Posts Tagged ‘Bruce Brown’

A Thanksgiving Story

Thursday, November 24th, 2011
Hobie Surfboards

Hobie Surfboards

A little while ago, at the behest and planning of artist Robb Havassy, I found myself at the home of film maker Bruce Brown. Though I tend to want to keep some aspects of my life private, this is something to share, as it is a story about the power of gratitude. November twenty fourth being the Thanksgiving holiday here in the U.S., it is especially appropriate, as thankfulness is in the heart of a Nation today. This little tale explains how it works, in the lives of my friends.

I met Bruce many years ago. He had rang me up out of the blue. His son, Wade and I, had worked together in my surfboard shop in downtown Santa Barbara. Yet our paths had never crossed. Bruce had asked me to come up and meet a writer on assignment for the NY Post, as they were doing a piece on him. He was so funny on the phone, that of course I said yes, and laughed for about ten minutes after we rang off. Not wanting to take any chances screwing it up, I had dragged my then assistant, Brian Nevins up with me. The portrait below was at the end of that day we would share at the Ranch and his home with writer Corey Levitan.

Film maker Bruce Brown

Film maker Bruce Brown

As my fiance, Donna Von Hoesslin, Havassy and I, sped up coast in the warm afternoon light washing the California Coast, Robb explained a film project idea that he was developing. Donna was craning to see if any of the multiple breaks that lie alongside the 101 on the Gaviota Coast were breaking, and I was quietly thinking about how special the people in my life are.

Gaviota Coast

Gaviota Coast

Robb loves to cook. Whenever he comes up to visit Donna and I, we usually let him. So part of his happy little plan, was Carne Asada del Havassy, and it was stashed in the car boot along with Vodka, a bottle of pretty special wine made by my friend and filming partner Rob Dafoe, and a few other sundry things for dinner.

The Speed 3 rumbled up the dirt road that led to Bruce’s home, Robb and I laughed. A big van emblazoned with Sanuk marketing wrap was parked next to the garage. Ha! It belonged to Wingnut, AKA Robert Weaver. We had just discussed him being in Robb’s project. Of course he was there. You could see what was coming in terms of our evening, as clearly as one would driving a long country road and happening upon a cross road.

As an image maker and Journalist I am highly cognizant of the significance of cross roads. They are pretty special when you look back on them with the benefit of retrospect. But nowadays, I cherish what comes at me via these very fortuitous moments in time. I pay attention to the traffic.

There we all were on the Gaviota Coast, and as golden fingers of light withdrew in leisurely fashion across the coastal scrub and the ocean took on mauve and amber tones, the stories flowed, and Bruce, his daughter Nancie, son Dana, Wingy, Robb, Donna and I shared stories, wine, laughter and the texture of our separate and collective lives. I will forever sit rapt at the feet of a great story teller. And I was surrounded by them.

As dinner wrapped up, none of us left the table. A lot of very rich and heavy sonnet ensued, and I swear I went from tears to laughter and back, several times before Bruce got up, only to return to the table with a sheaf of papers bound together. A hand made phone book of sorts.

“Hey have you talked to Hobie lately?” Bruce asked. “Ah no. I had wanted to interview him actually Bruce, but he has been having a pretty heavy battle with Cancer. I think he may be on Orcas Island.” (A lot was contained in what Bruce was doing. That man has the sharpest mind of just about anyone I have met. I swear he thinks in multiple dimensions. It is an ability which I have seen and found in common with many great creatives).

“Let’s call that foker up.”

I had been enlisted many years ago as an image maker for Hobie Sports Intnl and they had sent me all over the world. I have gotten to travel with Jeff Alter, Dan Mangus, Sean Douglas and a plethora of great athletes that today are a part of the lifestyle Hobie Alter created, which I truly view simultaneously as being descendent from my Hawaiian heritage, and having steered the development of contemporary culture. I constantly pinch myself when on our shoots, the ocean delivers repeatedly, experiences that are sort of mind blowing.

Bruce got Hobie on the line by the third ring I think. Without betraying the confidential nature of the conversation, I will just say that it was about gratitude. I listened as he thanked Hobie for everything he had done. From surfboards to boats to gliders and more. Bruce thanked Hobie Alter for introducing him to it all. And then he handed the phone to me.

I have surfed all over the world. I think that I have built maybe 40k surfboards in my life. I’ve sailed, swam, fished, soared, built and raced cars and bikes, and today I travel with cameras, and communicate what that life can look and feel like. I introduced myself to the gentle voice on the phone and gave a brief explanation of who I actually was: some guy who really is no different than any of us whose life revolves around the sea, and all I could think to say that meant anything was this: “Thank you. What you have done has made a big difference to me. I know you have been dealing with Cancer. How are you?” “Pretty good! I have to walk with a cane now. But I feel pretty strong. I think that I am going to be around for awhile”¬† “Really happy to hear that Hobie, I am going to hand the phone off now. There are some others here who want to talk to you.” And I said goodbye.

Auspicious moment, getting to talk to a man whose work created the platform for the things that bring joy and meaning to your life. Bruce knew what he was doing.

