Beginning in 1998 and spanning a 20-year period, Will Lucas copied old 8mm surf movies for his friends, a hobby that would spark a passion for documenting the pursuits of trailblazing surfers from America’s East and Gulf Coasts. He initially focused on recording content from those 8mm films, but as the effort grew, he went on to personally interview many of the early pioneers who kickstarted the sport for the region.
Lucas produced more than 200 documentaries on East Coast surfers and made them available to the public for free via his YouTube channel, surf64.com. Four of these films — Waves of Reflection, Surfing at Summers End, Atlantic Avenue, and Board Shorts — are considered classic surf documentaries for their detailed portrayal of a bygone era, when the sport was just starting to take hold on the Eastern Seaboard.
Lucas describes his impetus for the project: “In 1998, after commuting the Beltway for years and surfing on weekends, I left my job of more than 30 years in Washington to fulfill my lifetime passion for surfing. When most people think of a school bus, they recall the crowded vehicle that transported them to class in their early school days. But for me, the very thought of one awakens a pleasant reminder of the run-down school bus where I rented my first Hobie surfboard back in 1964.”
All those years ago, the Washington, D.C. native had no clue that a simple decision to pull off on a desolate two-lane road near 94th Street in Ocean City, Maryland would change the course of his entire life. Of his four feature-length documentaries, Lucas states, “There is universality in the message of these films that will hit home with any surfer, young or old. It’s kind of a universal story — the uncontrolled addiction to surfing.”
In the spirit of that sentiment, Lucas replaced the typical FBI copyright warning at the beginning of most films with, “Warning: the following video contains comments and pictures depicting older people who refuse to grow up. Riding a surfboard even one time can lead to a lifetime of addiction; viewer discretion is advised.” He explains, “This is a message that any true surfer can understand.”
Will Lucas passed away in 2018, but his passion lives on through his surf films. He was inducted into the Ocean City, MD Legends in 2005 and the East Coast Surfing Hall of Fame in 2020.
Photos Tom Dugan and courtesy Lucas family