Paul Byrnes of Australian Screen describes "Crystal Voyager" - "as one of the most beautiful surfing movies ever made, and one of the most successful".
Changes - Thomas - Reed
Into the Blue
Red Sun Sea 3 Bobby Gibbert
Space and Time
After the unexpected success of Morning of the Earth, Albert Falzon and David Elfick were able to secure funding from the Australian Film Commission for another movie. The new movie would concentrate on George Greenough a Californian knee board rider who pioneered the earliest surf movie footage from the water. He was able to get this water footage by adapting a fibreglass housing to fit his movie camera.
"Crystal Voyager" followed on from "Morning of the Earth" with the surfer/traveller theme, but this time the subject of the film would be just one surfer - George Greenough an unusual and eccentric surfer and the son of a wealthy Californian business man. The movie focuses on the trials and tribulations of George as he attempts to finish making his yacht "Morning Light" on which he intends to sail off and find perfect waves!
According to Albe it was a difficult assignment just trying to keep the "hyper active" Greenough in the camera and he constantly interrupted Albe's filming to ask for assistance with one task or another in the process of making his yacht. Greenough's eccentric character shines through his monotonous 'voice -over' as he goes to extraordinary lengths to make things rather than buy them. At one stage he can be seen searching through a 'wrecking yard' in search of old engine blocks from which he would, via his own 'home made' smelter extract Lead to be used as ballast in the keel of his yacht.
It was very late in the production schedule of the movie when Albe Falzon & David Elfick approached G.Wayne Thomas to write and produce the soundtrack for “Crystal Voyager” in 1973. Given the enormous success of the "Morning of the Earth" soundtrack it was always going to be difficult to emulate. G.Wayne reluctantly agreed. The late timing made it crucial that he get started with the soundtrack as Falzon and Elfick were suppose to have the film finished for release by a specific date to fit with government funding arrangements.
G.Wayne Thomas still remembers George Greenough as a very unusual character. When they met to discuss the soundtrack album George supposedly told G.Wayne that "he had never had a drink of alcohol and had never had sex". This was quite a surprise to G.Wayne whose partying and carousing were quite famous at that time and more so considering that Greenough was in his late twenties.
Under these circumstances G.Wayne did an extraordinary job. The whole soundtrack was written, performed and produced in around ten days, with the help of the specially formed Studio Band consisting of Bobby Gibbert (piano), Mick Liber (guitar), Rod Coe (bass), and John Proud (drums) with assistance from Michael Carlos (keyboards), and Wayne sang and played rhythm guitar.
"Crystal Voyager" has been described as one of the "greatest concept albums of all time". G. Wayne Thomas was presented with "Best Soundtrack Award" in 1974 by the then Minister for Arts and Communications the Honorable Doug McClelland. (this Awards ceremony was a forerunner of today's ARIA Awards.)
"Crystal Voyager" was released on license by PolyGram on the "Warm & Genuine" label which was set up by G. Wayne Thomas and singer/actor Jon English. At the time PolyGram was installing a new computer system and sales records for an 8 month period were accidentally erased. However “Crystal Voyager” is reputedly the highest grossing surf movie of all time due in no small part to its sustained popularity throughout Europe, where the "hippy trippy" atmosphere that pervades the movie really seemed to fit the European vision of what surfing was all about.
The "Crystal Voyager" movie soundtrack features eight minutes from Pink Floyd's "Echoes" from their 1971 album "Meddle" (this Pink Floyd song is not included in the Crystal Voyager "Original Motion Picture Soundtrack" CD). David Elfick who would go onto to become one of Australia's best film makers, with films such as "Rabbit Proof Fence" and "Two Fists One Heart" as well as "Newsfront" and many more, showed his entrepreneurial flair by jetting across to London and tieing up a deal with the "Pink Floyd" to be able to use "Echoes" as the backdrop to a long sequence of "tube riding" that George had filmed with his very own head mounted camera! The deal let Elfick and Falzon use the song in the movie, while "Floyd" were from then on able to use the same footage as a backdrop to the song when it was played on stage. The visual/music combination becoming a feature of Floyd's stage shows from the mid to late 70s.
This sequence was to become the most talked about section of the film as it either completely enthralled the viewer into an "other worldliness" or completely bored them to death! At the time, it was so completely new and different from the surfing footage that had been seen in the American style of surf movie that it really captivated some audiences. This was especially so in Europe, where the film was apparently shown for approximately six months in London's West End to packed houses almost every night of the week. Its possible that the readily available supply of mind altering drugs at the time added a more existential element for the viewer.
The movie featured an amazingly talented George Greenough surfing on "surf mats" and kneeboards along the Californian coast particularly up around "Rincon" near Santa Barbara where George was joined by Australian surf legend Nat Young. The other surfer featured in the film is Richie West who also went on to star in the "Forgotten Island Of Santosha" with Joey Cabel. Unfortunately the ocean conditions around the areas where the surfing was filmed aren't anything like the north coast of New South Wales in Australia where "Morning of the Earth" had mainly been filmed, with its beautiful turquoise blue water. The lack of colour in the waves is quite disappointing, along with lack of quality surf to showcase the unbelievable talent of the protagonists. If Greenough had been as adventurous as he led us to believe he could quite easily have sailed south towards the perfect point break waves of the Baja peninsular just below California.
When George's yacht is finally complete the crew set sail to the Channel Islands off the California coast. Unfortunately the quality of the waves lets the film down, although Greenough's surfing on his radical "spoon" type kneeboard and Nat's fluid ripping are a feature of the movie.
Greenough kneeboard surfing was seen by many as the forerunner to the modern shortboard style. The main manoeuvre of this new style was no longer the "cutback" which for years had been the penultimate surfing move but the "tube ride" and the "re-entry" a radical attacking move where the surfer would gain speed from the "drop" down the face of the wave and immediately change direction straight back up to the top of the wave, aiming for the "lip" of the wave as it crashes down towards the bottom of the wave.
Greenough eventually moved to Australia where he still resides near Byron Bay and is well known for his radical political views, independent thinking, eccentric lifestyle and interest in movie making. According to all reports George still lives true to his beliefs in a simple and uncluttered lifestyle with a focus on health and natural living.
Grant Drinkwater 2011