By Emily J. Weitz
John Beattie’s purpose in making “A Hundred Miles to the End” was to stay connected to something he didn’t want to lose. A surfer since the mid 1960s, Beattie had been on the water for over forty years when he had a stroke in 2007. Left with a paralyzed right arm and leg, he was unable to surf anymore.
“I couldn’t let it go,” says Beattie. “It was a part of my life for so long I just had to be engaged with it. So I went to the beach and started making YouTube clips.”
Some friends encouraged him to pursue it; they said the footage was really great.
“So I thought, ‘I can go back to all the places I used to surf and see what’s going on.’ I went to Long Beach and worked my way east to Montauk. To see the changes was really interesting, because it wasn’t something I had paid attention to.”
One of the primary changes Beattie found was the way surfers’ are received. When he was graduating from high school in 1969, being a surfer was rebellious.
“Surfers weren’t members of the community,” he recalled. “But now, surfing is so much more mainstream, and there’s much less animosity towards surfing and surfers. It’s grown a lot, and you can now go and see four-year-olds getting lessons, and people in their 70s surfing. When I was a kid, nobody with grey hair surfed. No women surfed. It’s become more transcultural and trans-generational.”
While Beattie is grateful to surfing for the many places it’s brought him, this film is an ode to Long Island.
“There are plenty of films about surfers traveling,” says Beattie. “But as far as I know there hasn’t been a video so comprehensive about Long Island surfing. This video is Long Island only, and it is made to share my love of Long Island surfing, to enjoy the places I’ve gone, and to make people feel proud to be Long Island surfers.”
The beaches of Long Island vary greatly, from the jetties and boardwalks of Long Beach to the cliffs of Montauk. But across the hundred miles, there’s a commonality among surfers.
“All surfers everywhere have an inexplicable love for the experience,” says Beattie. “It’s hard to explain. That first time you catch a wave, and you feel the surfboard lifting up underneath you, and it’s gliding – you feel like a bird flying in the sky. You feel the slapping of the board, and your mind comes into focus. It’s just you and nature.”
Beattie started filming “A Hundred Miles to the End” in the summer of 2010, and one of the greatest challenges he faced was actually meeting people, finding the best surfers in each area, and capturing them on film.
“When you’re watching the movie,” he says, “you’re seeing really good surfers. This is good, quality surfing. That’s another change I’ve noticed on Long Island. At any beach now, you can find world class surfers. You can find people who could go anywhere in the world and hold their own.”
In part, Beattie attributes this to the generational aspect of surfing.
“These are third generation surfers on Long Island,” he says. “These kids have somebody to look up to, like their dad, or at surf school or lessons. Kids are growing up in this world, and parents are passing down the love of surfing and the beach and that lifestyle. It’s not just about being cool… it’s because you love it.”
At this point, Beattie is just about finished with filming, although he’s leaving space in case a hurricane swell passes through and brings a new set of great waves. He’s also done most of his interviews, talking to three or four people each from western, central, and eastern Long Island.
“I ask them why they stay on Long Island when they could go anywhere,” Beattie says. “I ask them about differences across Long Island. I look closely at the different microcosms across Long Island, like the surf shops of Long Beach and the tight knit community of Montauk. Babylon is more spread out, and the surfers there are more the lone wolf type. In Montauk all the surfers know each other.”
Now that most of the shooting is done, Beattie is focused on the soundtrack. Long Island musicians are donating music for the movie, including locals like Dalton Portella of Montauk and Tom LaGrassa from Sag Harbor.
This film, due out next summer, is truly a labor of love. Beattie has spent all his spare money on good camera equipment and production.
“This isn’t about making money,” he says. “This is about sharing the world of surfing with my fellow surfers.”
Stay up to date on the production of the film at www.ahundredmilestotheend.com.