Turtle’s quotes still resonate some 35 years after the first wave pool movie

By now all those movie quips immortalized by Rick Kane, Turtle and Lance Burkhart (Matt Adler, John Philbin, and Laird Hamilton respectively) have become pop-culture gems, especially here in the wave pool sphere.

The film sets out in Arizona as Rick Kane wins a wave pool contest and a ticket to the North Shore where the other 95% of the story takes place. Despite this minor detail we still consider it the best wave pool fiction out there. And last week this celluloid gem celebrated its 35th anniversary.

To honor the date, surf pool brand Listen To Turtle went big and hosted an event in Santa Barbara at the Arlington Theatre featuring the cast, some crew and Brazilian bike legend Tirol Franco – yes, the very same dude from the Haleiwa bridge scene.

The organisers were blown away by the turnout and celebration, describing the scene on Instagram as “something we’re still trying to wrap our heads around.”

Clockwise from top left: Brazilian bike legend Tirol Franco, the cast reunited, CI donated a Mikey February Twin Pin for the auction, fans were treated to insights from the film’s production 35 years ago. Images courtesy of @Listen2Turtle.

“Upwards of 800 fans casually flowing into the foyer to experience something that we personally have never seen or experienced ever,” Listen To Turtle said in a post. “A reunion, but not just for the cast and crew, but a reunion for the North Shore movie family and it was beautiful man!”

Nearly the entire cast turned out with Matt Adler, John Philbin, Gregory Harrison and Mia Peeples drawing cheers. Before the film hit the screen Casting Director Lisa Clarkson Soldo shared some revealing behind the scenes stories. Producer and writer, director, Randal Kleiser came and thanked everyone while Channel Islands head shaper Britt Merrick showed up with CI gear in tow donated for a raffle benefiting Hui O He’e Nalu, North Shore.

So why the longevity with a 1980s movie panned by the critics when it debuted?

“The movie was not well received when it came out in theatres,” said John Philbin aka Turtle. “It’s big and colourful and corny and used a lot of local actors and non actor/surfers in it.”

At the time, the surf magazines were frothing with dedicated pages featuring the likes of Occy, Robbie Page and Derek Ho making cameos. To this extent, artist Derek West has dedicated a significant portion of his work to the film (see article below). But for whatever reason, the film grew in popularity over time.

“With the invention of VHS, North Shore was given a new life,” continued Philbin. “Fans could now watch and rewatch a movie that spoke to them in specific ways. Ten years after we made it, I was invited to a screening at the Nuart Theatre in Los Angeles to introduce the film and when I arrived there was a line around the block full of happy, enthusiastic surf families. That night, speaking to a full arthouse, I felt a love for the film I hadn’t known existed. Since then the movie has grown into a cult classic that everyone involved in the making of can be proud and grateful for having participating in.”

Images from North Shore owned and copyrighted by Universal Pictures