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‘Momentum Generation,’ featuring Hawaii surfers, wins Emmy for outstanding long sports documentary

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  • Video by Craig T. Kojima /

    The "Momentum Generation," features Hawaii surfers who redefined surfing.


    Surfers Benji Weatherley, left, and Ross Williams reminisce under surfboards ridden in championship contests. The film “Momentum Generation” portrays their gang of teenage surfers on the North Shore.

The HBO Sports network feature film “Momentum Generation,” which chronicles the 30-year friendship of nine young, Pipeline-charging surfers who transformed their sport in the 1990s, was named outstanding long sports documentary at the 40th Sports Emmy Awards presentation at Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Frederick P. Rose Hall on Monday in New York.

The visually exhilarating and emotionally revealing 2018 documentary, which seamlessly interweaves archival and contemporary surf footage and interviews in a dramatic story arc pitting friendship against the compulsion to win, was directed and edited by Emmy and Peabody winners Jeff and Michael Zimbalist of All Rise Films, and co-produced with Priority Pictures in association with Robert Redford’s Sundance Productions.

“Michael and I are thrilled, it’s an unbelievable honor and confirming of so many peoples’ super hard work and sacrifice over many years,” Jeff Zimbalist wrote in an email Tuesday. “We had a blast last night with Taylor Steele and the producers and HBO family and are enormously grateful.”

Steele, a member of the surf group, shot the original raw, grainy “Momentum” surf videos and added intense punk-rock soundtracks that revitalized surfing as a pop celebrity movement embraced by disaffected urban youth. In addition to the music by up-and-coming musicians like Pennywise, Blink-182 and Sprung Monkey, “What was new (in the surfing) was the aerials, the tail slides — all those weren’t done before in videos,” Steele said.

“I couldn’t be more grateful for the movie!” said fellow group member Benji Weatherley, a North Shore resident whose mother’s rented home overlooking Pipeline became a clubhouse for the teenage surfers in the winter of 1989-90 and beyond.

The film also featured Kelly Slater, Rob Machado, Shane Dorian, Taylor Knox, Kalani Robb and Pat O’Connell.

“The Emmy is just the topping on the cake, as this will be a story that will be told for the next generations to come,” Weatherley said.

“Momentum Generation” is available for streaming on HBO Sports, and Steele’s “Momentum Files” is available on YouTube.

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