Reel Life: 'Blue Crush'
By Jeff Merron
Special to Page 2

You've seen the poster, the ads, the trailer, and maybe even the movie. "Blue Crush" opened over the weekend, and even though it might seem to be just a light babes-on-boards summer flick, the film's producer, Brian Grazer, wants something more: "I want surfers to walk away saying, 'This is real. This film rocks.' "

Blue Crush
Thanks to a pounding soundtrack, the film does, indeed, rock. But is it real? You decide.

In Reel Life: In the opening credits, the film is said to be based on "Surf Girls of Maui," by Susan Orlean.
In Real Life: Susan Orlean's article, "The Maui Surfer Girls," appears in her collection "The Bullfighter Checks Her Makeup." The article originally appeared in Women's Outside in 1998, under the title "Life's Swell."

In Reel Life: The film takes place in Oahu.
In Real Life: The girls profiled in Orlean's article lived in Maui, in Hana, a small town way off the beaten track that, in 1998, had only one store (called the General Store), and not much else. The film was made in Oahu because of the North Shore's bigger waves and because the producers figured it would be about $2 million cheaper.

In Reel Life: Anne Marie (Kate Bosworth), Eden (Michelle Rodriguez), Lena (Sanoe Lake) and Penny (Mika Boorem) live together in a ramshackle beach house.
In Real Life: The surf girls of Maui profiled by Orlean didn't live together, but they did spend many nights together at their coach's house in Haiku, 40 miles from Hana. And the ramshackle part is pretty authentic. One ace surfer in Orlean's article, Theresa McGregor, lived with her family "in a one-room shack with no phone."

In Reel Life: Anne Marie plans to surf in the upcoming women's Pipe Masters competition, which takes place on the feared Pipeline on the North Shore.
In Real Life: "We don't have an all-girl contest at Pipeline," Kala Alexander (who plays Kala in the movie) says in an interview. "I don't know if we ever will.

In fact, few women surf Pipeline, Alexander told the Los Angeles Times. "It's just not known at the Pipe. It's like 60 guys in this takeoff zone that ain't very big, and they're all fighting each other. It's hard enough for a guy." In general, there seems to be agreement that Pipe poses special problems for even the best female surfers because the big waves require more pure strength.

Michelle Rodriguez, Kate Bosworth, Sanoe Lake
Michelle Rodriguez, Kate Bosworth and Sanoe Lake led a simple existence in a ramshackle beach house.
In Reel Life: When the girls are out on the water and talk about surfing Pipe, they face scorn from the guys.
In Real Life: "Surfing is very sexist and a very misogynistic sport," director John Stockwell told "And most of the guys out there would rather see a girl on the beach in a bathing suit or in a wet T-shirt contest, not fighting for the same waves that they want."

In Reel Life: When Anne Marie goes to check out the Pipeline in preparation for the competition, there's a huge lineup -- dozens and dozens of surfers waiting to catch a wave.
In Real Life: "There can be easily a hundred people out there on any given perfect good day," surfer Kahea Hart told EXPN. "The pecking order starts off with, I'd say, the women bodyboarders at the bottom of the food chain. And then you've got a lot of International Male bodyboarders who come over, and they're all sitting on the inside bowl flapping their flippers, mushing the waves out, getting in the way. Then you've got some Brazilian surfers, stand-up surfers, who are trying to pick up the scraps. Then you've got a few mainland and U.S. surfers who come over, and they get their fair share of waves, they get a lot of good surf. Then you've got the local boys, the guys who grew up here and who have been surfing here all their lives, and it's their spot."

In Reel Life: Anne Marie, Eden and Lena work as maids at the Lanakai Hotel.
In Real Life: The hotel scenes were shot at the Ihilani Resort & Spa at Ko Olina. To learn how maids do what they do, said Bosworth, "We followed housekeepers around the hotel and just sat and watched them do their thing, and they explained to us why they did the things they did, including why they fold the toilet paper into a little corner. They said it's easier to grab, so that you're not always searching for it."

