Opinion: The Coast with the Most


Despite the many horrors confronting us on the regu­lar, Laguna continues to inoculate us from despair with her bounty of delights. November once again is delivering its distinc­tive brand of tasty – brisk, windless days where the glassy ocean and everything near it shines brighter. And Laguna’s dropping the cultural goods as well.

First, The Laguna Museum of Art pivoted spectacularly from past interactive installations with its eighth annual “Art in Nature” exhi­bition, flying the marvelous, multi­hued “Sunset Trace” high overhead. What a legacy and swan song for departing museum executive director Malcolm Warner, giving us a full 10 days to marvel at Patrick Shearn’s kinetic, serpentine wonder, billowing high above the Heisler Park promenade. And if that wasn’t enough to baste your turkey, we just concluded the second annual Coast Film Festival, a decidedly epic, yet monumentally Laguna affair.

The brainchild of Lagunan Ben Warner and his partners Enich Harris and Ben Classen, the fellas could have easily thrown in the towel this year amidst COVID-19, but instead found a way to scale it back and produce a hybrid affair of virtual and live showings, with the generous help of The Ranch. As Ben said, “People are yearning for human connection, and being safely outside for the screenings amplified the healing power of nature.”

Culled from hundreds of entries, the range of action and environ­mental films profiling the human spirit for adventure was stagger­ing. And even more stunning was witnessing how integral Laguna has been in the development and ongoing success of these genres. While Laguna is known for artists of the canvas and kiln, our artists of surf, snow and mountain culture are amongst the most prominent in the world. And this festival brought them all together.

First, the master of ceremonies was Laguna’s own Pat Purnell, a longtime action sports broadcast­er and current Host/Producer for Outside Television. On Friday the feature film was Barbara and Greg MacGillivray’s latest IMAX film, “America’s Wild.” On Saturday it was “A Life of Endless Summers” the story of pioneering surf filmmaker Bruce Brown, directed by his son Dana. This film had Laguna’s DNA all over it, profiling the many surf pioneers who lived and worked here, including Hobie Altar, Gordon Clark, Walter and Flippy Hoffman, and the indomitable Dick Metz, in attendance and regaling everyone with his stories ( and still riding dirt bikes at 90). And in a “only in Laguna” twist, local motorcycle and mountain bike innovator Troy Lee sat on the panel following the film to discuss how Bruce’s motorcycle film, “Any Given Sunday” was the catalyst for his career. Then there was Roark’s “Arc of Aluetia,” a surf film starring Nate Zoller. And film­maker Bushan Thacker’s intimate portrayal of Richie Schley’s extraor­dinary mountain biking career. Melissa and professional surfer Jeff Booth contributed with their “Locals for Laguna Beach” cam­paign, and the entire festival staff was composed of Laguna family and friends.

And of course, there was Laguna filmmaking royalty Barbara and Greg MacGillivray, makers of 47 films over six decades, sitting in rapt attendance. “I am so enthusiastic about the festival,” Greg said. “What I love to look for is great storytell­ing, as well as young talent as direc­tors, cinematographers, and editors. In the past many of our celebrated contributors were identified from festivals like this one.”

This homegrown production was thrilling under the stars of The Ranch’s first fairway. As Enich observed, “Seeing the connection made by people coming together to re-create these experiences is why we do this.”

“One of the most exciting things for me was seeing entire families sharing each others’ time watching these spec­tacular films,” Greg added. “It’s a great benefit to our community.”

So while we will be facing more headwinds in the coming months, our community will eventually catch the wind at our backs because of the great vision, heart, generosity and soul of the people who com­prise it. And also the weather.

Billy hosts “Laguna Talks” on Thursdays at 8 p.m. on KX-FM Radio. 

Share this:
View Our User Comment Policy


  1. I loved Billy Fried’s beautifully written “The Coast with the Most.” He gets the California-Laguna vibe to a greater extent than most transplanted East Coasters. I wonder why that is.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here