Charge the Pipe


The surf is up again, folks, only it’s not of the Frankie and Annette variety. Oh, no. Today we’ll be looking at the 2002 film, Blue Crush, starring Kate Bosworth, Michelle Rodriguez, Matthew Davis and Mika Boorem. I always get that one Bananarama song in my head when I think of this movie, probably because the soundtrack seems to have been chosen with great care. You’re welcome. Anywhoo…

Anne Marie (Kate Bosworth) lives in a shack in Hawaii with her sister, Penny (Mika Boorem) and her friends, Lena (Sanoe Lake) and Eden (Michelle Rodriguez), and they all live for surfing. All someone has to do is mention the words, “perfect pipe,” and everyone grabs their boards. They even have a guy who sleeps in a sleeping bag on the sand just to watch the waves. They’re a tight group, but very competitive and sometimes combative.


The ladies are dirt poor and Anne Marie, Lena, and Eden work at a hotel as maids to make ends meet. They sleep on mattresses with no sheets and eat Cup Noodles with disposable chopsticks on their way to the waves.

Still, working as a maid has its compensations, or at least that’s how the ladies see it. They’re not above trying on guests’ clothes or using their laptops. In between shifts Anne Marie trains with Eden for the big Pipe Masters competition, of which she’s one of two women participants.


Anne Marie hits her breaking point, when she, Lena, and Eden have to clean a room with vomit all over the place and a used condom on the floor, and she marches onto the beach looking for the room’s occupant. Upon finding him, a rather beefy guy named Leslie (Faizon Love), she shows him how to properly dispose of a condom with the aid of a Kleenex box and a wastebasket. She gets fired for this, of course, although Leslie doesn’t seem too put out.

Then, of course, Anne Marie meets a guy, Matt (Matthew Davis) a pro-football player who’s staying at the hotel. He’d like Anne Marie to give him surf lessons. He’ll pay, too. One hundred-fifty dollars an hour. Anne Marie jumps at the chance, but she, Penny, and her friends are surprised to see Trojan Dude Leslie and one of Leslie’s buddies along for the ride. After a brief moment of incredulity, everyone gets down to a nice Surfing 101 montage and wind up friends.


Well, Anne Marie and Matthew get to be more than friends, and Anne Marie gets a taste of life beyond surf shacks and housekeeping carts. It’s enough to get her turned around and her friends to wonder if she’s going to forget her goals.

Blue Crush isn’t long on plot; like its characters it lives for the waves and that’s when it looks its best. Heck, the surfing scenes are breathtaking and immersive, no pun intended. It really feels like being out there with the characters, especially if it’s seen on an HD TV. The most hardcore surfing moves were clearly done by an actual surfer, but the line between the stunt double and Kate Bosworth is almost seamless. It’s really impressive.


The movie was based on an article, “Life’s Swell,” which appeared in Outside Magazine in 1998 (read a digital copy here). Its subjects lived in a very small town on Maui with no mall, barely any restaurants, and not much else to do but surf. Board shorts and bikinis are a way of life there, because surfers only live two ways: Wet or about to be wet.

Surf culture was and still is a mystery to me, or at least some of the lingo is, although I get the whole ardent enthusiasm thing. My husband used to boogie board, mostly in Santa Cruz, and traditionally there’s always been a rivalry between surfers and boogie boarders, so I’ve heard things. Hawaii and California don’t seem too far off, but it seems to make a difference when a surfer has cut his or her teeth riding the waves.


Despite the natural proclivity of more than a few women in Hawaii and other surfer hotspots, the sport still seems to be mostly dominated by men. The women who do make it are regarded as real-life unicorns in that they’re untouchable by mere mortals. No one expects to talk to them, much less make friends with them. Blue Crush makes it abundantly clear that Pipe Masters could turn Kate into a unicorn.

Everything else in the movie is a means to an end. Oh, golly. I wish I could like it better, but it doesn’t earn its payoffs. Some parts look a little bit awkward, like the workout scene at the beginning–it’s Kate Bosworth’s face rushing the camera over and over, which doesn’t really do her any favors even though she is gorgeous.


I think where Blue Crush tanks a bit is that there’s not much exploration of the relationships between the characters or development of their various personalities. It’s got a lot of good bones, though. Anne Marie carries a lot of baggage. She has post trauma stress from hitting her head on a reef, plus Anne Marie and Penny’s mom ran off to Vegas, leaving two devastated girls with trust issues. It’s implied that Penny takes drugs, although Anne Marie refers to it as “smoking.” None of this is dealt with except that surfing brings the sisters together.

Anne Marie’s friends are even more surface-y. Eden is another untapped character, and that’s too bad because there seems to be a mentor-student-best friend kind of dynamic. There could have been some Kung Fu jokes or Karate Kid wax-on-wax-off humor, but no. Then there’s Lena, who is pretty much just there as a supportive friend.


Vomit-filled hotel room scene aside, I enjoyed Blue Crush, at least when it focused on what its characters do best. It kind of reminds me of what Gene Kelly rather cattily said about Esther Williams: “Wet, she’s a star. Dry, she ain’t.” While this statement isn’t quite fair or accurate about either Williams or Blue Crush, it’s not too far off, either.

Gonna be participating in a surprise blogathon on Friday. Thanks for reading, all…

Blue Crush is available on DVD and Blu-ray from Amazon.

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