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A Santa Cruz moment: Hollywood re-enacts Jay Moriarity memorial paddle-out
By WALLACE BAINE – Santa Cruz Sentinel
Posted: 10/14/2011 04:36:06 PM PDT
Updated: 10/14/2011 05:40:43 PM PDT
PLEASURE POINT – Friday was, as they say in the neighborhood, a “Jay day” – sunny, clear, unusually warm on the cliffs overlooking the ocean.
In the morning, in a small park on 38th Avenue, Kim Moriarity emotionally evoked that same name, telling hundreds of volunteers clad in wetsuits that her late-husband Jay was present at that moment.
The name on everyone’s lips on Friday morning in Pleasure Point was, of course, Jay Moriarity, the Santa Cruz surfer who is the subject of a new film called “Of Men and Mavericks.” The film’s production crew gathered Friday to shoot the biggest scene – at least in the number of people – in the script, a re-enactment of the memorial paddle-out that originally occurred in June 2001, shortly after Moriarity’s death the day before he was to turn 23 in 2001.
It was an unusual crowd of extras for a movie shoot, given the strong emotional connection of many in the crowd to the events they were to re-enact. The extras were not being paid, as often the case in Hollywood movies. They instead had their own reasons for turning out.
ONE OF A KIND
Nan de Malleville, for instance, was carrying a surfboard once owned by Moriarity. Gayle Brubaker was carrying the same board she used in the original paddle-out. Fred Nelli personally knew Moriarity as a kid – he was “one in a billion,” he said – and came out in his wetsuit to stand around for hours because he felt he owed the young man something.
At 10:30 a.m., the film’s marquee movie star – the Scotsman Gerard Butler – suddenly appeared, his wetsuit peeled to the waist. Butler is portraying Rick “Frosty” Hesson, another Pleasure Point icon, who served as Moriarity’s mentor. The shaggy-haired star of “300” was instantly surrounded by a handful of gawkers, but soon took his place in line to go out into the ocean. Cheers erupted from the cliffs when Butler began to paddle out on the same board that Hesson himself used in the original memorial
10 years ago.
“(Butler) was really nice and down-to-earth,” said Robin Rhodes, who was standing at the railing watching the water when Butler suddenly appeared at her side to chat.
“He was asking about my son,” said Michelle Whittingham pointing out to the ocean where her 12-year-old son Garrett had taken his place in the memorial circle.
Once Butler had joined the memorial circle some 150 yards offshore, the talk among the waiting surfers again turned to Moriarity. Some who gathered knew him well; some informally. Bob Swinnerton waited in line to take his place among the paddlers. He moved to Santa Cruz from Cupertino in 1991, a newbie surfer taking the waves for the first time at 38th.
“The very first guy I met in the water was Jay,” said Swinnerton. “I mean, surfers can be aggressive, especially to someone like me. But Jay was the nicest guy you could imagine. He was friendly, even let me have a wave.”
The re-enactment also serves as a kind of catharsis for the small group of people who were not able to attend the original. Brian Hart was a longtime surfing friend of Moriarity.
“I was in Costa Rica at the time,” he said. “But I get to be here for this.”
A SANTA CRUZ MEMORY
Walden Media, the film’s production company, has taken pains to draw in locals to tell the story of Moriarity. Both Frosty Hesson and Moriarity’s widow Kim have been present on the set from the beginning. High-profile local surfers
Hundreds of surfers gather in the ocean off Pleasure Point for a memorial to favorite son surfer Jay Moriarity back in June 2001. ‘Of Men and Mavericks’ movie crew filmed hundreds of surfers in a re-enactment Friday. (Dan Coyro/Sentinel file)
such as Zach Wormhoudt and Peter Mel are part of the cast.
The one-time professional surfer Christiaan “Otter” Bailey, who was paralyzed from the waist down in a skating accident in 2006, was also part of the event.
“I can’t believe I’m paid to do this,” said the film’s producer Brandon Hooper at a lunch break. “To be hanging out in Santa Cruz by the beach. I’m honored to be here, with this community.”
Hooper originally had hoped to begin the paddle-out shoot Thursday, but a swell out of the northwest brought dramatic breaks to the area. Friday, the ocean, along with the weather, cooperated.
The cast and crew of “Of Men and Mavericks” – roughly 200 people – will be in and around the Santa Cruz area until the last week of October. Then, they plan to do some shooting at Half Moon Bay, near the Mavericks surf break where Moriarity first became a surfing celebrity after local photographer Bob Barbour shot Moriarity for the cover of Surfer magazine.
“I had mixed feelings about it,” said longtime Pleasure Point resident Christine Helm about the Moriarity movie. “But these guys have been great.”
Helm knew both Jay and Kim as kids, and was a neighbor of them both. She attended the original paddle-out, observing from the cliff clutching a handful of white iceberg roses, speckled with red. Friday, she attended the movie paddle-out clutching the same kind of flowers.
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