ACTOR JONNY WESTON describes his training for his role in the film “Chasing Mavericks,” which opens Oct. 26. Photo by Daniel Green.

In the original version of this story, Jonny Weston was quoted as saying, “The only people that don’t make it are the people that don’t quit,” when his quote should have read “The only people that don’t make it are the people that quit.”  City on a Hill Press apologies for this misquote which is corrected in the version below.

It is difficult to pinpoint what first exalts the crooning heart — is it the swimming blue eyes, the slightly sensuous smirk or the perfectly tousled hair? Regardless of how, Jonny Weston is well on the way to becoming teen America’s next great heartthrob.

Chiseled abs and laid-back charm, Weston stars opposite Gerard Butler, Leven Rambin and Elisabeth Shue in the surf-drama, “Chasing Mavericks.”

Weston plays the 16-year-old Santa Cruz hero, Jay Moriarty, who was first propelled into surf stardom when his Mavericks Surf Contest wipeout made the cover of Surfer Magazine in 1995.

Moriarty was more than just a well-known water-sport enthusiast. As his friends and family can attest, he inspired a generation of surfers in a time when drugs and rivalries still ruled the sport.

Since Moriarty’s death in 2001, the theme “Live like Jay” has resonated throughout the surf world. As of Oct. 26, it will continue to do so in theaters nationwide.

Weston sat down with City on a Hill Press (CHP) before a special screening for cast and crew on Sunday, Oct. 21.


CHP: What do you think Jay Moriarty meant to the Santa Cruz community?

Weston: I think he was an inspiration toward living a positive life, because a lot of the surfing community is full of anxiety and drugs and aggression. He was kind of a little glimpse of hope that people can be powerful and ultra good, charging surfers and not be assholes.

CHP: It does seem like there was a lot of love for him in the community, do you identify with him as a person?

Weston: Yeah, absolutely, and I did from the start. For me, connecting with Jay was less about his physical mannerisms, and those kinds of things that I think a lot of actors focus on. It was about finding out his spirit and inhabiting his spirit … It was important for me to find that.

CHP: What characteristics specifically did you identify with?

Weston: His aggression and complete drive to just be the best at something and meanwhile supporting everyone around you to be as good as they can be, as well. People who are excellent at something want to cut people down around them so they remain in that spot and you know how Jay was, somebody catches a wave and he’s more stoked about that than the wave he caught.

CHP: How did this role compare to past ones? 

Weston: This is totally different than anything I’ve ever done; it’s more personal. I had a responsibility to make this character have a change of life within an hour and a half and to display every part of his spirit … I invested my entire being into it.

CHP: You surf. What does surfing mean to you?

Weston: I go surfing in the morning and the rest of the day has more meaning to me.

CHP: When you were in Santa Cruz, shooting and working, did the city and the people have any influence on you?

Weston: Yeah, I explored the hell out of this town. I mean, I lived here for four months. Me and my co-stars, Leven and Gerard, we traveled all around and checked out all the bars. I was getting as close to the people as I possibly could because, what’s the point of living somewhere and being a part of something if you’re not going to do it 100 percent?

CHP: What would you want the Santa Cruz students and locals to take away from the film?

Weston: I hope that they just feel that Jay’s legend has been reborn and spread across America properly. That’s all I hope, that he was brought back to life in the most honest, authentic and heartfelt way.

CHP: Do you have any advice for students who want to take a similar career path that you did?

Weston: The only people that don’t make it are the people that quit. For some people it takes years and years. Sometimes you have to starve.

CHP: Have you starved? How did that experience shape you?

Weston: I was homeless for a little while in New York City. It changed my life. With every extreme experience you have, you reevaluate what’s important in your life. I’m getting close to figuring out what I actually care about — I still don’t know.

CHP: What does Jay’s life and story say about diving headlong into what you love and going for it?

Weston: Well, I had that in my blood before I studied Jay. It’s one of the first things that connected me to him, his relentless search for goals, I think that’s an amazing trait. I think that everyone has that in them but are you willing to go that far to get what you want?