEY NOW?
CHICKEN WILLEY – Chicken Willey, otherwise known as Matt Willey, lives in Los Angeles and is still making residuals from the Sublime recording of song he co-wrote, ”What’s Really Goin’ Wrong.” He’s on Facebook, give him a shout.
GILLIGAN – David Paul Gilligan – if he’s still alive, then he’s still world champ.
SPIKE (OF ON THE ROAD WITH SPIKE) – Spikes real name is Adam Good – sadly, he died in a skateboarding accident at home in England.
CHRIS ORR – Chris Orr’s comeback to the surf world was cut short when he lost a long fight with drug addiction. Sadly, he died of an overdose in 2002.
RANDALL – Randall Blanco is still Randall. After interviewing Matt Biolos for this article, we walked into the ally behind his shaping room in the San Clemente surf ghetto and who materialized? Randall, happy and still being recognized on the street as a legendary figure in the surf subculture.