The Momentum Generation
The Momentum Generation stands tall as a tight-knit group of friends that rose to the very top of the surfing world, only to come crumbling down.
Every now and again comes a time when the stars align and give way to a breed of distinct characters that come together in order to form something exceptional and truly special.
Much like Fleetwood Mac’s 1970s unforeseen lineup assembly, the Momentum Generation made history by revolutionizing the sport of surfing during the 1990s.
What started out as some friends hanging out together and doing what they love soon became a global phenomenon that reshaped how we view surfing today.
The Momentum Generation was at the right place and at the right time. The so-called golden age of surfing was starting to take swing, and Rob Machado, Kalani Robb, Kelly Slater, Shane Dorian, Ross Williams, Taylor Knox, Todd Chesser, Pat O'Connell, Benji Weatherley, and Taylor Steele were not going to be denied.
An interesting thing is that most of these people knew each other or were friends way before they made a living out of riding giant waves.
Was it fate that brought them together, or was the small-town life fueled by violence and alcohol the catalyst for the communal surf group that they formed?
Whatever the case may be, the Momentum Generation became more than a group of misfits that were searching for their place on the edges of society.
It became a story of love, devotion, and perseverance. This group gave a lot of people hope that surfing was enough to overcome their daily stifle.
Although the Momentum Generation was riding high, it wasn’t long before things came crashing down, and the surfers were pinned against each other.
The problem with the Momentum Generation was that all of its members came from broken families and broken environments, so once the going got tough, everyone’s insecurities rose to the surface quicker than a breaking wave. The fact that they managed to stay together as long as they did is a minor miracle in itself.
It was the love of riding big waves and the gang mentality that kept them together, but once the media got down their throats and their safe haven—Benji’s house, which served as their main headquarters—got sold, they were left with no foundation and had to base their relationships on memories.
Even though none of them had started surfing in order to make a living off of it or pursue a surfing career, once things got off the ground and the prospect of becoming a successful and revered surfer seemed more like reality than a far fetched dream, that’s when this started escalating and spinning out of control.
Enter the Media
The Momentum Generation had a well-documented rise and fall, but what they managed to accomplish in the little time that they had together has rippled throughout the surfing world and popular media.
There are still whispers about them and who will make up the next Momentum Generation.
Naturally, when things were picking up, the group’s appetite only grew, and they set out to do a world tour and compete for world surf titles. They also managed to turn the heads of big-name companies and live out on sponsorship deals.
All of them wanted to be recognized as the champions that they were. The interesting thing was that even though they knew what they wanted and went after it, they couldn’t anticipate what the moment of rising to the top would do to them and the tight-knit group that they had.
Once they stood at the top of the mountain, there was only one way that things could have possibly unfolded, and they did.
There is ample video footage of the Momentum Generation members winning multiple competitions and breaking surfing records only to find that their next opponent was one of their own.
No Way Out?
Some of them wanted to pull back, take a step back and repose, and stop chasing the dragon. However, the money machine was in full swing, and they couldn’t simply quit cold turkey.
There were hundreds of people depending on them and their performance. The empire of broadcasters, producers, coaches, managers, and entourage friends wouldn't just part with their investments.
The Momentum Generation substituted the love for surfing with business and an opportunistic mindset, not because they wanted to, but because there was no way of stopping what they had brought onto themselves, or so they claim.
Nevertheless, some of them came to realize that without the fun and the love for the ocean and the waves, the whole endeavor was empty.
Burying The Past
Was there something that could have been done in order to keep the Momentum Generation going?
The group had quietly fallen apart, and most of the once inseparable friends had gone astray. Some of them, such as Kalani Robb, had enough of the whole circus and buried the board.
Robb wanted out of the surfing charade so badly that he started working an office job.
But that wasn’t the answer either.
Bridges had to be built, and relationships mended before the Momentum Generation could finally find peace. But could it be done? Most of the lives of the members had gone through drastic changes.
It wasn’t just them and their demeanor; it was their families, relatives, and friends. Some of their closest people have passed away tragically. There was no going back in that regard.
A New Hope
It took a while before the members came to a realization that they couldn’t turn back the clock and that they could never have what they once held sacred. It was time to pick up the pieces and build a new safe haven, one that would stand on the principles of the original one, but one of the present.
If there is one word that can summarize this tight unit, it's the word emotion. It was surf heavyweight Kelly Slater that brought it upon himself to bring the band back together after he lost his father to cancer.
This was the wake-up call that Slater needed in order to sober up, swallow his pride, and pick up the phone to reconnect with his friends.
After 25 years, enough time had gone by in order for the competitive fires to die down. It seemed like everyone was focusing on the good times, and they wanted to celebrate the times when they held each other as brothers.
Most of the core group made it back to Benji’s house, which now bears the moniker of Breakers, a restaurant owned and run by Benji Weatherley himself. If there ever was a full-circle story, this is it.
Professional surfing might be all about world titles, but the legendary crew of North Shore core members didn't have a world title to their names before they spent a lot of time together. They had a punk rock attitude and the freedom to go with it.
This is well documented in the tens of thousands of hours of private archives footage, tv episodes, and documentaries that have been made in order to give the general public a taste of what was really going on.
The Momentum Generation is more than just a story that ticks all the boxes of drama, survival, and life. It’s a story of lightning in a bottle, one that will surely never happen again.
Above all, it’s a story of what can be done and accomplished when your heart is in the right and the wrong place.
Sometimes all the wrong reasons are all the choices that you are going to get. Mistakes will happen; the important part is getting back in the ocean as one and moving forward to the next wave together.