How "Living It Forever" Almost Died

Ilima Kalama surfs Newport Beach's 22nd Street in 1959. He'd become the USSA champ of '62.
Ilima Kalama surfs Newport Beach's 22nd Street in 1959. He'd become the USSA champ of '62.

The Newport Beach Film Festival kicks off tomorrow night, and Living It Forever--an enlightening documentary about the pioneering surfers of Newport Beach's 22nd Street--is already such a hot ticket that two Lido Theatre screenings have been scheduled for April 28--the night before the 2010 fest run ends.

Not bad when you consider the project, which the Weekly plugged here, almost suffered a debilitating setback.

Writer-director Ann Chatillon and her producer-husband Rick Chatillon went to the island state where surfing was born to snag an important interview for their film.

This being a super-indie production--she called it her videographer husband's "passion project"--the Newport Beach couple of course made the trip on their own dime. 

Through word-of-mouth, they had tracked down Joe Quigg--who along with Dale Velzy and Pat Curren was one of Newport Beach's surfboard-shaper pioneers--now living on the main island of Hawaii, Oahu.

"Rick always looked up to him," Ann says of Quigg.

But after making interview arrangements over the phone with Quigg, packing all their film and sound gear, flying to Oahu and stepping off the plane to go directly to the Outrigger Canoe Club for their scheduled meeting, the couple learned they had been stood up.

Still in shock--and much lighter in the wallet--the Chatillons regrouped, deciding on the spot to locate other early Newport Beach surfers they had previously understood now live in the Hawaiian Islands--just not Oahu.

That decision would bring them their film's title and most emotional interview.

While being interviewed on one side of Maui, early surfer/Harbor High ditcher/Lido Bridge backflipper Tom Miller told the couple Ilima Kalama, who surfed out of Newport Beach back when he won the 1962 United State Surfing Association (USSA) crown, played golf daily at the municipal course on the opposite side of the island.

So, the Chatillons packed up the gear again and schlepped over to the course.
 

The golf course starter told them that since Kalama always went out early in the morning, he should be approaching the clubhouse in about an hour. And they wouldn't be able to miss him, they were told, because Kalama was the only golfer dressed all in red.

As a dark-skinned man in a red shirt reached the clubhouse, the Chatillons introduced themselves, told him about their film project and asked if they could interview him. Kalama said to give him a half hour to clean up. They met near his trailer on the beach in the funky town of Paia.

(Dave Kalama, Ilima's son, and his big wave-riding buddy Laird Hamilton often jet-ski out to the waves from the senior Kalama's surf shack.)

As Kalama's interview began, Ann decided something wasn't quite right. She complimented the former surfing champ on what good shape he is still in and asked if he would remove his shirt. Kalama complied, and he appears is in the film sitting on the beach with a large "Aloha" tattoo on the right side of his chest exposed.

During his onscreen interview, he talks about the surfing life and "living it forever." Remembering his old Newport Beach surfer buddies, Kalama chokes up, giving the documentary a nice jolt of poignancy.

"He couldn't have been sweeter," says Ann.

The Chatillons wound up flying to three Hawaiian Islands on the same day, renting three cars along the way, and paying for it all out of their own pockets.

"It was an expensive trip," Ann says.

Audiences will be richer for it.

Living It Forever screens Wednesday, April 28, at Regency Lido Theatre in Lido Village. Go here for tickets to the 7 p.m. screening or here for the 9 p.m. show.


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