The late Santa Cruz surfer Jay Moriarity may soon be the subject of a Hollywood film. This according to the trade journal Production Weekly via Twitter. The word is that director Curtis Hanson has signed on as “helmer” to use Variety-speak, and that Sean Penn may play the supporting role of Frosty Hesson, Moriarity’s former neighbor and mentor.
Moriarity was killed in the summer of 2001 a day before his 23rd birthday in a free-diving accident in the Maldives. Until his death, he was considered one of the most talented and courageous surfers in Northern California, and one of the world’s emerging stars in big-wave surfing.
“From what I understand, it’s going to be mostly about his life, a feel-good movie,” said photographer Bob Barbour, a central player in Moriarity’s story. Barbour said that producers from Walden Media (“Bridge to Terabithia”) visited the area several months ago to discuss the project.
Moriarity established his almost legendary status by becoming one of the youngest surfers to attempt to surf Maverick’s, the famous big-wave break near Half Moon Bay. He was only 16 in December 1994 when he took on a 30-foot wave at Maverick’s. Barbour’s photo of Moriarity at the top of the wave, his arms outstretched at the very moment he lost control of his board found its way onto the cover of Surfer magazine and has become known as the “Iron Cross” photo.
But Barbour said Moriarity’s popularity was as much a function of his warm and unpretentious personality as his surfing abilities.
“I’ve dealt with literally hundreds of surfers,” said Barbour in a 2008 interview. “I’ve seen the egos and the whole thing. But Jay wasn’t at all like that. He touched everybody he met. He was a great surfer, but the thing I’ll remember is that Jay was an outstanding person.”
There is yet no word on the casting, shooting or release of the film.