JONNY WESTON – Chasing Mavericks was REAL!

Interview By Brian & Leslie Terhorst
Photos By Aaron Goulding

There are a number of reasons why this movie and interview have turned into one of our all time favorites… First, we originally hail from Northern California & we often visit Mavericks whenever we head home for the holidays or summer break. We’ve seen Mavericks in the winter while it’s breaking bad (sometimes) and during the summer months when it’s flat as shit and calm. We recognize a number of the  Highway One locations in the movie that we have visited ourselves over the years. We have stood on the same cliffs as they did in the movie, overlooking the same break & watching some of the same guys featured surf. Over the last few months have met a number of the people and athletes involved in the making of the movie & now we sit with the young star himself!

We met Jonny at the W Hotel in San Diego on a cool Fall morning. We screened the movie a few days prior and were excited to hear what he has to say. He’s such a genuine & likable guy, he just kicks back on a lounge on the upper deck of the W & just takes in the scene. We scramble to set up lighting & cameras – he’s mildly amused. We grab a cold drink & post up.

photo courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox 

This is what we asked the talented young actor:

Revolt In Style: It seemed you were actually surfing all your own waves in Chasing Mavericks. 

Jonny Weston: Yeah, I’ve been surfing for about ten years. Since I was like 12 years old. 

RIS: Did that help you land the role?

JW: No, They didn’t know I could surf. I went thru the audition with Gerard Butler & when we were leaving I asked the director, Curtis Hansen if I could show him some surf footage of me & he was like… “No, no thanks”…. which is basically like “Get out of the room!” In the acting world. So, I left thinking i didn’t get the part. But I got it. I guess he wanted to hire an actor first. Fortunately I wasn’t a goofy foot. They had no idea.

RIS: There is some epic surf footage of you ripping in the movie. Are you that good, or is it some good CGI?

JW: Most of the surfing was actually me. I was at my best in the movie. I was trained really well. That was the strongest paddling I had ever done. That was the best I could do in terms of being prepared. There was not a lot of CGI (computer generated images) I think there was one or two CGI shots… just for the sake of not killing the stunt doubles.

RIS: Who were your stunt doubles?

JW: Anthony Tashnick, Peter Mel & Greg Long. Anthony and Greg were really the guys that put their bodies (and lives) at risk. Having those guys on the film…it’s doesn’t get any better. They’re the best in the world.

RIS: Were you a big wave surfer before you were part of the movie? 

JW: No, I had never even seen a wave over ten feet. 

RIS: Are you comfortable in larger surf now?

JW: I surfed Mavericks & that’s the last I’ll ever do that…. for sure. It was an incredible experience. I’ll never forget seeing mountains roll thru the water like that. We paid for it though, you know Mavericks is, it doesn’t break if it doesn’t want to. We certainly got one of the biggest days in a very long time.

RIS: We all heard about Gerald’s close call at Mavericks, but did you have any close calls on the set or during training?

JW: I had a couple but nothing like that. That was just Mavericks deciding she wanted a little piece of Gerard. He went through a tough experience. We were shooting on a pretty good day & all of a sudden there was a huge set. He got caught inside & took it on the head. He had a two wave hold down. When he finally popped up, Grant was there on a PWC to grab him. A split second before he could reach him he turns & sees there’s another monster coming in. He had to turn & burn…. without Gerard….so he got nailed again. He got the scare of a lifetime. I definitely got injured a few times, but nothing like that. Mavericks…I think she was kind to me. It was so cold & at times we were Hypothermic, but I just thought about Jay and why we were here & it pushed me through.

RIS: When did you guys shoot the movie? 

JW: We wrapped up in December, two days before Christmas. But came back for re-shoots when Mavericks broke again in January. That was a late break. When we were filming earlier it was only like thirty feet. Everyone was bummed ’cause that doesn’t represent Mavericks at all….and then it broke again late in January (which is very rare) & it went off huge. So they brought us all back from wherever we were. It’s crazy. It’s a crazy thing to see. Like a contained Sunami.

