Chicks Dig Guys Who “Ride the Wild Surf”

 Ride the Wild Surf (1964)The surprisingly entertaining 1964 teen pic Ride the Wild Surf sounds like a rip-off of American-International’s Beach Party films. Yet, while it was made in the midst of those movies, Ride the Wild Surf chose to catch an altogether different wave. Stars Fabian and Shelley Fabares don’t sing a single song—in fact, there are no musical numbers (though Susan Hart provides a provocative hula dance and Jan & Dean croon the closing song). In lieu of grainy stock shots of surfing, we’re treated to am amazing display by real-life champs like Mickey Dora gliding across huge waves. And most surprisingly, the young cast even manages a couple of effective dramatic scenes.

The premise, borrowed freely from Three Coins in the Fountain, has three young men arriving in Hawaii in search of the “big wave” at Waimea Bay. What they find initially are three pretty girls and plenty of teen angst. Jody (Fabian) wants to be a “surf bum” until college girl Brie (Shelley) convinces him there’s more to life. Chase (Peter Brown) is a stick-in-the-mud who clashes with the free-spirited Augie Poole (Barbara Eden as a redhead). Steamer (Tab Hunter) falls in love with island girl Lily (Susan Hart), but must convince her surf-hating mother that his intentions are honorable. And to top it all off, there are a couple of unlikable rival surfers (James Mitchum, who resembles his dad Robert, and Roger Davis) and a climatic surf championship.

None of the cast will be mistaken for great thespians, but they’re likable and energetic. They also hold a certain nostalgic appeal for me. Peter Brown, Barbara Eden, and Roger Davis all went on to star in TV series I watched (Laredo, I Dream of Jeannie, and Alias Smith and Jones, respectively…with Roger also in Dark Shadows). The lovely Susan Hart appeared in a handful of Beach Party movies, married AIP co-founder James Nicholson, and retired from acting. Fabian, after pleasant turns in films like Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation, starred in some awful films and faded quickly. I was never a big Shelley Fabares fan, but she certainly established a lengthy career on television and had a #1 pop hit in 1962 with “Johnny Angel.”

Much of Ride the Wild Surf appears to have been shot in Hawaii. The tropical locales are scenic and the color photography exceptional for this kind of movie. The surfing scenes are incredible, although the big championship goes for about 10 minutes too long. After about the seventh wipe-out, they all look the same!

I caught Ride the Wild Surf on late night TV in the early 1990s. I didn’t see it again until it was unexpectedly released on DVD about a decade later. To my delight, I found it as charming as the first time. It made me want to go out and taking surfing lessons. But, by the next day, I felt more practical and quenched my thirst for ocean waves by taking my wife to the Red Lobster for some tasty seafood.

Rick29 is a film reference book author and a regular contributor at the Classic Film & TV Café , on Facebook and Twitter. He’s a big fan of MovieFanFare, too, of course!