The limits of " The Endless Summer"

Making office jobs look unappealing since 1966

I never thought I’d feel silly reflecting upon my first-year dorm room posters. They were my pride and joy — a visual display of self-expression for anyone who crammed into my small room. My Katy Perry obsession was in full swing — and that year, she won the wall space popularity contest.

But the poster which sticks out most in my mind did not feature Perry favorites, like gummy bears or lollipop-turned extremities. Instead, “The Endless Summer” movie poster — a rather common choice for students at the annual poster fair — has passed the test of time. Now almost 50 years old, it still crowds the cinder block walls of dorm rooms across the country.

Have I ever seen the movie? No. Have I ever been on a surfboard? No. So why, you might ask, did I ever take interest in the poster for a 1966 movie about two California surfers travelling around the world’s warmer waters, searching for the perfect crest? The reason is simple.

The brilliantly colorful poster features three male silhouettes, poised like early Renaissance statues in perfect, effortless form. They stare out across the Pacific as they search the horizon and wait for “the perfect wave” — as the poster so simply informs you.

I bought the poster with absolutely no idea what that unique rush of adrenaline feels like, and with the knowledge I probably never would. After all, I spend my time doing much less interesting things, like shopping for candles and browsing pet adoption websites in search of cute puppies I can’t take care of. In spite of this, I bought the poster.

The poster, and film more broadly, has permeated pop culture and expanded past the niche of Californian surf-gods because its idealist message hums within all of us. You don’t have to own a wetsuit and you don’t even have to watch the movie to understand the appeal of a carefree, beachside lifestyle.

If we had all the money and time in the world, it would truly be possible to live an endless summer. We’d chase the warm weather around the world and escape from the cold as it encroached — beating Mother Nature and neglecting the reality of the four seasons.

But does this neglect to recognize “adult” responsibility? Could “Endless Summer” be perceived as running from reality, the expected life path of 20-something youths being to find an office job and settle down?

Upon my return to Charlottesville each fall, an ache for summer lingers in my muscles. Despite my enthusiasm for new class syllabi and weekend shenanigans, there is always a part of me which yearns for the laziness of summer. Even now, when most of us spend our warmer days as seasonal employees, the end of that job is always in sight. Our spare hours are spent in total relaxation mode, and we are not yet forced to be “real” adults, still carrying the role of “student.”

With that in mind, it seems limiting to posit that “adult” is a label only attainable through the acquisition of a conventional, settled career.

With graduation looming, the minute possibility of an endless summer is dissolving. Pressure to join the ranks of professionalism squashes what little taste of “endless summer” college has offered. The season still comes and the mood may lighten, but a sense of personal responsibility takes hold. Daydreaming about the first-year dorm room poster only brings a searing wave of nostalgia, spurred by the realization I won’t escape the binds of conventionality.

The free spirit mentality with which I identified four years ago now seems careless, even comical. My “The Endless Summer” poster has finally been taken down from the cinder block wall, carefully placed in a box labeled “retirement.”

Allie’s column runs biweekly Thursdays. She can be reached at

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