ARTICLE GREG LONG
PHOTOGRAPHY CARLOS SERRAO
STYLIST JENNY RICKER
JONNY WESTON REVIVES THE LATE BIG WAVE SURF HERO JAY MORIARITY IN THIS FALL'S CHASING MAVERICKS
Jay Moriarity was just into his teens when he started riding the 40-to-60-foot monsters at an ocean swell known as Mavericks near the Northern California town of Half Moon Bay, a capital of big-wave surfing. More specifically, he was only 16 when a video of him wiping out on a cresting beast made the May 1995 cover of Surfer magazine. A celebrated soul surfer, Moriarity co-authored The Ultimate Guide to Surfing in 2001. Later the same year he died in an Indian Ocean diving accident.
This October Moriarity is lionized by director Curtis Hanson (responsible for other geocentric true-story flicks L.A. Confidential and 8 Mile) in his latest biopic, Chasing Mavericks. Unknown actor Jonny Weston plays the coveted role of Jay, starring alongside Gerard Butler as Rick “Frosty” Hesson, Moriarity’s mentor. Today the Jay at Mavericks—an invitation-only competition on the Big Wave World Tour—is one of the most respected surfing events in existence. And Greg Long has won it. Indeed the 29-year-old is the only surfer to have won the Mavericks, the Quicksilver Big Wave Invitational, and the Red Bull Big Wave Africa. Long coached Weston as he prepared for the role and served as one of his stunt doubles during filming. Here, the master of big-wave surfing speaks with Hollywood’s newest rider.
Jay could not have been more respected by the community in Santa Cruz. Do you feel extra pressure, or assume more responsibility, when taking on the role of a nonfictional character?
JONNY WESTON That was the hardest part of the whole film for me. I felt a lot of pressure to do right by his family and friends. But thanks to what that town and Jay’s friends and his former wife, Kim, did for me...I just couldn’t have done it without them.
Tell us your overall impression of who Jay was, what he meant to his friends, family, and even those who were maybe meeting him for the first time.
JW Jay was a troubled kid, to be honest. A lot of people don’t understand that his purity and light and love of life actually came from a pretty heavy place. To strangers and some friends, Jay was the coolest, most stoked kid alive. But to his close friends and family he was just pure of heart and loving, one of those people who communicates straight from the heart.
What was your favorite scene to film?
JW Maybe the night-surfing scene. How many people get to surf a premiere spot at two in the morning with huge projector lights blowing it up and the lineup of surfers completely cleared—and with the girl of their dreams?! Also getting to surf every morning with the world’s best big-wave surfers training me.
Did you ever dream that one day you would be asked to sit out in the lineup at one of the heaviest, most prestigious big waves in the world?
JW I used to watch the surf videos for Mavericks. It’s literally a natural disaster every time a wave set rolls through. So, no, I didn’t make any plans for that! It felt like I’d better listen very carefully to my trainers, and I’d better stick with Peter Mel, Zack Wormhoudt, Brock Little, Bob Pearson, and you, so I wouldn’t get caught inside.
What was your initial response to the waves, the beauty and the fear?
JW When I saw the waves on the “big day” from the cliffs, they looked big—that’s a mile away. When I got out there it was different. When these 40-to-60-foot waves impact, the water shakes, and it is deafeningly loud. Just seeing a set coming in, it looks like the whole ocean is moving, like a mountain, and then it jacks up to vertical all of a sudden. Absolute fear and beauty. One thing I have to say about that place, it makes you completely focused. Clears your mind of everything else.
After filming, and having a deeper insight into the makeup of a big-wave surfer, do you have any aspirations to try to push yourself to do it?
JW Oh no. Not really. I’ll never stop surfing, but I have no illusions about the amount of training and natural ability that big waves require. Too many people have been training to surf Mavericks since they were eight years old and it still takes them into the next life.
What does the phrase “Live Like Jay” mean to you?
JW It means live every moment like you can’t have it back. It means love the people around you. Be open and respond to them from your heart, even if you’re the only one doing it. It means go hard for what you want, because there’s no reason to live life any other way.
Grooming Daniele Piersons (AIM ARTISTS) Photo assistants Ron Loepp and Monica May Digital technician Damon Loble Production Kim Johnson Retouching Portus Imaging Location Smashbox Studios, Los Angeles