Then he called two more people. He was sowing seeds.

That is what we are doing today. All of us as we give thanks, are sowing to the future, in the honoring of the lives and memories of those who invested in their dreams, and pursued happiness. There is much to be said for that.

Here is a fantastic example by Photographer Giles Duly

Here is another, by  film maker Louie Schwartzberg.

Gratitude and Happiness are siblings.

You have to invite one in to get the other.

Happy Thanksgiving. Sow some seeds.



A California Opus

Saturday, July 9th, 2011
Napa Orange Gold

Napa Orange Gold

Chapter 5 in the California Series.

I have not always lived in California. My Dad was going to college on the GI Bill in Milwaukee Wisconsin, at Marquette University. I had never asked him why, being from Hawaii, he chose the Mid West. He met my Mother there. That was where my two Brothers and I were born.

We were sick a lot as infants. The family pediatrician had told my parents that our Hawaiian genetics may have been to blame, as we did not tolerate the cold of  hard, Midwestern Winter very well. In fact, I ended up in the hospital. I remember the experience vividly. It was a bleak time of laying in an oxygen tent in a ward, and staring out a third floor hospital window, looking at the City, watching.

Eventually, the family moved to California where my Father explored his career as an Engineer. My parents bought a home in Whittier California.  The design of the first computer, as well as launch of the Space program, became a regular part of our household, via my Dad’s work.

In some ways, we were healthier in the warmer climate of California. However, a problem arose. I developed allergies. Those caused a lack of energy, and attendant respiratory problems. I began getting injections twice a month (one in each arm), which helped alleviate the symptoms. I still get a phantom muscle ache, when I think about those shots.

I recall days where one could not see the nearby foothills, which created the basin in which Whittier is located, such was the density of the smog prevalent in California in the 1960’s. It had been around this time that the massive citrus groves disappeared from the area, being replaced by housing tracts and strip malls. Part of a methodical, concreting over of the Los Angeles area.

I was already a swimmer at this point, having learned to bodysurf, ride foamies, and inflatable mats, at the beaches in and around Newport, Huntington, Palos Verdes and South Bay. I swam for a local AAU team. But those allergies were a persistent problem. The only time I had true respite, was when we were at the beach.

Due to my diminutive size, and sort of sickly nature, my parents decided that I needed to wait to get a surfboard. By this point, it had been a topic of discussion for a couple years. But my water activities, which included fishing and diving, kept me pretty busy.

I craved those idyllic long days at the beach. I have fond memories of ten hour days in the water,  a piece of chicken, or a few rice balls, snatched on the run, from the picnic lunch my Mom would have made, very early that morning, as she loaded up the white 1955 Chevy wagon, for the long (to me) drive to the beach. I had fallen for California.




Life Channel: Family Photo Album

Thursday, December 23rd, 2010
The Irons Entourage. Surfer Poll

The Irons Entourage. Surfer Poll

It was not so long ago, that I shot everything on film. The reasons for that are mostly archive based. Film provides an analog image which can be scanned to whatever resolution and file size a client requires.

But then the 5D Mark 2 came along and with a parallel arrival of imaging program technology, it became possible to equal and in some ways exceed the imaging potential of many films. Even in motion picture.

5D Mark 2 generated image

5D Mark 2 generated image

I have an amazing amount of work sitting in image vis a files and huge binders. My sons have both worked scanning those into my library system. In process they each got a tutoring in digital post production and by contact got to see what really went on in my life.

The world of each artist is a LOT like a film or a TV Channel. We have a storyline and plot modus.

Dana and Bruce Brown

Dana and Bruce Brown

Seth Godin had this to say. I found it very on point

I consider what I will shoot carefully, and pursue it by placing myself in the right timeframe and mindset to witness things that the average person-viewer may not get to, but really should experience.



So every once in awhile I will take a glimpse through the scanned image files which are archived in several folders. Generally speaking no one will have seen these besides my sons and I.

So in a way, they are family photos.



Here is what I saw this week as I spent three days finalizing these files which I ran across in an edit. In it are everything from a view in an Al Quaeda occupied village , to the far shore, to the beach that lies down the valley which I can see from my bedroom window.

David Pu'u

David Pu'u

Each image has a pretty cool story. Wander through if you like.

Life amazes me. You all do, and the reason is:

because it matters.

The Artist as Asset

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2009

Outward Bound

Well, I am home again. Sort of. Bali, Santa Cruz, San Francisco, Central Coast California for a half day. It has been a long last month or so of being “on the road” building assets, which basically means creating content in stills and motion picture to be used in roughly a dozen ongoing projects.

The Canon 5D Mark 2 established itself as a ground breaking piece of equipment for someone like me. The things that a creative operator can do with it will prove to re define cinematography as time passes. Here is a great link that details some of the work arounds you will need, should you decide to convert to DSLR high definition motion capture.

But now that truly flexible low cost tools are in place and content acquisition has become more simple than ever before, what will determine the bar of content? Now more than ever it will come down to the ability and perceptions of the artist.

