Saturday, June 9, 2012

Mark Cunningham at Pilgrim

Mark Cunningham, body surfer and waterman extraordinaire, was the guest of honor at a jam packed screening of "Come Hell Or High Water" last night at Pilgrim Surf & Supply in Brooklyn. Cyrus Sutton (Korduroytv, "Stoked and Broke"), who contributed some footage to the movie, was also in the house along with an admiring crowd of New York surfers including Aquatic Apes Kris Chatterson and Albert Shelton. When the Teahupoo sequence came up, I asked Mark what that experience was like.

"Scary," was his response. "Your body can't move as fast as a surfboard, so you have to be very selective in what waves you take."

If Mark (who is in his mid-50's) was scared during filming, it sure isn't obvious in the movie, which shows ride after ride of this white haired superman tearing down the face and plowing through big, churning Tahitian barrels with nothing but a swimsuit and set of fins.

When he took the stage to thunderous applause, you could feel the aloha filling the room from this warm, unfailingly modest man. He talked about his personal fin collection now adorning the wall of Pilgrim (he likes Da Fins), why he prefers his hands to hand planes (he likes the feeling better, and hand planes can hit the wearer or throw a shoulder out), and why he doesn't ride a board ("I was a gangly teenager, and too uncoordinated for that!"), though he actually does own a few surfboards including a pair of quad fish (a 5'10 and 6'2).

Before wrapping up, this career Hawaiian lifeguard made sure to point out the hazards of bodysurfing. "There are plenty of people in wheelchairs or worse from bodysurfing heavy shore break," he warned. "Always try to keep your hands in front of you so you hurt an arm or shoulder instead of your head. And have fun out there, on whatever floats your boat."

Packed house at Pilgrim

Cunningham showing off his main piece of equipment.

Clearly, he has a thing or two to learn about being a spoiled movie star.

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