“Chasing Mavericks” bio of surfing legend Jay Moriarity


As a kid, Jay Moriarty loved to watch the waves. He timed the swells and figured out a way to predict the waves that will be good enough to surf.

When he is 15, Jay (Jonny Weston) asks his neighbor and surfing hero Frosty  Hesson (Gerard Butler), to teach him to ride the surf break known as the mavericks, the legendary gigantic waves off the coast of northern California. Frost reluctantly agrees but only if Jay will work a “program” while in training.

Jay’s father has left the family and his mother Kristy (Elizabeth Shue) is an alcoholic. Frosty’s wife Brenda (Abigail Spencer) begrudgingly lets her husband surf when he is supposed to be working or spending time at home but quietly asks him to stay safe for the sake of their children. When Frosty hesitates about being a mentor and father figure to Jay, Brenda sees what a good thing this is for both of them and offers the sound advice of a generous woman who sees beyond the challenges of the day.

There are four parts to mental, physical, emotional and spiritual “solid human foundation” program that Frosty leads Jay through before he can surf the mavericks, those 30-40 waves that can kill a man. The disciple has found a master.

“Chasing Mavericks” is based on a true story

Although the film only hints at the religion of the characters (a funeral takes place at what is obviously a Catholic church), a contact at Walden Media told me that both families are Catholic. And while some may think that the “spirituality” of the film to be more natural than not, I found it robust, beautiful, and very much like the Pauline spirituality of my congregation, the Daughters of St. Paul.  Pauline spirituality is all about integration and wholeness: the whole Christ for the whole person. Our Founder, Bl. James Alberione taught that the spiritual can only be built on an authentic human foundation, that is, the development of a good character, and where the mind, heart, and will of a person matures as a human being clothed in dignity and in Christ, in love, for self, God and others.

This inner oneness for self and the desire to be united with others encompasses the world and nature as well, for Christ is the head of the cosmos, and all creation is and will be one in Christ.

Certainly, this is not explicit in the film, but the framework is there thus offering audiences much to talk about.

Frosty required that Jay write essays about his inner thoughts and feelings and this was perhaps the most difficult challenge of all for the teen.

There are also the usual teen issues such as lying, bullying, and stealing. In the context of a conversation about what it means to have a good character, that is, to do the right thing when no one is looking, it becomes easy to talk about these things.

Santa Clara, the town where Jay grew up, remembers him still. He died in a diving accident about seven years after the events in the film, and marrying his childhood sweetheart. The motto “Live like Jay” can be found about Santa Clara.

He loved the power and majesty of the waves that drew him so strongly. I grew up a mere eight miles from the San Diego coast and surfing was in the air always. Though it never attracted me as it did Jay, I get it, just a little, of his commitment to the grandeur and mystery that he found irresistible.

“Chasing Mavericks” is inspiring and Jay’s life is an authentic, wholesome example for others.

Some reviewers are panning the film but I think it is much better than they are saying.

Frosty Hesson’s memoir Making Maverick’s The Memoir of a Surfing Legend came out on October 26,

At first I thought Jonny Weston as Jay was too sweet looking but after a while he grows into Jay and offers a believable performance. Gerard Butler is very good and the surfing sequences by both, who did their own surfing, are magnificent.

While “Step into Liquid” (2005) may have captured the pull of surfing giants better, in one relentless big wave after another, here the film tells the story of a unique young man that parents can see with kids and enjoy, be inspired. There’s a lot to talk about and it’s preachy-free.

I liked “Chasing Mavericks.”  A lot. You come away with the feeling that you just met some very special people who are living life the best they can.



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