From the sound of it, teaching Reeves, Petty, and Swayze how to surf was a total blast. “It was like a big surf party every day,” Jarvis told Entertainment Weekly back in 1991. “The cast would report to my house in Hermosa Beach at the crack of dawn to try to absorb the soulful life-style [sic] of a surfer.” Each actor had different comfort levels in the water, even though they were all learning for the first time together. “They were basically all beginners,” according to Jarvis. “Patrick said he’d been on a board a couple of times, Keanu definitely hadn’t surfed before, and Lori had never been in the ocean in her life.”
Reeves had an ugly but stable “stinkbug” style — a term used to describe a crouched and splay-limbed surfing posture. The “stinkbug” look is a sure sign of a beginner that shouldn’t be competing for the same waves as more accomplished and generally more radical hardcore locals that will cut your surf leash without thinking twice.
Usually, an actor will exaggerate the level of their skills on their resumé, but it’s usually something like lying about being able to ride a horse. For “Point Break,” Bigelow entrusted the actors with doing as many of their own stunts as possible, a choice that gave a new intensity to the action scenes. The surfing scenes are magical, but most fans remember Swayze and Reeves jumping out of a plane without a parachute.
Dennis Jarvis still builds surfboards today, and even gave Reeves one of his custom-made Spyder boards after the original shoot. Reeves has said the experience of learning how to surf changed his life. If you ever happen to see him out on the water, check to see if his stance has gotten any better over the years.