Billabong Gets Pickled

It definitely wasn’t the La Paloma.

These days most surf-movie premieres are decidedly low-key events, usually held at North San Diego County’s La Paloma Theater — authentic surf-video vibe complete with uncomfortable seats, sticky floors, and lousy projection equipment.

But given the right vision, the right sense of scale, and an absolutely mandatory thick wallet, a surf company can throw a pretty damn memorable premiere — despite this morning’s hangover haze.

Last night Billabong premiered Pickled at Anaheim’s Sun Theatre and it seemed a good portion of the industry turned out to watch. The Bong crew put a lot of effort into the movie (and party) and it showed. More than eighteen months in the making, Pickled was produced by Jamie Mosberg and High Voltage Productions — the same group that produced the epic skate-flick The End a few years back.

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You knew from early on that this wouldn’t be an average premiere. Billabong chartered two busses to shuttle the San Diego crew to the event and the party was well underway before the bus even rolled past the Orange Curtain. The Sun Theatre was slick — roomy enough to easily hold a crowd that must have topped 1,000 without feeling cavernous.

It wasn’t a typical surf-industry sword fight either. The crowd was stocked to the gills with beautiful women and the post-movie dance floor was a sexual romper room for the single set. From the girl-next-door type to the cream of the skank parade, there were girls to match every taste — and they were everywhere. Pretty girls were even smiling at fat, old married guys. Where else could you overhear envious green complaints of “there’s too many other girls here”?

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The only thing that wasn’t beautiful were the garish lime-green frilly tuxedos worn by the bulk of the Billabong crew — a homage to movie mascot, lounge lizard, and perennial wannabe Robert Earl. Only Billabong President Paul Naude cleverly missed this fashion disaster; wearing his Mentawai scruff beard and fresh-off-the-surf-trip aura.

The evening started out with the requisite musical act Sunchild — which look more and more like the band Stillwater from Almost Famous as time goes by. Donavon Frankenreiter and crew put in a typically tight performance as the line for the bar went a dozen wide and double-digit deep. The crowd seemed to be taking Billabong up on its invitation to “get pickled.”

The movie was solid — topped only by the evening’s party atmosphere. Pickled is billed as a “slap-stick surfing adventure” and follows castaway Robert Earl as he drifts in a small zodiac around the world’s oceans eating condom-protected “magic” pickles. He floats from the Caribbean to Panama, Hawai’i, California, Indonesia, and finally to Australia. It’s not your typical shred-rock, fast-edit surf film and definitely will be worth a second viewing in a quieter environment.

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The film features all the Billabong favorites: Luke Egan, Joel Parkinson, Brian Pacheco, Shane Dorian, Dave Rastovich, Benji Weatherley, Donavon Frankenreiter, and Mark Occhilupo. Wave quality ranges from so-so to frickin unbelievable, with huge Mentawais and that epic session at macking Cowaramup in Western Oz. Even though the Cowaramup footage is now more than a year old, it’s still the highlight of the film and Mosberg was wise to hold it for the movie’s final crescendo. The very last bit — a Robert Earl death scene complete with dwarf guardian angel, float plane, and ready-for-heaven tuxedos — is surreal; reminiscent of the skating-off-the-end-of-the-pier-while-on-fire scene in The End.

Soon — too soon for most — the party bus was heading south as the night wound down to a close. Surf-video premieres for the jaded are often punch-the-clock affairs. It was pretty cool for Billabong to remind us how fun they can really be when done right.

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Don’t miss the Pickled Portfolio. Scroll up to the ttop and click on the “Photo Session” icon in the right column.