Developing yourself as an asset means being able to do a large variety of different types of work on the fly. Bruce Brown once told me that the key to success was keeping a crew small. This recent trip was a great illustration of small being efficient as Aaron Marcellino, Donna and myself basically were the complete production crew. It worked well, as we were able to navigate the complexities of a traveling production and just returned home with 16 time lapses, 18 hours of motion and approximately 3000 stills. It will all convert to an 80 minute film based on the experience of what amounted to a humanitarian-creative pilgrimage of sorts for Betty B, Donna’s eco sensitive line of fashion accessories and jewelry and four of the women who represent her company.

Right now multiple projects loom and I realize that it may get difficult catching up on things like family obligations and wading through the huge amount of post production this excursion generated. Looks like I leave for SF again shortly and then head out into the desert for a music video shoot with Tyler Swain and Rob Dafoe. Time to make lists and build a calendar again.

The images below are a small cross section from the trip, in pretty much a chronological order. Many of the images are stills studies shot in the course of building time lapse or motion picture footage for our upcoming film. You can see why the artist becomes your primary asset in production in looking at this tiny slice of our content. The footage is amazing. I could never have done this a year ago without a huge crew, and the irony is that with a huge crew, you could not do this either without spending a lot more time and money.

Seth Godin explains how content communication is changing our world a bit right here.

New tech! Sent along by Dan O Donnell

The future is here for the independent artist. Everything works at last.

View from our room on BaliMary O and CeningenHailey at Villa GayatriPlumeria StrandDonnaDavid BoothDouble TroubleJeanetteSteamer Lane. CaliforniaA young Rym Partridge by his Grandmother, Imogen CunninghamUnion Square, San FranciscoUnion Square DawnSan Francisco SundownGolden Gate Home: Ventura

Fifty Waves to Leave Your Lover For

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2009


I live in a place many consider to be California’s Gold Coast. The term conjures up images of glassy warm Winter days, and crisp blue green lines which  swell and pitch into morning light, flashing golden with a brilliance that is breathtaking and addicting as it sets an emotional hook in one’s soul.

Dolphins reflecting dawn on glistening lean muscular bodies are syncopating rhythmic reflections which dart into the pull of northwest groundswells and burst into amber flecked projectiles as energy and joy erupt in the life pulse of a distant storm,¬† that ebbs on the shores of this place. Their high pitched chatter and surging¬† wakes, massage my senses as the pod passes. A pedestrian’s view this most definitely is not. I will never tire of it. The serenade is otherworldly.

I swim manically. It is what I do. The season for taking best advantage of the unique geography and potential lighting conditions on the Gold Coast exists for maybe 4 months of the calendar year, as swell, sun angle and weather converge to create what is possibly the best natural studio in the world.

In the last 12 years of swimming each day, I have acquired maybe 20,000 wave images that made the grade and  I kept. The women in my life, well, they were hard to pull away from at O dark thirty when excitement roused me with its irresistible reveille. It is black outside and the wind chill near freezing, as air temperature cuts atmospheric haze and focuses the morning into crystalline brilliant clarity.

But I am not the first to be so plucked from warm bed and body, though I may be the most prolific. Nor will my passion, be mine alone.

Kudos to  Doc Ball, Leroy Grannis, Bruce Brown, Craig Peterson, Woody Woodworth, Scott Preiss, Greg Huglin, George Greeenough, Jeff Divine,  Alby Falzon, Mike Moir, Guy Motil, Dale Kobetich, Peter Crawford, Jack McCoy, Don King, Larry Haynes,  Flame, Aaron, Art, Sakamoto, Scott Aichner, Sean Davey, Vince Cavataio, Warren Bolster, Yuri and to everyone who everyone that goes down to the sea with a camera. They all share something transformative with us. The world can be a tough place. We will never see enough beauty or drink enough elixer from nature to transform this blue ball into the oasis it could be. But at least they tried.

Here is a great documentary done by Gregory Schell called The Far Shore. See it if you get the chance. The story documents the travels of two unique characters I had the pleasure of meeting at a slide show many years ago at Dan Johnson’s house in Santa Barbara. Just when I thought that I was getting good, one of them sent me an image just like mine, done 25 years prior. Got to love colleagues. They keep us in check. Their tone became Surfer Magazine and presaged surf travel as it exists today.

This was a fun gallery to put together. I am as humbled by my predecessors as I am by my subject. The ocean gives your heart scale.

To the newest “Best in the world”: Good luck. You will need it, swim lots, share what you see, live and learn. Seth Godin has this to say.

Here is a music piece by composer Mark Mancina, from the film August Rush. Maybe open it in a separate window and play it while you toggle through. It is a brilliant one. I have read that it took him over a year to write it.  I hope that he never stops either.

Here are fifty waves to leave a lover for. Click on the images for the back story and to enlarge them. Oh and thanks to Jason Murray, one of my editors at Surfer Magazine who pioneered this gallery concept in one of the most popular spreads that Surfer ever produced.

This was fun. I think I will do my Wiamea shorebreak and Keiki images next. (Kidding, sort of)

© 2009 David Pu'u. All rights reserved.