‘The Westsiders’ provides gritty portrayal of Santa Cruz surfers

The Westsiders documents the story of the Santa Cruz surf scene through the story of a group of professional surfers.

Between all the beautiful sun and sand, it’s hard to picture there being a “dark side” to surfing, but Josh Pomer’s “The Westsiders” reveals this often-overlooked and under-reported aspect of surf culture.

“The Westsiders”, which showed this Friday at the Arlington theater as part of the Santa Barbara International Film Festival’s “To the Maxxx” series of sports films, follows the trajectory of a clan of Santa Cruz surfers in their rise to fame.

The documentary brings to life the nitty-gritty world of Santa Cruz’s Westside ghetto through the experiences of three best friends, Daryl “Flea” Virostko, Shawn “Barney” Barron, Jason “Ratboy” Collins, and their tough-love mentor, Vince “the Godfather” Collier.

This film does not steer clear of the bad stuff—Vince talks openly about his involvement in drug cartels and cocaine smuggling. Flea recounts the painful story of his own spiral into drug addiction, which almost cost him his life.

Things looked so bleak at one point, the film’s producer said that, “we were worried we would get a phone call that Flea wasn’t with us anymore.”

Some of the other boys face the deaths of family and friends, psychological issues, and broken homes. Through surfing, Flea, Barney, Ratboy, and Vince find a support network to help them through the tough spots in their lives, and to give them something to strive for. The personal hardships the boys face, mixed with their sheer drive and passion for surfing make this documentary a spellbinding tale of redemption.

“These stories aren’t stories that they [The Westsiders] talk about. We were very privileged,” the film’s producer said.

Flea, Barney and Ratboy went on to surf some of California’s gnarliest spots—from Steamer Lane to the 50-foot swells at Mavericks. They really put their handprints on the history of surfing; Flea won the competition at Mavericks a record three years in a row, which has yet to be beaten, and Barney invented the “Barney Roll”, an aerial stunt in which a 360 degree turn is executed inside the tube of a wave. Ratboy toured the world, and infamously out-surfed Kelly Slater at a local Expression Session in Santa Cruz.

“I grew up with these guys,” Pomer said in a Q&A session after the film, “I recognized from an early age that they had amazing talent, and I was moved by how well they surfed, how they helped each other out after Ratboy’s dad died. I hoped one day to tell their story.”

The movie was edited in Venice while Pomer was living in Santa Barbara. It has already won awards from the Newport Beach Film Festival, the Santa Cruz Film Festival, the Honolulu Film Festival, the LA Movie Awards, and the Portland, Maine International Film Festival.

The Westiders is about surf culture as family, and about surfing as a means of finding something more important than yourself, Vince Collier says in the end of the film, and this is something the film hopes to pass on to the next generation of surfers, be they Santa Cruz Westsiders or not.


  1. It’s a must see by surfer or non surfer. Four Sars