RIS: Last November we ran into Grant Washburn over at Jeff Clark’s compound at Half Moon Bay. He was gearing up a boat & PWC for a tow in session with some actors he was training for an upcoming role…would that have been for you & Gerard Butler training for the movie? 

JW: Yep, He was our top advisor really, for the surfing. I mean, can you believe that? It’s amazing. I think it speaks to the authenticity of the film. He’s the man. 

RIS: What was it like having the real Frosty Heston and Kim Moriarity on set?

JW: Frosty & Kim were the two people closest to Jay, I think. Having them on set as advisors was cool cause they made sure we held true to what Jay would have done & how he was portrayed. 

Who else better? Again, I think it speaks to the authenticity of the whole project.

RIS: Tell us about Bob Pearson

JW: Bob Pearson was Jay’s shaper and was extremely close to him too. He’s such a good guy, for example: Bob had me come down to his warehouse where he shapes & he says, “We’re gonna shape a board together like me & Jay used to.” We went in back, and I literally shaped a board with my own hands – with him there helping me with the tools & everything. Essentially that’s the board we used in the film & I still have it. He is such a good sport, he shaped like 171 boards for the movie ’cause so many broke. Oh yeah, they gave him a cameo in the movie. Classic.

RIS: There is that one great scene with the Huli Cat….

JW: Oh the ‘Hurly’ Cat? Yeah, we called it that ’cause so many people on it, lost their lunch. It’s a sixty foot boat in those Mavericks waves, (he laughs) so many people got sick. Yeah, that scene….that’s movie magic, man. If you look close during that scene…. in the back of the Huli Cat is Grant Washburn, holding onto a pole attached to the boat while its rolling. He’s like an eight foot long flag all stretched out, hangin’ on for life. That’s what’s so crazy out there. Even the seasoned professionals that have been out there for 40 years still can get caught. We lost like 7 Red Epic cameras that are like $80,000 apiece with the lenses. Even Sonny Miller, one of the greatest water-camera men out there, was losing cameras. That wave is intense. That’s Mavericks.

RIS: What about the Great White sharks up there? Did you see any?

JW: Not at Mavericks, but we did have a very close call with a big shark at Pleasure Point while we were shooting at night. We have some night surfing scenes & apparently that’s their feeding time. A big shark came in like ten feet away from us. So I jumped into this little inflatable boat & then realized, “We’re really doin’ good now! If he bites into this… we’re done for anyway.” We just gunned it outta there. We did have a swarm of giant jellyfish at Mavericks one day. They were the size of a kitchen table. I was terrified, even though they apparently can’t sting thru your wetsuits. I couldn’t believe how big they were.

RIS: Do you think this is the surf movie of this decade? The 70’s had Big Wednesday. The 80’s was North Shore. Point break for the 90’s

JW: I think that the last movie that had ‘purists’ involved, surfers culture people pushing their ideals was Big Wednesday. It’s been nearly fifty years since something has been made like this. That’s my opinion. Only because guys like Jeff Clark gave us the go & thumbs up & everything. I’m really proud of that. I love surfing & the culture. It’s been so misrepresented, ya know? This is the Dog Town Z-Boys of surfing.

RIS: What did you learn from Jay?

JW: I fully committed myself to the emotional journey of Jay. He had  a lot of heavy thing going on in his life. Thing going on inside of him. That’s one of the reasons why he had to surf Mavericks…to step outside of his mind. For me to connect to that was extremely difficult, but again it was all for Jay. Knowing what I was doing and why I was there. My whole life has been about achieving goals & being extremely aggressive, which is great. But if you don’t appreciate and aggressively force yourself to be in the moment and connect with the people in your journey to your goal….then your life just becomes these short moments of glory and nothing else in-between. I think that’s what I pulled from the story & what I learned from Jay.

RIS: Live like Jay?

JW: Yeah, live like Jay.

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