A Prince of Surfploitation RIP

poster of Beach Blanket Bingo

William Asher, Director of I Love Lucy and Bewitched has died. So what? Well, he also directed some ‘classic’ surfploitation films in the 1960s like Muscle Beach Party and the contender for two of the best film titles of all time Beach Blanket Bingo and How to Stuff  a Wild Bikini.

I have never knowingly watched any of these surfploitation flicks, but they all played their part in publicising the SoCal surfscene and attracting more people to the beach and surf, helping to turn surfing from an underground activity to the powerhouse of global capitalism it now is.

Should we celebrate or bemoan William Asher’s contribution to surfing? By many accounts his films weren’t classics and I doubt the London Surf/Film Fest will be featuring them in a major retrospective,  but who knows if they attracted some people to the sport who did make a valuable contribution that has changed it for the better  or even ended up influencing our choice to become surfers? I can trace my surfing roots to renting a board at Fistral Beach and perhaps the person who rented it to me moved there as a result of seeing Beach Blanket Bingo – certainly the surf scene in Newquay expanded massively in the 1960s.

I don’t know if William Asher’s films ever generated spin off Beach Blanket Surfboard or  Muscle Beach Boardshorts but I do know several surfers who ride Bear Fat Arse Wombat surfboards (one of them being err, me) which are spin-offs of mainstream surf film Big Wednesday. None of us would ever claim to be doing it because of the dodgy marketing (their current ad goes ‘Brands are temporary, History is timeless’) but because they are great boards for many waves.  Or maybe I’m deluding myself and I’ve been Muscle Beached to the hilt?

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