Looking every bit the quintessential tanned, toned, tow-headed surfer that he is known for making films about, Dana Brown follows in the footsteps of his famous film making father, Bruce Brown in creating landmark documentaries that plunge viewers into the world of surfing and motor sports.
Born and raised, fittingly, in Dana Point, California, Dana Brown, 54, began surfing at age 6 and spent time on the college baseball circuit and pursuing a journalism degree before cutting his filmmaker’s teeth working for his father, learning the crafts of the film trade–co-writing and co-editing father Bruce’s Endless Summer II in 1994. Dana eventually moved on to writing, directing, and narrating feature-length films. He paid homage to father Bruce Brown’s 1966 surfing eulogy The Endless Summer with 2003’s Step into Liquid, a film described by Rolling Stone’s Pete Travers as “the best surfing documentary ever made,” because it’s “drop-dead dazzlingly knockout beautiful,” and features such star surfers as Laird Hamilton, Kelly Slater, and Ken “Skindog” Collins, taking viewers from the birth place of surfing, Hawaii, to Southern California, Vietnam, Ireland, and points beyond.
Following in 2005, came Dana’s Dust to Glory which documented the 2003 running of the legendary Baja 1000, the world’s longest non-stop point-to-point race featuring more than a dozen categories of motor vehicles, from motorcycles to VW Bugs. Dana used some 50 cameras on race-day to capture the scope of the race and the colorful characters—from the famous, like Mario Andretti, to the obscure–who come to compete.
Returning to his surfing roots, Dana made Highwater, which covers the 2005 Vans Hawaiian Triple Crown. Here, the younger Brown offers a loving profile of a tight-knit community centered on the big waves of Oahu’s North Shore, which includes alpha-stud surfers like Kelly Slater to one-armed warrior Bethany Hamilton (who lost her arm in a shark attack), to then up-and-coming 13-year-old prodigy Jon-Jon Florence whose mother, Alex, was a pro surfer. Narrated in his easy-going balance of reporter and surfer dude, Dana links the bliss of surfing with the tragedy that can come with such a dangerous sport. Tahitian super star Malik Joyeu was killed during this running of the Triple Crown. One of the themes throughout the film is the idea of paradise lost as wealthy newcomers crowd out modest income families raised on the water, making the film absorbing as a chronicle of a community.
On Any Sunday: The Next Chapter, Dana’s sequel 40 years after the original of father Bruce’s On Any Sunday, the Academy Award–nominated 1971 documentary beloved by motorcycle enthusiasts worldwide and co-produced by Steve McQueen. “There hasn’t really been anything good about motorcycle racing since then,” says Dana in USA Today. “There are so many great and interesting people involved with it now. It just seems like a great opportunity.” Footage of the soon to be released film is spectacular, capturing motorcycle racing in all its forms across the globe, from the dusty foothills of Northern California’s Hangtown Classic, to the high speed tracks of Laguna-Seca, to the grueling Moto GP World Finals in Valencia, Spain. And the film features some of the greatest riders today, from Moto GP world champion Marc Marquez, to Carlin Dunne, motocross star Ashley Fiolek, and Travis Pastrana.
Perhaps Dana’s greatest tribute to his father’s legacy is that, like his dad, Dana tries to show the heart and soul of those behind the spectacle of surfing and racing. Where Bruce Brown dispels the stereotypes of motorcycle riders as “bad guys and Hells Angels,” Dana Brown highlights a biker’s organization in Africa which helps bring medical care to children in need. A segment from the upcoming On Any Sunday: The Next Chapter shows a heart-warming montage of bikers and the special bond they share with their cycling-enthusiast fathers who inspired them. Dana’s Step into Liquid also helps to remove the stigma of surfers as aimless stoners, and shows that the women of surfing are the antithesis of the air-headed Gidget character introduced by Sandra Dee decades ago. At the heart of both men’s work is that effort to reveal the complex and unique human beings who are driven to pursue their dreams, whether on motorcycles or surf boards.