In Reel Life: Anne Marie's mother followed a man to the mainland, and left Anne Marie and Penny, her 14-year-old sister, to take care of themselves. The other girls they live with don't have parents, brothers or sisters.
In Real Life: In Orlean's article, parents -- especially mothers -- are very much present; they're down on the beach, watching their kids surf. Fathers are another story. "Most of the surfer girls I met didn't live with their fathers, or in some cases didn't even have relationships with their fathers," writes Orlean.

Kate Bosworth
Look closely to see if you can find Kate Bosworth's defect.
In Reel Life: Anne Marie has stunning eyes -- one is bright blue, the other brown.
In Real Life: Those are Bosworth's eye colors -- she has a condition called heterochromia iridis. "I was born with it," she told USA Today. "It's a defect in the chromosome."

In Reel Life: The girls eat plenty of junk food.
In Real Life: "Surfers are always starving," writes Orlean. "They favor breakfast cereal, teriyaki chicken, French fries, rice, ice cream, candy and a Hawaiian specialty called Spam Masubi, which is a rice ball topped with a hunk of Spam and seaweed."

In Reel Life: The girls are almost always in bikinis ...
In Real Life: "They are almost always dressed in something that goes directly into the water," writes Orlean, "halter tops, board shorts, bikini tops, jeans."

In Reel Life: ... even when surfing.
In Real Life: "We do surf in bikinis, especially when we have to do photo shoots. So triangle tops yes, G-strings no," pro surfer Lisa Anderson, winner of four straight world championships, told Entertainment Weekly.

In Reel Life: But the bikinis, board shorts and other stuff worn by the girls looks a little grungy.
In Real Life: Costume designer Susan Matheson "put nearly every garment in a dirty, sludgy dye so they looked old and worn because the lead characters are poor," wrote Tiffany Montgomery in the Orange County Register.

In Reel Life: Even when the girls are pummeled by the waves, their bikinis miraculously stay on.
In Real Life: Bosworth's bikini was ripped off at least a few times by the surf. "Our man-on-the-water safety team was very happy the whole shoot," she told the Toronto Sun. "When you're wiped out on a 10-foot wave, it's going to get ripped off you. It's just going to happen. So much so that, by the end, I was just, Everybody's seen it."

It happens even to the pros. "I've had a few times when I've had the bottoms come all the way down to my ankles," Anderson said.

Matthew Davis, Kate Bosworth
Bosworth teaches Matthew Davis a lesson.
In Reel Life: Most of the female surfers, including Bosworth, are modestly breasted.
In Real Life: "Big breasts generally get in the way of surfing," Stockwell told Entertainment Weekly. "So a lot of these surfing girls are just tall and lean and really cut and just a different kind of physicality."

In Reel Life: Players in the Pro Bowl stay at the hotel. The maids are told how important it is to be on best behavior because the players are paying $1,000 a night for their rooms.
In Real Life: In 2002, Pro Bowlers did stay at the Ihilani Resort and Spa, and the NFL provided each with two rooms for the week of the game -- one for the player and one for his family. Players were charged $295 per night for additional rooms. So it's not quite that expensive, but a handful of very pricey suites at the hotel range from $800 to $4,500 a night.

In Reel Life: Pro Bowl QB Matt Tollman (Matthew Davis) says he wants surfing lessons from Anne Marie. He asks her to quote a price. She says, "$20 an hour." He says he'll pay her $150 an hour, which is what he says the hotel charges. Up in his room, he peels off $1,000 in cash for a week's worth of lessons.
In Real Life: Most lessons for one or two surfers run from about $75 to $140 on the North Shore, and usually include two hours in the water. The Hans Hedemann Surf School offers five days of private two-hour surf lessons for $600. So Matt gets a pretty good deal, especially considering the extra-curricular fun he has with Anne Marie.

In Reel Life: It seems like there's only one group of local surfers, aside from the girls.
In Real Life: Lake, a surfer from Hawaii, says there are, in reality, many surfing subcultures. "You have your heavy-metal punkers. You have your surfers who are into God. You have other ones who are just into partying all night, and then they wake up two hours later and go out and rip."

