Sonny Miller: A Great Friend Who Lived Life to the Fullest

Sonny Miller filming in australia for the search. Photo Tom Servais

By Derek Hoffmann

Travelling around the world with Sonny Miller on The Search for Rip Curl was the best five years of my life. He was a legend- generous, encouraging, happy and always positive. We all had the best time with Sonny.

We had no idea how monumental those surf trips would become- we were having too much fun. It was before the internet, cell phones, and autofocus. We used 16mm film and were never 100% certain what we shot would come out until we saw the film transfers from Hollywood months later.

From there, the Betacam tape would go into the Sony deck, and we would watch Sonny edit tape to tape- old school. Miller was a great editor, and he created some incredible films for Rip Curl from 1992 to 1996.
Sonny always wanted to remaster and rerelease Searching for Tom Curren, which was the plan until he unexpectedly passed away from a heart attack on July 8, 2014. It was ten days before his 54th Birthday and six days after his mother, Suzanne Gilliland, passed. We will never forget that tragic day. I was in Nicaragua filming Survivor when Mike Prickett called at 2 am with the sad news. We were shocked with sudden grief. Our good friend, who we never imagined not being here to talk with or travel around the world with, was gone. It still hurts many of us today.

Sonny Miller editing at World Wave Studio

Sonny's father, Bud Miller, and his uncle Bill Gilliland asked us to help protect and oversee Sonny's creative work. It was a ton of stuff that took long days and weeks to load up and haul to a secure location. The sheer weight of the films, tapes, and slides was physically demanding- Miller had been shooting for decades nonstop. Moving Sonny's archive to a climate control storage was just the beginning. Digitizing and organizing the footage in a database has been challenging for the past five years, and we have only just begun.

Sonny Miller always smiling doing what he loved.

We honor Sonny with the 25th Anniversary release of his iconic film Searching for Tom Curren. We are grateful for the support of Sonny's family and many friends who have helped to ensure his legacy thrives. Sonny motivates us all to live life to the fullest, always smile and be happy. Your support enables us to continue to manage these archives and remaster more iconic films.

Visit the tribute site for more info