Step Into Liquid (7)

 Copyright © 2003 by Tony Medley



 Step Into Liquid is a highly entertaining, but ultimately disappointing, documentary about surfing.  Writer-Director Dana Brown, son of Bruce (who wrote, produced, and directed 1966’s The Endless Summer), introduces us to Robert August, the star of The Endless Summer, now living in Costa Rica and still an avid surfer.  He introduces us to his dad, Bruce, also still a surfer.  We meet lots of people, all of them in love with surfing.  We even meet a young surfer who is paralyzed from a surfing accident, but still surfs with the help of his buddies.  We meet surfer girls.  We meet surfers of all ages from all over the world.  All have the same story; a life devoted to surfing is the highest calling because it’s pure enjoyment.

 Nobody in this movie worries about living a productive life.  Apparently all they do is surf, because none is ever identified as having a profession.  We see them surfing in Malibu, on Maui’s North Shore in Hawaii (where else?), in Vietnam, on the Cortes bank (100 miles off the coast of San Diego). They live their lives according to The Beach Boys’ mantra, “Surfin’ is the only way, the only way for me, so surf!” OK, maybe all these people are happy hedonists and maybe that’s fine.  It just bothered me that their lives seem so vacuous, just waiting for the next big wave.  Isn’t there more to life than that?

 I have the same criticism of this film that I had about last year’s Blue Crush.  The filmmakers missed another golden opportunity to explain the sport of surfing.  People are introduced as world champions.  One guy is identified as the best surfer in the world who has never won a world’s championship.  What is the sport all about?  How does one win a world championship?  How is competition judged?  It wouldn’t take long to explain what the sport is.  But this film doesn’t do it.  It also doesn’t explain what makes a good surfer.  Is it standing up throughout the wave?  Is it doing acrobatics while riding the wave?  Is it “hanging 5 or 10?”  Is it surfing in the curl? Why is someone the best surfer in the world?  Nobody explains anything.

 Despite all that, I thoroughly enjoyed this movie.  The cinematography (John-Paul Beeghly) is breathtakingly beautiful, spectacular shots of the ocean and huge waves, incredible camera angles, buttressed by mind-boggling sunsets. The people are all, ALL, attractive.  The music (George Acogny and Joe Fischer) is captivating and melds perfectly with what we’re seeing on the screen.  Simple-minded though it is, it’s wonderful entertainment.

 September 3, 2003

The End