Classic surf filmmaker revisits roots

I don’t recall when I first met Jesse Schluntz, but he made an impact on my life and continues to do so. He’s a driven artist, a perfectionist, perhaps sent there by that last name which doesn’t set quite right on the tongue — Schluntz, a sound like a $2 six pack left in the sun and shaken — a name that, no doubt, in the Germanic languages, translates into some water-based verb.
He was in high school when I first began seeing him around, too big to be a standout in the usually small North County waves, but far above average at his chosen activity when the surf passed overhead.
It was there, at San Dieguito Academy, that young Schluntz began making surf films with funky video cameras of the local standouts in the area. “Western Promise” premiered in the plush San Dieguito gym, where, for a buck you could view local boys Seth Elmer, Todd Martin, Sean Haggar and Chris Cote who filled the screen as riotous hoots filled the empty spaces and the sounds of pure pleasure broke forth from the back rows, compliments of the house.
Next up, the “TearDevils” series provided a bizarre marriage of surfing and heavy metal horrors where arms extended from the necks of zombie surfers, wipeouts were accomplished at gunpoint and saltwater mixed with blood as the undisputed Prince of Darkness himself, Ozzy Osbourne, hosted the best surf horror show of all time.
It was the thought of many of us that Schluntz would rise above a somewhat stagnant pack to become the top young filmmaker in the genre, with his good eye for waves and those who rode them. Perhaps it was a change of spiritual direction for Jesse that kept him from those coveted and extended stays in Indo, instead settling into a marriage to folk rocker Rheanna Downey, and an unspoken vow to the editing booth, where Jesse regularly and artistically pieces together images for clients like Fuel TV and Surfer Magazine, as well as projects like “D.O.P.E.” the award- winning documentary he helped assemble for me, adding his unique sense of timing to the unfinished pieces I brought to him.
Turning his heart toward faith, Jesse directed one of the top Christian surf films of all time, “The Outsiders,” before stepping in and assisting his old friend Bobby Ducharme in his autobiographical film “Can’t Keep Me Down,” where Bobby recaps his life, before and after being paralyzed in a surfing accident.
Marriage, a sense of purpose and inflation have converged to make Jesse far more serious these days than when he the filmed violent acts like barfing milk for skits in “TearDevils.” That said, he has not completely abandoned his inner whacko, and to prove it he has assembled the best of the “TearDevil” trilogy for a one-night stand at his alma mater, The La Paloma Theater. Emceed by one of the original horned creatures himself, the forever entertaining Chris Cote, and with live music provided by Thieves & Liars, “The Best of TearDevils” hits the big screen for one night only— at 7 and 9 p.m. Nov 5.
Advanced tickets for “Best of TearDevils” can be purchased through Buy tickets early, however — this event will sell out faster than a surfer mounting a wave check camera on his roof.


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