In the eighth section of John Severson’s 1970 film, “Pacific Vibrations,” US Champion Corky Carroll straps a couple of midlength single-fins to the top of his Mercedes and heads to Arizona for a surf. Tempe was home to Big Surf Waterpark–the first surfable wavepool in the United States.
The angled sides of the wavepool combined with the huge faux-volcanic rock wall backdrop make the surf venue look like an ancient Mesoamerican ballgame court. The waves lurking behind the Skull Island-like wall were anything but Kong-sized but they were indeed rideable. During the pool’s crowded surf-mat sessions, Big Surf looks more dangerous than both a game of Tlachtli and the mythical island home of that giant gorilla combined.
“Pacific Vibrations” isn’t the only film to feature Big Surf, it was where Rick Kane learned to ride waves before becoming a Pipe Master in the incredibly-and often overly-quotable 1987 Hollywood film “North Shore.”
Big Surf still breaks today, the Skull Island wall has long been replaced by a mural of a rainbow stretching across a partly cloudy sky with hundreds of stoked ‘Zonies trim’n and grin’n over one another on the daily.
By the looks of the elf-shoe rocker in the noses of Carroll’s Grand Canyon State quiver, maybe he was expecting a more literal interpretation of Big Surf Waterpark’s name.
For more Pacific Vibrations sections, click here.