He eventually bought a home just above the famous Rincon surf spot near Santa Barbara. He quietly observed when the movie “The Glass Bottom Boat” with Doris Day was filmed on his family boat in 1965. “I was hooked.” At the same time, he was intrigued when film crews came to the island looking for a tropical setting. “Someone had seen him surfing, and word spread in a little town like that in minutes,” Harrison said. “I was 15 years old and I realized what they were doing wasn’t a magical process, it was something I could do.” Harrison moved to the mainland and made a name for himself in television shows such as “Logan’s Run” and “Centennial,” then the series “Trapper John, M.D.” Meanwhile, his passion remained strong for surfing, and he traveled to places such as Bali, Tahiti and Australia. Some of the older men on the island got longboards, He was 9 when his dad took him and a few buddies to surf. “I remember the first wave I bellied in on a board,” said Harrison, now 66.
But it was the surf stars he was acting alongside on this movie, famous surfers such as Laird Hamilton and Gerry Lopez, who made him tongue-tied.“They were my childhood heroes,” said Harrison, who played the fatherly Zen character of Chandler in the cult classic. “I don’t ever get that in professional acting; I don’t feel that way any more. But I’m still a kid when it comes to surfers.” Gregory Harrison already was an accomplished actor when he was cast for the film “North Shore.”He was a celebrity often surrounded by Hollywood’s elite.
I was going to do what I loved to do already,” he said. He was 37 when a friend brought him the script for the role of Chandler in “North Shore.” “It seemed like a dream job. I was obviously right for it. It wasn’t a challenging role … “I had been surfing the North Shore for 20 years when I got cast in the movie. it was an aspect of myself that already exists.”In the film, a young, ambitious surfer named Rick Kane, winner of a wave pool contest in Arizona, heads to Hawaii to take on big waves on the North Shore. Along the way, he meets pro surfers including Mark Occhilupo and comes up against his nemesis, played by Laird Hamilton, in a surf contest.
Harrison grew up on Catalina Island, where his grandfather migrated to start a glass-bottom boat company. The 1987 film turns 30 this year, and Harrison will speak today at the International Surfing Museum in Huntington Beach as part of the new “On the Couch” series, in which Peter “PT” Townend, professional surfing’s first world champion, hosts a dialogue with well-known surfers. In 1959, however, a tourist came to the island with board in arm to ride waves on the south side of the small island, where only about 2,000 people lived. His father ran the boats, and he was in line to take over the family business.