BY PATRICIA DRAZNIN
Did we really need another surfing movie? In this case, absolutely yes. A superb crowd-pleasing documentary that’s clever and fun, Riding Giants communicates the passion of surfing so genuinely that I left the theater wondering why I never tried it.
While other surf movies rely on cinematography, Riding Giants is driven by nostalgia. Archival 16mm footage dating back to the 1950s—mostly drawn from the library of surfing legend Greg Nolls—weaves the history and evolution of surfing into one entertaining sequence, punctuated by a sense of humor and great music. The film is laced with interviews with icons like Greg Nolls, Jeff Clark, and Laird Hamilton, who turned an unknown sport into a lifestyle, a culture, and a national obsession.
What’s special about this movie is the personal format that brings the viewing audience inside. We understand the mind of the risk-seeking surfer. We feel the camaraderie, the exhilaration, the freedom. We share the reverence for the ocean and the need to experience its power. We understand why surfers get depressed when the water is calm. And we taste the passion that makes surfing the driving force of life.
Director and skateboard legend Stacy Peralta (Dogtown and Z-Boys) felt that this film had to be made to showcase surfing in its proper perspective and to address the question of why people devote their lives to it. And a series of interviews with surfing icon Sam George, editor of Surfer magazine and the film’s co-writer, charges the movie with enthusiasm. His ability to communicate the thrill of catching giant waves and the dangers of wipeout are the backbone of this tightly edited film.
Needless to say, the photography is arresting, with its visions of the giant waves of Hawaii and California from the inside out. If Riding Giants doesn’t play in Southeast Iowa, be sure to catch the wave