I was fortunate enough to attend the 7:30 p.m. Sunday special screening of Chasing Mavericks, which was shown at Regal Santa Cruz 9, after being filmed in Santa Cruz a year ago.
The movie stars Gerard Butler as surfing mentor Frosty Hesson and Jonny Weston as Jay Moriarity, the local young surfing hero who died way too soon.
To know Jay was to love Jay. Simply put, he always had a smile on his face and life was always really good. His piercing blue eyes warmed your soul. What was not always known was his struggles of life with a single mom and the absence of his father.
Jay would ride his bike up the street on his way to work at Pleasure Pizza on the east side of Santa Cruz. His smile and bright blue eyes always lit up the conversation. He truly saw the best in people, no matter what he always had a positive attitude.
Jay was internationally known for his famous wipe-out while going over the giant falls at Mavericks at 16-years-old, which made the cover of Surfer magazine.
So when news of his passing hit the Santa Cruz surfing community in 2001 it was the gut punch no one had expected. How could this have happened? Why did it happen?
Not too long after Jay had passed, Jim Meenaghan and Brandon Hooper approached Jay's widow, Kim Moriarity, and mentor Frosty Hesson, to bring the story to the big screen. Many other Hollywood offers had come in, but the duo would only participate if the real story could be told.
Years have gone by and here we were standing in line for the premiere of Chasing Mavericks. Over 300 cast, crew and loved ones made their way into the Pacific Avenue theater.
Stars showed up, including Jonny Weston, who posed with Jay's wife Kim Moriarity, and Harley Graham, who played the young Kim and Leven Rambin, who played Kim as an adult.
Local dignitaries included Santa Cruz Mayor Don Lane, County Supervisor John Leopold and Santa Cruz City Council Members Hilary Bryant and Ryan Coonerty to name a few.
It was an amazing opportunity to be surrounded by people that truly loved Jay and the extended circle of people who made Chasing Mavericks. The electricity was thick as big wave surfers, surfboard sharper's, surf photographers and Hollywood mingled with Jay's closest friends and family before and after the movie premier.
I had anxiety about seeing the movie and reliving that period of time. Losing Jay was hard on the Pleasure Point surf community and replaying it on the big screen definitely drummed up old feelings.
As the movie played out, I was put to ease that Chasing Mavericks had encapsulated the spirit of Jay. Jonny Weston nails Jay Moriarity, his bright blue eyes and impeccable smile made me feel like I was watching Jay himself on the big screen.
Too many moments I felt myself laughing and remembering pieces of his life and then other times choking back tears as I saw the story unfold with tragedy that I knew might have existed but were unsure. Immediatly I thought of Kim Moriarity and how this playing out on the big screen might affect her and I became emotional.
Frosty's charachter is strong throughout the movie, and while no stranger to grief, he still maintains his persona to provide the right of passage Jay so desperately needed. Butler perfectly played the strong-minded, emotionally-shielded Hesson who bonds with Jay Moriarity in the absence of Jay's father.
Throughout the movie you get the sense that Frosty is suppressing some past that has made him unable to be involved in his family, a fear he holds. As he prods his young surfing protege to understand the pillars of life, he encourages Jay to face his fears and not panic.
After conquering Mavericks, Jay traveled the world and died while free diving in the Maldives while on location for an O'Neill photo shoot just one day before his birthday. He left behind his childhood sweetheart and recently married wife Kim, it was a tragedy that has stayed with Santa Cruz.
There was some more good from this movie: Locals benefited by being employed as stunt doubles, surfing extras and casting. Santa Cruz Native Craig Comstock was the second assistant director while big wave surfers Peter Mel and Zach Wormhoudt had roles in the movie as elite watermen.
After the movie there was a small after party at El Palomar Restaurant with cast, crew and Jay's family continuing the remembrance of its prince lost too soon.
And in his death Jay Moriarity continues to inspire the community that he left behind to "Live Like Jay."
For more info on the movie visit http://www.LiveLikeJay.com