Chasing Mavericks ... A behind the Scenes Look at the Filming of Movie

Anthony Tashnick
Anthony Tashnick

Chasing Mavericks is coming to Pacifica this Saturday and everyone is invited to enjoy it as they support  Pacifica Beach Coalition's Earth Day of Action & Ecofest event which is coming on April 26th.   

Many of the surfing community are joining together to make this event a special night to remember, including famed photographer Frank Quirarte.  Frank will be sharing some of his photos at the Surf Movie event and here, he shares some of his story and photos during the making of the Movie Chasing Mavericks. 

-----Story by Frank Quirarte - Camera Support, Stunts and Rescue for Chasing Mavericks movie

The 2013 film Chasing Mavericks, based on the life of Jay Moriarity, an accomplished big wave surfer and all-around waterman was an on-again, off-again film project, almost since the day it was conceived. In its early inception, tests were done out at Mavericks and locations were scouted in order to figure out if shooting on location would actually be viable. With its remote location, hazardous, and unpredictable surf the only other option would be to use the massive movie set in Baja California (home to the world’s largest filming tanks and used in the making of the Titanic). Turns out after working through all the surfing scenarios and storyboards, both locations ended up being used.           

With the script now finalized and the cast and crew in place, including lead-actor Gerard Butler playing the role of Rick “Frosty Hesson, Jay’s mentor, filming was finally able to commence. For Kim Moriarity Jay’s wife, Frosty, along with family and friends, it was a feeling of elation that Jay’s life story would finally be immortalized on the big screen.

It would be anything but a smooth start for the first days of filming. Nobody in their wildest dreams had ever imagined it would be easy on location at one of the world’s most treacherous big wave locations. There have been a number of smaller films and documentaries shot at the famed spot, but this was by far the biggest production and the biggest challenge.

What should have been a routine day on the water was anything but. Butler and a small crew went out to Mavericks to shoot some filler shots while waiting for the really big day to capture the surfing sequences needed for the movie. Proving that the wave calls the shots, Gerard Butler nearly drowned and had to be transported to Stanford Hospital. While filming, a freak set of waves came through the otherwise quiet lineup and mowed them all down near the inside section of Mavericks, known as the Boneyard. After a few days recovery, Butler was back at it as production hit full gear.

I was hired as camera support, stunts and rescue for both the Mavericks and Santa Cruz locations. But I wasn’t the only Pacifican hired for Chasing Mavericks. Big-wave surfers Colin Dwyer and Travis Payne were brought onboard as surfer extras, and long time Pacifica resident and local surfer Ed McNicoll was also part of the production.

“Working on Chasing Mavericks was a spiritual calling,” said McNicoll. When he heard they were going to make a movie about friends he knew and grew up with surfing, he was stoked, but his excitement had a bittersweet edge. He had already committed to a two-year project with Disney/Pixar. But a week into the pre-build for production his boss at Pixar informed McNicoll that he and his crew would be laid off while the writers caught up on the storyline.

Ed immediately called the construction coordinator of Chasing Mavericks, who he had worked with on other productions. At that time there weren’t any more positions open on the crew, but after a few adjustments by the construction coordinator he got the call back to be on the set the next morning. “I believe the surf gods pulled me into this project,” laughed McNicoll.

I haven’t worked on as many productions as Ed, but like him, I was so stoked to be a part of this crew. This time it wasn’t only a job, but something very personal since Jay was such a close friend, and not only to myself but also to fifty percent of the crew. We wanted it to be as realistic and believable as it could be. We wanted not only to have Jay’s story told accurately, but also to convey the feeling of catching a giant wave and truly experiencing Mavericks by being immersed into a real big wave surfing line-up.

To achieve that task no expense was spared. Cutting edge “face erasing” technology and CGI (computer generated graphics) would be utilized in order to transport the audience back to the early days of Mavericks. Helicopters, boats, jet skis anything that could float had a camera mounted to it at some point. Bob Pearson of Arrow Surfboards was hired to build custom boards that would be able to hold huge cameras and surfers.

“I was building boards for every condition Mavericks would be throwing at these guys,” said Bob Pearson. “I was calling South Africa, Australia and Hawaii getting specific board orders from each surfer and the crew. At last count we were at 168 boards for the movie with more orders coming in.”

Leading the charge out at Mavericks was Second Unit Director Phillip Boston. Being an experienced surfer, Boston was the best choice for the job. Although it wasn’t his first film, it would be his biggest test as a Second Unit Director. He had a lot to prove and was surrounding himself with some of the best watermen in the business to get the job done.

“It had the potential of being something really special,” said Boston. Given the group of surfers and water safety teams we assembled we were ready for anything and everything ... I’m proud of this entire group and what they’ve accomplished during the filming,” claimed an ecstatic Boston. 

Due to the location it was known that this film had a high probability of somebody getting hurt or even worse. But due to the experience of the crew assembled nobody was injured during the filming. The same couldn’t be said for some of the equipment used. Many of the expensive cameras used in filming were lost and a 50-foot fishing boat nearly capsized.

Months and months of meticulous planning went into preparing for the filming. This was a big-budget production and producers weren’t about to miss getting the money shot. As rescue and camera support one of my jobs was to make sure mayhem didn’t break out once the six Jay Moriarity surf doubles, the five Frosty doubles, and the ten or so other assorted surfers including water camera swimmers hit the drink. Filming 16 hours a day was exhausting, but probably the most fun I’ve had out at Mavericks yet.

Shooting ended late in the summer of 2012 and was released to mixed reviews later that year. But one-thing critics and viewers could agree on is the surfing, and especially the Mavericks footage, was some of the most exciting and spectacular ever witnessed on the big screen.


The Pacifica Beach Coalition (PBC) in partnership with the Pedro Point Surf Club of Northern California (PPSC) will screen Chasing Mavericks to benefit the Pacifica Beach Coalition's Earth Day of Action & EcoFest scheduled for April 26th. 



To Purchase Tickets: 

Cost: $15.00 each in advance - before Friday 12pm,                                    $20.00 each at the door

before Friday 12pm Purchase advance tickets at

  • Sonlight Surfshop at 575 Crespi Drive (650) 359-5471
  • Cafe Pacifica at 1821 Palmetto  (650) 359-6938 in Pacifica. 
  • Buy online at www.pacificabeachcoalition.org 

 -----Story by Frank Quirarte - Camera Support, Stunts and Rescue for Chasing Mavericks movie

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Lois Poblitz March 23, 2014 at 10:06 PM
Thank you SO much for such a heart warming night! It will be cherished by my Grandson for his life! What a treat to meet Frosty and all the panel that took time out of their lives to be in Pacifica!


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