VIA – SANTA CRUZ SENTINEL
Scottish actor Gerard Butler talks with people on East Cliff Drive as the crew filming ‘Of Men and Mavericks’ prepares to shoot a re-enactment of the Jay Moriarity memorial paddle-out at Pleasure Point on Oct. 14.
2011 Newsmaker: Jay Moriarity movie stirs up memories of surfing star
Posted: 12/23/2011 11:17:56 PM PST
EDITOR’S NOTE: During the final two weeks of 2011, the Sentinel is taking a look back at the most newsworthy stories and newsmakers of the year. The series will be published in ascending order, ending on Jan. 1 with the story selected by the Sentinel staff as the year’s biggest.
By WALLACE BAINE
SANTA CRUZ — For the rest of the world, 2012 will be the year of Jay Moriarity.
That’s when the film “Of Men and Mavericks” — based on the life of the late Santa Cruz surfer and his tight relationship with his friend and mentor Frosty Hesson — will be released in theaters worldwide.
But in Santa Cruz County, and particularly in the Pleasure Point neighborhood Moriarity called home, 2011 will forever be remembered as the time when a long-gestating dream came to fruition.
Ever since Moriarity’s premature death in the summer of 2001 in a free-diving accident, locals who knew him and those in the surf community who admired him talked glowingly of his incredible talents, as well as the values and attitudes that shaped his magnetic personality — one that spawned the ubiquitous catch phrase “Live Like Jay.”
His story was, in essence, a movie waiting to happen.
Then, miraculously, it did happen.
After a years-long dance between various producers, film companies and Moriarity’s surviving loved ones, Walden Media “The Chronicles of Narnia” finally committed to making a Jay Moriarity film. And in October, Walden’s production came to town to shoot the film under the direction of Oscar-nominated director Curtis Hansen and starring Scottish actor and sex symbol Gerard Butler, who plays Hesson. Actor Jonny Weston plays Moriarity.
Bob Barbour/Special to the Sentinel (Frosty Hesson, surfer Jay Moriarity’s mentor, and Kim Moriarity, his widow, are depicted in the upcoming movie ‘Of Men and Mavericks’ about Moriarity’s life.)
The three-week shoot in Pleasure Point and other Santa Cruz locales was certainly a thrill for movie fans and many who surf. It was also, at times, surreal.
Perhaps the highlight of Walden’s visit to town was the re-enactment of the famous paddle-out that occurred in the days following Moriarity’s death. The producers called on locals to be extras in the re-enactment, filmed in the ocean just off 38th Avenue in Pleasure Point.
Many of the extras had been there at the original paddle-out 10 years earlier, yet many — some who even knew Moriarity — were not able to attend the original. The re-enactment was a second chance to honor a fallen friend.
Accordingly, the emotions ran high that day.
Moriarity’s young widow, Kim, addressed the wet-suited gathering, telling them Jay’s spirit was among them on that warm, crystalline morning. Many extras, waiting to be called into the water, spoke with passion about Moriarity, not so much his moves on the waves, but his sense of natural-born openness and generosity.
Hesson said later that he had been so overcome with grief at that first paddle-out in 2001 that he literally had almost no memory of it. The re-enactment, he said, gave him a chance to re-experience the loss of his young acolyte, who died before the day he was to turn 23.
Like many of his friends and neighbors in Pleasure Point, Hesson donned the wetsuit and paddled out where, looking back at the gathering crowds illuminated by the reflecting light coming off the water, he wept again.
However, the vibe that day on East Cliff Drive was anything but somber.
At one point, Butler, whose star turn in the historical epic “300” turned him into a strapping man-sicle icon, appeared at the top of the stairs at 38th Avenue, shirtless and ready to go about his day’s work. The usually hard-to-impress Santa Cruz crowd surged in his direction as he casually went to chat with a couple of women standing at the railing…
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