For Moss Beach resident Christy Davis, surfing has provided a life of fulfillment and purpose. Now 66, Davis has been surfing Mavericks for nearly 30 years.
That kind of commitment doesn’t happen without enthusiasm.
It’s this consistent passion that filmmaker Grant Thompson attempts to capture in his upcoming documentary, “A Man and the Sea.” The independent film has Emmy winners Erik Butts, an editor, and narrator Peter Coyote working behind the scenes.
Thompson, a 29-year-old Bodega Bay resident, met Davis eight years ago while he was shooting a Mavericks session from the Pillar Point cliffs. Christy was 59 at the time. Thompson is no stranger to filming interesting individuals, as his project on
Jerry Miszewski’s highline world record won the best slackline award at the 2016 Mountain and Adventure Film Festival.
Thompson and Davis hit it off, and soon Thompson was teaching Davis how to slackline. As Thompson recalled, “He got good really quickly.”
Davis, who began surfing in 1964, is the prime example of the themes Thompson wanted to explore: how to continue to thrive and find wonder and joy amid chaos. Surfing, particularly the challenge and reward Mavericks provides, has motivated Davis for more than 50 years.
“We live in this toxic cultural climate where we associate vibrancy, creativity and growth with youth,” Thompson said. “I think that’s backward and it puts way too much pressure on people.”
The project began three years ago, as Thompson pondered Davis’ resilience, intelligence and experience. Those qualities allowed Davis to keep going back into the lineup after each injury, whether it was a mountain-biking fall or a broken rib at Mavericks. With each passing year, Thompson wondered whether it could be his friend’s last consistent season.
But Davis just kept going. Thompson has followed him into the surf carrying a massive waterproof housing surrounding a camera rig worth thousands of dollars. The crew set out to document the intimate aspects of its subject. One of their filming sessions, in March last year, coincided with one of the most dramatic moments in Davis’ life: He suffered a heart attack while surfing. After being assisted back to shore, he was driven to Mills-Peninsula Medical Center for surgery. This came a year after Davis broke bones in his neck and back surfing near Mavericks.
“I’ve never filmed stuff like that,” Thompson recalled. “That was definitely scary.”
Though the film is expected to be released next year, Thompson plans to use footage from this winter season. To keep the film an independent endeavor, he has launched a $6,000 GoFundMe campaign to help offset the cost of equipment and boat rentals.
“I feel like just doing the thing was a gigantic challenge,” Thompson said. “I started filming this while I was getting a degree, and investing in anything extra was difficult. Just financially, even going out on a ski costs a lot.”
As far as role models, Thompson hopes others can learn from the example set by Davis. It’s not a life lived recklessly; it’s a life planned to follow his passion.
“I think it’s tremendously important for us to have good role models who are normal people,” Thompson said. “It helps you align yourself in the world with other people’s stories.”