Bunker 77 tells the story of Bunker Spreckels, riveting surfer, international playboy, big game hunter, spinning heel kick thrower, rock ‘n’ roll animal. The film teems with high-octane wave riding and colorful tales of this Zelig on a bladey single fin. I have been privy to the creation and realization of this project—the filmmaker, Takuji Masuda, is a longtime friend.
I have watched him work on, struggle with, become tormented by, nearly give up on, persist, find grace note, and ultimately nail this feature-length documentary. Takuji found his way into the story over a decade ago. Bunker’s biography spoke to him. It was less Takuji finding the story than the story finding him.
"The film is about our gauging and scaling how we ought to live with society... and aspiring to pursue who we are." - Takuji Masuda
“I was drawn to Bunker’s story because there’s a lot of misinterpretation,” he told me. “It’s hard to like a wealthy guy. People assume there’s so much advantage in being wealthy. But the same problems exist whether you have money or not, in fact even more so at the extremes. I went to boarding school, but I also had a different kind of nurturing and familial concept. People assumed I should have it all, but a lot of insecurity comes from not having the normal life. There were a lot of judgments made on Bunker, and I figured people didn’t really comprehend him. I wanted to explore this. I wanted to know what drove this guy to his demise.”
It has been said that the best stories for a filmmaker to tell are the ones that gnaw at them, that follow them around like a rock in their shoe. Through the work, the filmmaker learns about his- or herself. Takuji had this experience with Bunker 77.
“It was a very important story for me to tell, and reflect on who I am and who I ought to be. It raised the universal question: how do you live with expectations that society or family put upon you. As surfers in particular, this is a big question we all go through. We’re trying to gauge how much of the societal norms to accept, and how much of the frontier mentality to define who we are and who we could be. The movie is full of people who live on the most westernmost edge of the USA, and they’re very fringe and very big risk takers. They’re not living ordinary, conventional lives. That’s a big interest alone. We have a need to be recognized and acknowledged, and some of it comes from the guilt of abandoning, because surfing demands a lot. When you prioritize playing with the cosmos a lot is left unattained. The film is about our gauging and scaling how we ought to live with society and societal norms, and discovering who we are, and aspiring to pursue who we are.”
More about Bunker 77 here
---Jamie Brisick is a writer, photographer, and director. He surfed on the ASP world tour from 1986 to 1991. He has since documented surf culture extensively. His books include Becoming Westerly: Surf Champion Peter Drouyn’s Transformation into Westerly Windina, Roman & Williams: Things We Made, We Approach Our Martinis With Such High Expectations, Have Board, Will Travel: The Definitive History of Surf, Skate, and Snow, and The Eighties at Echo Beach. His writings and photographs have appeared in The Surfer’s Journal, The New York Times, and The Guardian. He was the editor of Surfing magazine from 1998-2000, and is presently the global editor of Huck. In 2008 he was awarded a Fulbright Fellowship. He lives in Los Angeles. For more of his work check out jamiebrisick.com & @jamiebrisick