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may 11

Movie Quest: Chasing an endless summer, finding a lifetime passion

A quirky movie by surfer Chris Molloy, 180 Degrees South, kicked off its world tour this spring. The film is a recreation of the now famous journey of Yvon Chouinard and Doug Tompkins, the self-proclaimed 'Conquerors of the Useless,' who drove from California to Chilean Patagonia on an extended climbing and surfing tour back in 1968.

If it sounds like any old hippie trip, it was. But, Chouinard and Tompkins were no ordinary hippies. Upon returning to the States, Chouinard began the outdoor brand Patagonia and Tompkins began The North Face. Then, inspired by the places they saw on their trip, the two put the proceeds toward conservation.

In some senses, that's the message of 180 Degrees South: Travel changes you, often in ways you'd never expect. The ostensible plotline follows professional surfer Jeff Johnson (and friends) as he drives, sails, hikes, and surfs down the Pacific Coast of the Western Hemisphere.

There is, of course, the requisite surf porn, with Johnson slashing up and down wavefaces in Mexico. And the requisite adversity: The 180 Degree South team shipwrecks on Easter Island after suffering a fearsome Pacific storm. But somewhere in between the breathtaking landscapes and wisecracking surf humor, the film makes its point—that places usually don't seem worth saving until you see them for yourself.

What places have you recently visited that you'd love to see protected?

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Unlike Hollywood movies, 180 Degrees South is a scrappy independent film playing only on select dates and in special locations. Check out the online schedule. If it becomes popular, the film will be featured in large moviehouses and via Netflix.

— Cliff Ransom

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Note:This story was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.

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