Under the Boardwalk (USA, 1988)

At the height of the resurgence of the surf film comes this Romeo and Juliet story featuring a funny performance from lead star Keith Coogan.

It is the last weekend of the summer and there is a major competition set to hit the waves. The two top surfers come from opposite sides of the track. Reef Yorpin is the locals’ champion while Nick Rainwood is the valley’s current champ. Nick is planning to go out on a high when he retires to go to college after the competition. Reef plans to make sure it never happens. One night is destined to change things when Nick meets Ally, Reef’s sister, at a pre-tournament beach party.

Add to the mix Andy, Reef and Ally’s cousin from the Midwest who is spending his last weekend with them before he goes off to the military. When the valleys and locals find themselves at constant odds with each other, the police show up and Andy finds himself constantly at the wrong place at the wrong time. However, while in jail, he meets Gitch, a female surfer with a fireball attitude. The two soon hit it off and as the competition heats up, Reef, Nick, and Gitch are in contention to win the crown that will put an end to the summer.

This is quite an interesting surfing film as it is actually told in a flashback. It is believed that possibly an earthquake has devastated California. Then again, it’s 2008 and we are well past that. The film then takes us to the 1980s, where we are treated to a Romeo and Juliet-style romance between a surfer from the valley and a girl from the local tracks.

While Keith Coogan gets top billing as the nerdish Andy, the focus of the film is more on the characters of Nick and Ally, played by Richard Joseph Paul and Danielle von Zernick. While Ally doesn’t want to date any more surfers, she finds Nick to be different than the rest. Nick is more than a surfer, but going to Stanford, a top college while Ally has dreams to be an artist and hope to go to Paris to live her dream. However, there are some factors that threaten their romance and that comes in the forms of the constant rivalries between the locals and the valley guys.

Steve Monarque churns in an excellent performance as antagonist Reef, the local who constantly draws the ire of Nick’s buddies while Backwash, played by Wallace Langham, has this major cursh on Ally and somewhat seems like a creepy stalker when it comes to the character. Christopher Rydell’s Tripper tends to be the catalyst and puts the Vals as scapegoats for his mistakes. Meanwhile, Brian Wimmer is Cage, the level-headed member of the locals who knows he can’t convince Nick to stay on the waves and ultimately respects him.

Hunter von Leer also pulls in a wonderful performance as Midas, the owner of the surf shop where Nick works and becomes a mentor to him while Roxana Zal provides some comic relief and great chemistry with Coogan as “Gitch”, a female surfer in constant trouble but helps Andy overcome his shyness. Finally, there’s Tracey Walter as a hermit who hangs around the beach and like Midas, helps provide Nick with advice like a spiritual sage.

Under the Boardwalk is a pretty good Romeo and Juliet-style surfing film highlighted by an interesting flashback story and some great performances by the young cast.

WFG RATING: B+

A New World Pictures production in association with Chanin Blackwell Productions. Director: Fritz Kiersch. Producers: Gregory S. Blackwell and Steven H. Chanin. Writers: Robert King and Robert Irmas. Cinematography: Don Burgess.

Cast: Keith Coogan, Danielle von Zernick, Richard Joseph Paul, Steve Monarque, Roxana Zal, Hunter von Leer, Brian Wimmer, Stuart Fratkin, Brett Marx, Christopher Rydell, Wallace Langham, Megan Gallivan, Elizabeth Kaitan.

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