Who is the Momentum Generation?

September 22, 2020 | Surfing
Momentum Generation: a group of professional surfer that marked the golden age of surfing

The Momentum Generation is the name given to a tight-knit group of professional surfers that marked an era in the sport.

In the early 1990s, a new school crew of surf stars started hanging out together in a small house on the North Shore of Oahu, in Hawaii.

The core members of this tribe were Kelly Slater, Shane Dorian, Rob Machado, Kalani Robb, Ross Williams, Benji Weatherley, Taylor Knox, Todd Chesser, Pat O'Connell, and Taylor Steele​​.

Some of the members of the so-called Momentum Generation were friends since they were 12 years old. And there were several common elements together.

"We found a lot of things that were missing in family, in our group," explained Pat O'Connell.

Domestic violence and alcoholism had been part of their lives as children. But at Benji's house, they were a positive brotherhood.

The house was incredibly inclusive and open to all surfers.

They would stay overnight and use every inch of available bed, couch, and floor space to rest and replenish energy for another epic day of surfing.

They were a symbol of camaraderie and were always pushing each other beyond just going out and having fun.

They were also riding the best and the biggest waves and making a name for themselves in the history of surfing.

Despite being young and wild at heart, the Momentum Generation took surfing seriously and approached professionally.

"It was our bond as a family that enabled us to become as successful as we did," added Rob Machado.

In the 1990s, professional competitive surfing was living its glorious moments.

In the golden age of surfing, winning contests was a serious business, and it was only a matter of time before the Momentum Generation was pitted against themselves.

In 1994, Benji's house owner offered to sell the property to the Weatherleys for $300,000.

The family didn't have the money and had to move out in 1996.

Momentum Generation: Kelly Slater, Shane Dorian, Rob Machado, Kalani Robb, Ross Williams, Benji Weatherley, Taylor Knox, Todd Chesser, Pat O'Connell, and Taylor Steele​​ were some of the members of this legendary surf crew | Photo: Momentum Generation

Lost Soldier

One year later, the Momentum Generation lost its first soldier.

On February 13, Todd Chesser paddled out with Aaron Lambert and Cody Graham at Outside Alligator Rock.

Two hours later, the fearless charger drowned after getting caught inside by a massive 25-foot set.

The Floridian was a key figure in pushing his friends into bigger and heavier waves. Every winter season, he would persuade the group to paddle out at Pipeline and step up their game.

However, the lineup was dominated by a heavy local crew that got all the best waves and imposed a tense atmosphere.

But the young guns had a plan - if they stayed together and yelled loudly, they would get their share of waves and, sooner or later, be accepted.

Momentum Generation: they had to earn the right to surf Pipeline | Photo: Momentum Generation

Celebrations and Rivalries

Despite being opponents while wearing a jersey, the Momentum Generation celebrated victories in grand fashion.

When Kelly Slater won his maiden ASP World Tour title, the boys wrapped a blanket around, forced him to put a pink helmet on, stuffed him into a plastic trash can, and rolled him down a steep hill.

Ross Williams and Shane Dorian had a curious rivalry story - they were often seeded in the same heats and had the same sponsors.

Despite being close friends, Slater and Machado also had their disputes in surfing competitions.

In 1995, they were battling for a world title. At the Pipe Masters, the duo met in the semifinal, and the scenario was dramatic.

If Rob won the heat, he would win his maiden world title; if Kelly won, he could be crowned world champion if he won the final.

With minutes on the clock, Slater had a slight advantage over his friend, but Machado was focused and determined to beat his pal.

Then, all of a sudden, Rob finds the exit on a perfect barrel and sees Kelly paddling toward the lineup.

Slater raises his hand, expecting a high-five, Machado salute his opponent and hands over the priority to the Floridian, who end up winning the heat and the world title.

The Taylor Steele Factor

In 1992, San Diego filmmaker Taylor Steele made his debut in the VHS world with "Momentum," a 40-minute movie fueled by his friends' waves.

The film was shot in Hawaii, California, and Mexico and had a soundtrack filled with punk rock and hardcore bands like Bad Religion, Offspring, and Pennywise.

The raw collection of short, high-energy surf segments was a huge success among the under 20s, selling more than 15,000 copies.

"Momentum" influenced up-and-coming surf movie directors and gave birth to 1993's "Momentum II."

But Steel's labor of love also boosted the athletes' visibility and reputation as prolific surfers, and that is a variable that is often forgotten.

Momentum Generation: the movie by Michael and Jeff Zimbalist won the 'Outstanding Long Sports Documentary' trophy at the 2019 Sports Emmy Awards | Photo: Momentum Generation

Momentum Generation: The Movie

In 2018, Michael and Jeff Zimbalist shot "Momentum Generation," a film that gathers nearly all members of the talented legendary collective.

The 103-minute documentary features interviews, stories, and never-before-heard details about the good old days when surfing was the epicenter of their world.

"Momentum Generation" showcases the incredible sacrifices and outstanding achievements the group had, and their influence on past, present, and future generations of wave riders.

It shows how pure friendships can help build careers and develop engaging, positive, and influential personalities.

Some of the members of the Momentum Generation went on to win world titles, big wave surfing trophies; others kept connected to the surf industry in one way or another.

The filmmakers were granted access to private home videos and photo archives that help the viewer understand the complex web of relationships and emotional ties that made this group who they are today.

"Momentum Generation" won the "Outstanding Long Sports Documentary" trophy at the 2019 Sports Emmy Awards.

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