Joshua Pomer had a dream, to one day document his best friends rise to the top as innovators of surf while placing Santa Cruz firmly on the map. What Josh didn’t realize at the time was his desire to tell the story of their tragedies and triumphs while holding on for the ride of their lives. This would become The Westsiders a story about four friends coming from very different backgrounds with one common thread of brotherhood through surfing and dark influences.
Before I can review the film (we attended the Santa Cruz Film Festival premier), one must understand the creative mind of Joshua Pomer. Shooting Super 8 movies from the age of six, skits and random objects in motion caught the eye of this young cinematographer. I sat down with Josh and we chatted about life, friends and family along with desire to create and share. These words are from that conversation.
Three guys Ratboy, Flea and Barney made life interesting, no matter what on any given day there was drama going on at the Lane and Pomer was there to capture it. Filming his friends day in and day out led to his first commercial surf movie just out of high school, Thunderballs in 1992. That movie paved the way for a dozen more surf titles and together with his friends, they travelled the world and began to firmly plant Santa Cruz on the map, from 2 ft to 40ft, airs to massive barrels there wasn’t anything stopping them. Josh put himself through film school on the back of his successful surf titles, while his friends had their own successes being in front of the lens. It was the perfect relationship, one borne off creator and subject.
When Ratboy boosted the air heard round the world against Kelly Slater, Santa Cruz claimed its place and Pomer had it on film. The next magazine cover was Rat’s backside 360 air shot in sequence as a fold out; the town of Santa Cruz was energized. Swarms of photographer’s and videographer’s descended on these innovative surfers with a vengeance, at times creating conflicts for position on the cliff. For Joshua and his friends it was about getting the opportunity to compare and contrast, while Pomer filmed allot of Santa Cruz surfers, he also had begun to make a name for himself and filmed Tom Curren, Rob Machado and Taylor Knox to name a few. Joshua’s movies were a chance to pit Ratboy against Slater just like the air had done, to show the world what was coming out of Santa Cruz.
The darkness rolled in as Vince Collier, aka the godfather of the Westside, began to shape the environment of surfing and his tight grip of who was in charge. From the first time each one of the three surfers discovered VC’s powerful hold of how things were conducted on the Westside, Ratboy, Flea and Barney fell into their respective place. As the years unfolded, the darkness intensified as the trio emerged as world class innovators in surf while dragging along the demons they would one day have to handle.
Three years ago Joshua Pomer decided it was time to tell the story; he gathered his friends and interviewed them numerous times. Each interview became more and more candid; explaining what each of them had gone through in their lives and how far one can go into the darkness. Personal losses, broken homes and rampant drug use make the story captivating as you watch the twists and turns of creative people take paths less desired stripping them of their successes. The Westsiders is about struggles, some self borne and others delivered without warning while establishing the bond between friends beyond what is considered normal. Each one goes to the dark side in their own right, Ratboy’s loss of his father, Barney’s bipolar episodes in foreign countries, Flea’s self admitted abuse of alcohol and drugs with VC’s rants about some really dark times paint the behind the scenes that most people were unaware was happening.
Santa Cruz’s Joshua Pomer debuts as a director complete with Mike McCready (Pearl Jam) music composition, Rosanna Arquette voice over and helicopter shots of the Westside (some angles which have never before been seen) all mixed with surfing and lifestyle. Allot of what these guys went through would be gnarly for most to overcome let alone feel confident enough to be put on screen with their personal stories. The moral of this story is not one of glamorization, but of reflection and hopefully some insight to how to succeed and maneuver the pitfalls discovered by the three as they climbed their ladder of life.
The Westsiders movie has been awarded:
Official selection Newport Beach Film Festival 2010
Winner 2010 Accolade Award Honolulu International Film Festival
Best Documentary 2010 Santa Cruz Film Festival