HBO Sports takes a deep dive into the fascinating, constantly evolving world of surfing, exploring how a group of dedicated teenagers changed the sport and its culture in the 1990s, when MOMENTUM GENERATION debuts TUESDAY, DEC. 11 (10:00-11:45 p.m. ET/PT), exclusively on HBO.
The film will also be available on HBO On Demand, HBO NOW, HBO GO and partners’ streaming platforms.
From Emmy® and Peabody winners Jeff and Michael Zimbalist of All Rise Films, the HBO Sports presentation, in association with Priority Pictures and Sundance Productions, is executive produced by Robert Redford and Laura Michalchyshyn of Sundance Productions alongside Karen Lauder and Greg Little of Priority Pictures. Justine Chiara, Lizzie Friedman, Tina Elmo and Colby Gottert produced.
In the 1960s, surfing in America was known primarily as a California- and Hawaii-based phenomenon associated with surf instrumentals and Beach Boys songs. In films, it was a vehicle to infuse all-American romantic comedies with action or zany antics. Although equipment and skills evolved, the public’s perception of surfing as a novelty sport remained constant until the 1990s, when a group of punk rock-loving teens, many from troubled homes and backgrounds, found its way to a house on the north shore of Oahu, Hawaii, in the process changing their lives and the sport itself.
In MOMENTUM GENERATION, the core members of that legendary crew – including Kelly Slater, Rob Machado, Shane Dorian, Taylor Knox, Benji Weatherley, Kalani Robb, Ross Williams, Taylor Steele and Pat O’Connell – tell their story together for the first time. Filmmakers Jeff and Michael Zimbalist draw on unprecedented access to their inner circle, as well as to tens of thousands of hours of footage in private archives, to highlight the deep friendships that were formed and tested during the surfers’ careers as top athletes and cultural icons.
“We’re proud to be the home for MOMENTUM GENERATION, a film that is obviously about a group of surfers at the zenith of the sport, but more subtly about their lifelong friendships,” says Peter Nelson, executive vice president, HBO Sports. “The Zimbalist brothers take us on an adrenaline-fueled journey spanning three decades, and the intimacy with which they reveal the ups and downs of some of surfing’s biggest stars makes this film unlike anything else of its kind.”
After relocating to Oahu, the young surfers courageously followed each other into Mother Nature’s most dangerous waves. When some of them didn’t make it back to shore, they found a way to mourn together – and adapt. Fueled by camaraderie and a deep-seated competitiveness, the tight-knit crew became known as the “Momentum Generation” after being featured in Taylor Steele’s groundbreaking films. Its members went on to win world titles, break records and redefine the world’s perception of the surfer, youth culture and what it means to be free.
Filmed over the course of two and a half years, the Momentum Generation surfers reflect on the complexity of the brotherhood and competition that have shaped their shared emotional journey, and made these pioneers both heroic and human.
The film made its world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York earlier this year where it won an Audience Award. It has also won top awards at the Aspen Film Festival, Santa Cruz Surf Film Festival, Honolulu Surf Film Festival, Surfalorus and the Los Angeles Film Awards.
MOMENTUM GENERATION is directed by Jeff Zimbalist and Michael Zimbalist; executive producers, Robert Redford, Laura Michalchyshyn, Karen Lauder and Greg Little; producers, Justine Chiara, Tina Elmo, Lizzie Friedman and Colby Gottert; written by Jeff Zimbalist and Michael Zimbalist. For HBO: executive producers, Bill Simmons, Peter Nelson and Rick Bernstein; supervising producer, Bentley Weiner.
Taylor Knox: “I grew up in Oxnard Shores. It was a rough Hispanic town. My dad was a talented musician and he made it to the point where he was a big fish in a small pond. But then he got sucked into the drug scene. He and my stepmom, they would have knock-out, drag-out fights, wake up with black eyes…I was just like, ‘God, Dad, you know, What are you doing?’ I didn’t want to be like my Dad: a talented guy that just couldn’t get out of his hometown. And I didn’t want to be as strict as my mom. I needed to get out from under my parents’ thumb.”
Pat McConnell: “I grew up in Chicago, in a very regimented schedule. So that independence and freedom to be able to shed your parents and just be you in the ocean: That’s what I just completely fell in love with.”
Kelly Slater: “Surfing was my savior. All my challenges at home and parents splitting up, I channeled all that to my surfing. I could go do something on my own, that no one else could tell me how to do, and I completely understood it. Every day was something new, learning something new on the wave. And it made me hungry.”
Taylor Knox: “After finishing fourth at the world amateur titles, I got the contract I was looking for. I think I ended up with $1,200 a month, and that was a big deal.”
Kalani Robb: “Like Brazil is to soccer, Hawaii is to surfing. So it’s territorial. You can’t just come into Hawaii. It’s the hardest place on earth to fucking infiltrate. Hawaii is like, ‘Respect? The door is wide open. No respect? Door is closed, and your ass is kicked.’”
Benji Weatherly: “One day, Surfer Magazine calls me: ‘Hey we’re going to do a photo of your house.’ And I was like, ‘Cool. Why?’ And the photo is legendary now, like when I look at it, I’m like, ‘Oh I get it! I know what everyone was saying – Benji’s House!’ That day, our crew was set in stone.”
Tom Delong: “It was all about having a heart that is beating really fast, and it’s going to explode out of your chest if you don’t make something of yourself, because you are driven to change how it was when you were younger. We were all disenfranchised youth, trying to find our own way.”
Shane Dorian: “The Australian guys were so dominant at the time. They had so many world champions. They were this old guard in the tour that we all looked up to. I’d see these guys I’d seen in the magazines. I was so starstruck. And then we’d get in heats with them and they were so willing to do anything it took to beat us. And I mean anything.”
Martin Potter on what it’s like to be a surfer: “Paddle through the pack, and you growl at everyone, and you give them stink eye and you make sure that every good wave comes through, you’re on it. You don’t give a shit about anyone else. It’s a selfish sport: ‘Get out of my bloody way,’ you know, ‘It’s my day.’”
Kelly Slater: “My first win on tour was against Gary Elkerton, and it was in France where he lived. It turned into this big protest, his wife came and rushed the stand. He starts throwing his board and screaming at [the] judges. I thought it was a great. I loved it. I loved every second of it.”
Benji Weatherley: “Nothing was cooler about our crew than when Kelly won his first world title, and we put that jerk in a freaking trashcan with a helmet and a blanket and we pushed him down the hill.”
Shane Dorian on the passing of Todd Chesser: “We felt like Todd had been taken from us personally. Not just our group, but us personally. I felt like he had been taken from me. My way of dealing with it was I just felt more comfortable by myself. I just didn’t want to talk about it anymore. I didn’t want to think about it anymore.”