Surf Porn

A long time ago, on a wave far, far away, 19-year-old surfer Shaun Tomson made cinematic history. It was 1977. Darth Vader entered the world's consciousness with Star Wars. Porn star John Holmes peaked with Young, Hot, n' Nasty Teenage Cruisers. And Tomson titillated audiences in a different way.

Free Ride -- the definitive surf film of the era -- features Tomson, along with buddies-cum-rivals Mark Richards and Rabbit Bartholomew, riding sick tubes at Hawaii's Bonsai Pipeline. They carve through overhead waves like a light saber through butter. "We were unknown young guys trying to make a name for ourselves," Tomson says, "on the most dangerous wave in the world."

The movie was groundbreaking not only because of its subjects (each of the three surfers went on to win a world title) but because of the way it was shot. "It was the first time someone was riding in the tube with a surfer, with a camera," Tomson says. The result: breathtaking images that viewers have called "better than porn." Most people, however, have never been able to judge for themselves. Free Ride has been seen only occasionally since its theatrical release, because it's never been transferred to VHS or DVD format. Tomson had to carry the 16mm footage with him on his flight from California so he could introduce the film at the Carefree Theatre (2000 S. Dixie Hwy., West Palm Beach).

A screening of the film takes place at 8 p.m. Thursday, March 18, as a benefit for the local chapter of the Surfrider Foundation, an environmental organization that Tomson says is revolutionary "because it's the first time surfers have political clout. So if a developer comes along and wants to destroy the beach, he's got Surfrider to contend with."

 
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