In Reel Life: Anne Marie's ex-boyfriend and his friends, all locals, taunt Matt. They call him "howlee boy," and resent him, in part, because he's not from Hawaii but he's hitting on a local girl.
In Real Life: Haole (pronounced "how-lee") is a Hawaiian term for whites, mainlanders or foreigners. In the context it's used in the film, it's meant to be denigrating, though there's debate in Hawaii over whether the term, in and of itself, is a racist one.

In Reel Life: While Anne Marie's off with Matt, the other girls hang out and watch surf videos.
In Real Life: That's what Orlean's Maui surf girls do when they're not out on the water -- watch surf videos, look at surfing magazines, and browse water-sports clothing catalogues.

Kate Bosworth, Matthew Davis
Bosworth and Davis show it can get crowded and competitive searching for a good wave.
In Reel Life: Anne Marie doesn't train much because of her involvement with Matt. Eden chews her out. "Pipe is in three days," she says. "Every single sponsor is there."
In Real Life: Sponsorship is crucial at all levels of surfing competition, partially because surfing can be pretty expensive. Although men generally get the best deals, even teenage girls, such as Kristen Quizon, one of the best young female surfers in Hawaii, can do pretty well. Surf Life for Women recently asked Quizon (then 14) about her sponsors. "My shades are Zeal, my board is Town Country, my shoes are Etnies and for surf equipment, Diamond Tip. And mostly there's Roxy. They pay for my travel and some of my contest fees. They help me so much. If it wasn't for Roxy, I wouldn't be able to travel or enter as many divisions as I am now."

In Reel Life: Anne Marie does train a little -- Eden tows her out to the big waves on a Jet Ski.
In Real Life: Getting towed to the biggest waves far from shore is a relatively recent surfing phenomenon. That's really Rodriguez riding the Jet Ski in that scene. But she's towing Rochelle Ballard, Bosworth's double. Jet Skis were also critical to making the film, line producer Louis Friedman told the Honolulu Star-Bulletin. "For every one person in the water, we may have as many as four people on Jet Skis."

Hang 10 with Malia
Page 2 recently caught a wave with former U.S. Amateur Surfing Champion Malia Jones. Click here to check out our 10 Burning Questions with the professional surfer and model.

In Reel Life: Sometimes, Eden does get on a surfboard.
In Real Life: Rodriguez didn't surf. "I don't know about surfing, man," she told the L.A. Times in May. "Just give me something with an engine and I'm cool." She left the board work up to her double, Megan Abobo.

In Reel Life: The day before the competition, Anne Marie's still not sure whether to compete. Matt asks Anne Marie what she wants. She replies, in part, "I want a girl to be on the cover of Surf magazine."
In Real Life: Orlean asked two of the girls she profiled what they wished for (in addition to her rental car, which both expressed a desire to own). One said, "A moped and thousands of new clothes. You know, stuff like thousands of bathing suits and thousands of new board shorts." The other said, if she could have anything in the world, "I'd want a Baby-G watch and new flip flops, and one of those cool sports bras."

Those girls were about 14, though, and Anne Marie is older. But her wish came true long ago. In November 1964, Surfer Magazine featured Linda Merrill on its cover. It included this explanation: "It took us almost five years to get around to it, but we finally gave in. Featuring Linda on the cover marks a first in Surfer history. In what was predominantly a man's sport ... surfing has slowly given way to the infiltration of the surfing girls."

Now there's a women's surfing boom going on, and it's reflected in the surfing media. Top female surfer Keala Kennelly was on a recent cover of Surfer Magazine, and there are now quite a few surfing magazines for women, including Surfing Girl, Surf Life for Women, and Wahine. Still, significant hurdles remain for female surfers.

Michelle Rodriguez
Michelle Rodriguez only rode the waves on Jet Skis, which were an important part of the film's production.
In Reel Life: It's the day of the competition, and Anne Marie shows up, of course. The beach is packed. The P.A. announcer warns people to get back and watch their gear, because the surf is pounding high up on the beach.
In Real Life: This happens. According to, in the 2001 contest, spectators were "chased back from the shoreline time and again by giant waves that washed up the beach, cleaning up belongings and equipment."

