“Live in the sunshine, swim the sea, drink the wild air’s salubrity,” Emerson once advised. It’s a path embraced by the wetsuit warriors in “Chasing Mavericks,” a surfing movie about men, water and waves, and how and why they sometimes come together beautifully and sometimes collide with terrifying force. The movie, directed by Curtis Hanson and Michael Apted, is based on the true story of a Santa Cruz-area surfer, Rick Hesson, entertainingly nicknamed Frosty — welcome to California, people! — who back in the day helped shape a legend-to-be: Jay Moriarity (Jonny Weston), a boy with a dream and a battered board.
What Jay wanted to do was conquer the surf break known as Mavericks, home of killing, crushing, gorgeous monster waves that surge and crash near the coastal city of Half Moon Bay, 30 miles south of San Francisco. To judge from all the big-wave surfing movies, YouTube clips, books, blogs, competitions and dollars now in circulation, he was part of a vanguard. What entices these surfers and looky-loos to Mavericks are waves that become behemoths topping 50 feet, giants that owe their size to long swells, the continental shelf, fault lines, reef beds, storms and shallow water. According to lore, the surf break is named after a German shepherd, Maverick. He would follow the surfers who frequented the area in the early ’60s and, like them, didn’t tackle its biggest waves.