This is the story about 30,000 lost black and white negatives from Surfing Magazine circa 1970s, found at a swap meet. It becomes a journey from California to Hawaii to reunite the creators and stars of that pivotal time in surfing history. We spoke with director Doug Walker to learn more.
What motivated you to make Lost & Found?
It’s really a magical story. Life can be funny, we get married, raise kids and it goes on. But as my son was filling out college apps a few years ago, my wife came home with a new camera and said “It’s time. You need to make something.” The next day I traveled to LA for a project, took the new camera and woke up early on Saturday morning to go shoot some surfing. I grew up in LA as a surfer, so it was just something that became me. As I captured footage early that morning, I went to my office to look and assemble the material and had a rush of enlightenment. I called my producer in SF and said I really want to do a surfing project. The next morning I would awake to find something that would change my life.
It was Sunday at 5:30 a.m. and I knew that the Rose Bowl swap meet was taking place. I attended it whenever I was in town, as I would look for anything surf related like old boards, magazines, hula lamps etc. But on that day as I came across a lot for sale, I saw 3 cardboard file boxes. I opened the first box, I saw envelopes piled on top of each other, each dated by month and year. I reached into the first envelope dated Sept. 1974, I pulled a stack of negatives out. As I took the first sheet and held it to the sun – I experienced an instant flashback to me at age 14, looking through surf magazines back in the ‘70s. The images flashed across my eyes. I knew who and what they were; Lopez, Bertlemann, Rory Russell, Jock Sutherland, Reno, Michael Ho, Buttons, Shaun, and MR – The legends.
I knew that something had just happened and it found me. And that it would be my responsibility to make something that truly preserves history. But what could it be? The journey would begin…
What was the most surprising thing that happened during filming?
For me, it was how I was able to allow these guys to open up in front of the camera and telling pure, honest accounts. There was no plan and as the stories were unfolding, you had to find ways to complete what they were talking about. But the one thing that really stood out for me is how they would talk about their parents. It was unexpected, honest, and pure.
What difficulties did you encounter?
Making a film is tough in general. Especially a large project like this. But I knew that I had to just keep moving forward and complete it. The biggest challenge was proving to people I was truly trying to make something and preserve history.
Who was the most fascinating person that you filmed?
I’d have to say Dan Merkel. Dan is someone who I have gotten to know quite well and I know that I have in return given something to him. He is someone who just has a bark but no bite. He is someone who, to this day, is living the dream as he travels all year still trying to capture that perfect photograph. He truly is “Man Mountain”
What is the greatest reward you have received making Lost & Found?
To share. It has always been about that.
Where did you study filmmaking?
I grew up in LA around the film industry. My Mom worked for Warner Bros, and as a kid I hung out on the lot so I knew in some form this was where I was going to end up. From there I became a film editor and built a post production company in LA, SF & NY. Editing has been my passion. Its the most important part of any project. But now getting behind the camera and creating with an editing eye as magical. It has made me the filmmaker that I am and want to be.
What do you love about surfing?
What’s not to love? It’s freedom of expression. Nobody has come out of the water feeling bummed.
What’s next for Doug Walker?
Who knows? I am still talking to additional people and wanting to continue to capture their lives and story. I am heading down to Mexico next week to interview Corky Carroll then returning to see Peter Townend. The one thing I can say is that I have been told that “I didn’t find it, but that it found me”. Share and enjoy the Aloha!
The film Lost & Found will be playing at the following locations and dates:
April 28– Newport Beach Film Fest
May 11– San Diego Surf Film Fest