Long after graduating, the boys from the ‘90s New School continue to collect accolades.
Last night it was announced by The National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences at the 40th Annual Sports Emmy Awards that the film “Momentum Generation” was recognized as this year’s Outstanding Long Sports Documentary.
The film, directed by brothers Jeff and Michael Zimbalis and released by HBO Sports, details the unexpected successes of surf filmmaker Taylor Steele in the early 1990s and his crew of hyper-talented, charismatic friends that changed the course of modern surfing.
The idea for the project began six years ago, after Steele put together a reunion trip to the Mentawai Islands for the original Momentum crew. When the got back home, Machado and his long-time manager, Justine Chiara, realized they were sitting on amazing footage with historic implications, and that’s when inspiration struck to create a documentary.
“Momentum Generation” was released in December 2018 and is a behind-the-scenes look at how the pivotal VHS release of “Momentum” in ’91 came to be and the underlying relationships between Steele, Kelly Slater, Rob Machado, Shane Dorian, Ross Williams, Todd Chesser and a handful of others.
During the winter of ’89/90, Steele sojourned from his home in San Diego to the North Shore of Oahu to surf and shoot video. He lived in a rusted out van in front of Benji Weatherly’s family home at Pipeline. The two became friends and Weatherly introduced Steele to the cast of characters that had invaded his home, including Slater and Machado.
The waves pumped that winter, the boys were coming into their own, and Steele was there to document it all.
“It was this time in our lives where things were moving and naturally changing. It was really exciting. We were all at Benji’s house and it was the focal point where we all came together and grew up together,” said Slater at the film’s premiere in Santa Monica.
Dubbed the “Momentum Generation” or “New School,” they took to the World Tour, promptly dispatching the old guard of Martin Potter, Tom Carroll, Tom Curren and other ‘80s icons. Brash and fast, they took their performances above the lip and blew out their fins every chance they got.
Winning contests, making money, living the lives of bonafide surf stars, they ushered in a new era in surfing. And while the media played on their bubble gum camaraderie, in the shadows lurked jealousies and drama.
It all was brought to a head with the passing of Todd Chesser in 1997, the climax of the documentary. “Momentum Generation” tells the story of the rise to the top, but also what happened afterwards, how the New School boy band eventually broke up, and now, a couple decades later, how they’ve gotten back together.
“There is a lot to cover in 30 years, but as a director I was trying to figure out where they were leading the story as they conducted the interviews and put the pieces together,” said Steele at the premiere. “It was hard to switch from being behind the lens to being in front of it. I was nervous because we talked about being honest and saying what really happened and you never know what’s going to happen when you come out on the other side of something like that.”
Everyone on the red carpet at the premiere noted how they were nervous about the project and were unsure of what the finished project would look like. Now they all all have Emmys on their mantels.