Toward the end of the í90s, King started spending more time on mainstream movie projects. Camera work he did on the big-screen surfing sequel Endless Summer II led to a job filming the water scenes for Castaway. Then came Blue Crush, a movie built around Kingís footage.
photo: Tom Servais
"One of the things I really liked about Blue Crush," he says, "is that we were able to show what itís like to be out there in some big waves, and what itís like to be a surfer. Sure, you can look at the film if youíre a hardcore surfer and say itís a bit corny, but we filmed some of the best womenís surfing at Pipeline ever."
Another memorable project was the opening sequence to Die Another Day, in which 007 and two other agents ostensibly surf a huge wave toward the shore of North Korea. In reality, it was tow-in surfing pioneers Laird Hamilton, Darrick Doerner and Dave Kalama riding fifty-foot faces at Jaws on Maui, replete with commando wetsuits, phony night-vision goggles and rubber machine guns.
Originally, the script called for two of the surfers to wipe out, leaving only Bond to reach shore. "And at Jaws," King says, "you donít want to wipe out. Itís definitely not something you practice." Nonetheless, he says, the surfers "did these incredible wipeouts where they almost diedóand in the end, the director wound up not using any of the wipeouts. But still, the sequence was really spectacular. That was a great job."
King is particularly proud of a recent project, Stacy Peraltaís big-wave surfing documentary Riding Giants, which this year became the first documentary ever to open the Sundance Film Festival. The film features Kingís footage of tow-in avatar Hamilton surfing sixty-foot beasts at Jaws. "It was one of the best swells there ever," King remembers. "Perfect, perfect waves, and super huge. Riding Giants is a really entertaining, well-made film, and the stuff we shot that day is some of the most amazing surfing Iíve ever been part of. It still takes my breath away."
While much of the work he does now for feature films and TV is considerably less adrenaline-inducing than filming a big session at Jaws or Pipeline, King says he enjoys the challenge of weaving shots together to fit a storyline. But most of all, he says, he appreciates that the work allows him to stay closer to his family. "Iím at a point in my life, with three kids, that Iím actually happier to be at home," he says. "I used to spend six months of the year on the road, but now I get to spend more time with my family than most dads, and thatís really precious to me."
King still daydreams about getting the perfect shot on the perfect wave. "The reason Iíll always want to film surfers on big, beautiful waves," he says, "is the feeling I get when Iím swimming in the surf. I feel like I totally belong out there, completely at home. Between sets, Iíll just float on my back, looking at the sky and thinking about what a beautiful day it is and how lucky I am to be there. And then the next moment Iíll be swimming for my life to get away from a wave thatís about to break on me. Thatís what I love, and sharing that feeling with an audience is my passion."