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Retracing the Journey: Discovering Cape St. Francis and the Birth of Endless Summer

Discovering Cape St. Francis and the Birth of Endless Summer

The new documentary film Birth of the Endless Summer explores a pivotal but overlooked chapter in surfing's history - the discovery of the iconic Cape St. Francis surf break in South Africa by pioneering surfer Dick Metz in the late 1950s. Director Richard Yelland's film tells the story of how Metz's fateful travels and connections helped spread surf culture from its California roots to the burgeoning surf scene in South Africa during that era. The film recounts Metz's role in the origins of the classic surf film The Endless Summer and how his journeying planted the seeds for surfing's growth into an international sport and lifestyle. This fascinating untold story sheds light on surfing's early pioneers and the global spread of surf stoke.

Yelland explains that while Bruce Brown's The Endless Summer gets credit for finding Cape St. Francis, it was pioneer surfer Dick Metz who first landed there in 1958 after a 3-year surf journey around the world. Metz fatefully met South African surfing uncle John Whitmore, who showed him the pristine cape with its miles-long point break.

When Metz returned to California, he relayed his discovery of this untapped surf mecca to Bruce Brown. This inside joke between them inspired Brown's 1964 classic surf film showcasing Cape St. Francis. As Yelland puts it, Metz's South African connection exported vital surf culture from California and sparked a nationwide craze.

Retracing Metz's steps in modern day Cape Town and Cape St. Francis forms the living story arc in the film. Animations by Brian Rea and Pablo Declan visualize Metz's vagabond 1950s adventure. With Metz now 92, Yelland captures this lost history before it's gone.

Photo from Surfing Heritage

Photo from Surfing Heritage & Cultural Center//Dick Metz

After successful festival screenings, Birth of the Endless Summer saw its theatrical premiere on July 14, 2023. Yelland notes the film has resonated with surfers worldwide who love The Endless Summer and respect the pioneers who spread surfing across the globe. Stay tuned on social media for streaming and broadcast releases.

As a surfing enthusiast, I found Yelland's account of Dick Metz's forgotten impact on surfing's expansion to South Africa fascinating. It's remarkable how intertwined Metz's travels were with the growth of surf culture worldwide in the 50s and 60s through chance encounters like meeting Whitmore. I never realized Metz was actually the first to discover Cape St. Francis years before Endless Summer filmed there. Stories like this make you appreciate how pioneers like Metz, through their thirst for exploration and living the surf life, played a huge role in spreading the sport globally. It's amazing Yelland was able to capture Metz retracing his steps and preserve this story. I'm inspired to learn more about surfing's early innovators and how their adventures cemented surfing as a worldwide lifestyle. Pieces of our history like this deserve to be shared.


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