I’ve known Steve Cleveland for so long now that I’m not even sure where I first met him. Maybe it was in Hermosa Beach when we were kids. More likely it was a brief encounter in Maui in that epic winter of 1969. Bu it wasn’t until the spring of ’70 when he and some friends were taking a road trip from L.A.’s South Bay and we got to know each other.
Three years would pass before I again encountered Cleveland. This time he was living on Maui and making quite a name for himself during the bigger days at Honolua Bay. I was on my way to Guam, passing through Maui when I was robbed of my last cent and Steve and his lifelong friend, Allan Teigen, took me in. We bonded through my poverty as Steve helped keep me alive and loaned me boards for quick jaunts to Honolua.
He saw me off at the airport, gave me eight bucks, which was the only money I had when I arrived in Guam. After a few days I settled into Guamanian life and found a house and some waves worth writing home about. Not perfection, but warm water and decent reefs without much of a crowd. I wrote to Steve and he joined me there for a few months.
From Guam I flew to Australia, New Zealand, Fiji and Western Samoa and the next 18 months redefined my life. Years passed when in 1990 I again encountered Steve, this time living with his wife Susan and their son, Trevor. Longboarding was on its way, coming back into fashion and we decided to do a film on that subject.
The result was the first new longboard video called “On Safari To Stay,” featuring two unknown surfers, Joel Tudor and Robert “Wingnut” Weaver. The other surfers in the film, including Donald Takayama and Skip Frye, were well-established at the time.
After that project, Steve and I went our separate ways again, me into writing about surfing and he into the surf film business. That was 22 years and four films ago.
Yesterday I got a DVD in the mail. The cover was as artsy and (intentionally) misleading as the name, “A Paradigm Shift.” I won’t spoil the beginning or the ending, which are brilliantly artistic, but I will say that the surfing and the waves encountered will make anyone that stands on wax, salivate saltwater.
There’s a hefty amount of longboarding. Not just any longboarding, but appearances by the world’s best including: Alex Knost, Ryan Burch, Dane Peterson, CJ Nelson, Jail Lee, Kassia Meador, Chris Del Moro, Jan Eessel, Tyler Warren and “On Safari” co-star Joel Tudor.
Tudor, who was 14 when we first filmed him, is now the tribal elder of the gang. Nonetheless, he still manages the cleanest, most natural style among this or any group. While a cool wave of color all its own, the film’s driving soundtrack accentuates the stoke.
“Paradigm” fulfills what the best surf movies do; it makes you want to rise early and ride waves while new music echoes in your head.
“A Paradigm Shift” premiers at 7 and 9 p.m. May 24 at La Paloma Theater in Encinitas. Lotsa surf stars, giveaways and pure stoke will be on hand.