Remembering Point Break’s Iconic Oregon-Shot Ending on its 30th Birthday
When our elders say, “Remember queer history,” what they mean is, “Never for as long as you live forget the scene in Point Break where Patrick Swayze looks Keanu Reeves in the eyes and says ‘You want me so bad it’s like acid in your mouth’ before jumping out of a plane.”
Directed by a pre-Hurt Locker Kathryn Bigelow, Point Break is a high-octane bro opus that bursts at the seams with delicious camp. Reeves plays a football star-turned-FBI agent named Johnny Utah. Swayze, in a Reagan mask, hurtles a live dog at Reeves to evade capture. Gary Busey is around. For the unfamiliar, here’s the gist: Special agent Utah hits LA to track down and thwart a ring of incredibly successful bank robbers. They turn out to be a surfer gang led by Swayze’s charismatic Bodhi, from whom an undercover Utah learns to surf (and love?).
Less often discussed than Point Break’s homoerotic undertones is the fact that a chunk of the California-focused film was shot in Oregon. Most notably its closing scene, where Cannon Beach’s Ecola State Park stands in for Australia, and Utah and Bodhi have a rain-soaked showdown.
In honor of the film's 30th anniversary (it hit theaters on July 12, 1991), I called up my good friend Zach, who recently learned to surf while he was living in Australia, and asked him to help me break down the film's ending. Zach has never seen Point Break, but he did briefly hold the world record for fastest mile run while juggling (here's a video about it). He's also my only friend who surfs, I think.
Here's how it went.
CONNER: Have you ever seen the movie Point Break before?
What do you think it might be about?
I think it's about—I know it's about surfing. I know it is set in Australia? And I know there's some sexy stuff that happens. And that's it.
How long have you been surfing?
I learned to surf in Australia, and I've been surfing for about a year now.
Would you consider yourself a surfing expert?
[At this point, we synced up our video to 1:50:14, counted down from three, and hit play. I put myself on mute. Zach was free to respond to what he saw. He mostly kept quiet, except to laugh from the depths of his diaphragm and say "no one would surf in these conditions, they wouldn't even think about it" at the first shot of the massive wave that Patrick Swayze eventually surfs, and to say "ohhhhhhh yeah" when Reeves tells Swayze to "vaya con díos." We reconvened when the credits began.]
Alright, now that we've seen the end of the film, what would you say Point Break is about?
So Point Break is about a man chasing someone. I'm gonna go with an FBI agent, or some cop. And he's chasing a surfer who's done some crimes. And he finds him because he knew he'd be at some big swell.
How do you feel about the fact that the FBI agent's legal name is Johnny Utah?
I'm obsessed with it.
Do you think this scene was shot in Australia?
100 percent no. The beach and the waves are definitely shot at different places, too. (*He's right about this, the waves were shot on various beaches in Oahu, Hawai'i)
How do you know it's not Australia?
I think I knew it wasn't beforehand, so I'm using an educated guess. But also, beaches in Australia—that [situation where it's] woods and then beach, I've never seen that exist anywhere in Australia. That just does not exist anywhere but the coast of Oregon, which is where I believe this movie was shot.
OK yeah, so this was shot in Cannon Beach, Oregon. Most of the movie is set and shot in California, but at the end, they go to Australia, and inexplicably, they chose to make Cannon Beach Australia.
I feel like this movie was made for Californians, so they were like, 'We need somewhere that looks foreign, but we're not gonna go to Australia.’ So they went to Oregon.
In what ways did this clip mimic your experience surfing in Australia?
In zero ways.
Has anybody ever said "Vaya con díos" to you right before you went out and caught a wave?
No but I've said that to someone else, outside the context of surfing, and for that, I'm ashamed.
Based on the clip that we've just seen, would you say Keanu and Patrick in this movie have more or less sexual tension than you and I have in real life?
Hmmmmmmm. Just the struggle in the water—we've never done that, so it's a step above for sure.
Who's the Patrick and who's the Keanu?
I think I'm the Keanu, but I want to be the Patrick, and you're the Patrick, but you want to be the Keanu.
That's really insightful. OK, so you briefly held the world record for fastest mile run while juggling. At one point in this film, in a scene we did not see, Patrick Swayze picks up a live dog and throws it at Keanu Reeves to evade capture. Given your history with lobbing objects in the air mid-stride, do you think you could pull that off?
No, I don't think I would do that to a dog.
Right, but could you?
Could I physically throw a dog?
I'd like to think I could.
Do you think this movie ends happily?
I feel like yes, because he got to die doing what he loved. But he did die, so that's sad. And they didn't get to fuck. At least that I know of? Maybe they did throughout the movie, but we didn't get to see any of that just now. So in that sense, no. Self-fulfillment, yes, but in a modern film, there would have been more gay sex at the end. (*He's wrong about this: there is no gay sex in the terrible 3D 2015 remake starring Edgar Rámirez)
Alright, that's everything I have for you. Thanks for doing this.
Thank you for having me. Imagine your favorite painter asks you to be involved in their paint. This is how I feel right now.
You're my Mona Lisa.