In Reel Life: The P.A. announcer tells spectators that the Pipeline has the "deadliest waves in the world."
In Real Life: True. At least six surfers, and probably more, have died there.

In Reel Life: The waves during the competition are described as 15- to 20-foot waves.
In Real Life: In the 2001 Pipeline Masters, waves were at 15 feet at 8:30 a.m. and got up to 20 feet by the afternoon.

In Reel Life: In one heat, Anne Marie surfs with Skarratt.
In Real Life: Skarratt plays herself in the movie. "Kate Skarratt was out there taking off on these bombs and the guys on the beach -- their jaws just dropped and their heads turned," Stockwell said.

In Reel Life: Anne Marie, Skarratt and other competitors spend most of their time getting creamed by the waves, after which they're dragged to the medical tent.
In Real Life: At the North Shore, wrote Jamie Brisick of EXPN, "the serious injuries are weekly, with Pipeline being a major contributor."

"Broken boards and bloodied bodies are commonplace (at Pipeline)," writes Monique Cole in SI for Women. "While the 'Blue Crush' cast was shooting at the North Shore, a male body-boarder was paralyzed in an accident. While filming a scene on the waves, Rochelle Ballard, Bosworth's primary stunt double, collided with a male surfer and had to be rushed to the hospital."

In Reel Life: After one wipeout, Anne Marie gets snagged on a rock at the bottom and struggles to break free. It's a long scene, and it's not clear that she'll make it.
In Real Life: This looks a lot like what Michael Ho described, after wiping out and being pinned to the bottom at the 2001 Pipeline Masters: "My one arm and leg stayed put while the rest of me was pulled. I went to grab my board and I thought my arm was broken. I've never had an injury this radical. I've never been disjointed before -- it was the gnarliest pain ever."

Kate Bosworth
Bosworth did a lot of surfing before and after getting the role, but it's not her at Pipeline.
In Reel Life: Anne Marie finally catches a wave, and surfs the Pipeline.
In Real Life: Bosworth took plenty of surfing lessons before and after getting the part, but she didn't get good enough to ride the Pipe. The most spectacular rides you see are really Ballard, with Bosworth's face digitally superimposed on Ballard's body. And when you see Anne Marie catch the biggest waves, you're probably seeing Bosworth's face on top of Noah Johnson's body. Johnson, a 5-foot-5 champ, surfed the Pipe for the cameras while wearing a wig and a bikini bottom. Both he and Skarratt had an eight-foot Pipe all to themselves for an hour. "But (Kate) ate it on a pretty big one," Johnson told And then he was all by himself. "It was insane -- like a dream, almost."

In Reel Life: In her only full Pipe ride, Anne Marie scores a perfect 10.
In Real Life: Tens happen, even at Pipeline. Naohisa Ogawa of Japan, for example, scored a perfect 10 during the 2001 Pipe Masters, then followed it up with a 9.8.

In Reel Life: Even though she doesn't make it to the next round of the competition, Anne Marie impresses the sponsors. "I'm from Billabong," one rep says. "I'd like to talk to you about being on our team."
In Real Life: Bosworth and the entire "Blue Crush" production is already on Billabong's "team" -- the company, which started a women's line of surfwear three years ago, is a major sponsor of the film. The rep? She's Jessica Trent Nichols, a real-life marketing manager for Billabong.

You'll also see some surfers wearing Quiksilver. Those are pros who are sponsored by the company and, by contract, had to wear the company's gear.

In Reel Life: Surfer girls are cool.
In Real Life: "To be a surfer girl in a cool place like Hawaii is perhaps the apogee of all that is cool and wild and modern and sexy and defiant," writes Orlean. "The Hana girls, therefore, exist at that highest point -- the point where being brave, tan, capable and independent, and having a real reason to wear all those surf-inspired clothes that other girls wear for fashion, is what matters most."



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