A surfer rides a wave in Half Moon Bay

Surf icon Jay Moriarity's short life depicted in film shooting in Bay Area

When Brandon Hooper was surfing with his buddy Jim Meenaghan off the Southern California coast 10 years ago, he had never heard of Jay Moriarity.

It was there on the water that Meenaghan began relaying the details of the surfing career of the 22-year-old Santa Cruz surfing legend who honed his craft under the tutelage of Rick “Frosty” Hesson.

“I thought, ‘What a beautiful story,’” Hooper said, who along with Meenaghan is co-producing “Of Men and Mavericks,” a movie depicting Moriarity’s rise to fame by riding the notorious Mavericks surf just north of Half Moon Bay at age 16 and his relationship with mentor Hesson. Moriarity died in 2001 during a diving accident in the Indian Ocean.

Production for the film began Oct. 10 with scenes being shot in Santa Cruz, Half Moon Bay and San Mateo, and it is slated to be released on Oct. 26, 2012. Gerard Butler has been cast as Hesson and Jonny Weston as Moriarity.

Meenaghan first met Moriarity in a Santa Cruz O’Neil surf shop while shopping for a wetsuit. Staring at a blown-up cover of Surfer Magazine that pictured a man being engulfed by a massive Mavericks wave, Meenaghan wondered how anyone could survive such a wipeout. As it turned out, the daredevil on the magazine cover was the 16-year-old Moriarity helping him with the wetsuit.

“He really tracked Jay and his rise to fame … the local boy that made good,” Hooper said. “He was crushed when he heard the news [of his accident].”

After Moriarity’s death, Hooper and Meenaghan contacted Moriarity’s widow, Kim, and Hesson to present their idea of making the motion picture.

Other filmmakers wanting to reproduce Moriarity’s life onscreen had previously approached Hesson. But upon hearing that the producers would do a “Hollywood version,” Hesson sent them on their way.  

“When Jim and Brandon approached me, I asked the same question,” Hesson said. “They said, ‘We want to tell the real story.’”

So far, the producers have held up their end of the bargain.

“They’re very honorable people, and they understood my commitment and my willingness to walk away if it wasn’t going to be what the agreement was,” Hesson said.

When asked what he thought of the “300” Hollywood star portraying him, his answer was simple.

“To put it properly, I’m Frosty and he’s the fake Frosty,” Hesson said of Butler. “He’s a great guy. He had to learn who I am, so we got to hang out. He really cares about what he’s doing.”

“Of Men and Mavericks”

Release date: Oct. 26, 2012
Cast: Gerard Butler, Jonny Weston, Elisabeth Shue
Director: Curtis Hanson
Writers: Brandon Hooper and Kario Salem

Bay Area Newsgerard butlerJay MoriarityLocalPeninsula

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