2004 by Tony Medley
Although I body
surfed when I was a teenager, I never rode a board. Despite that, I love
surfing movies. This one is the best. Iíve always criticized surfing
movies because they donít explain the arcane sport of competitive
surfing. This film is not about competitive surfing, but it explains
everything you need to know about surfing. This movie is about the brave
Los Angeles men who pioneered riding big waves.
film starts with a quick overview of the history of surfing, starting
1,000 years ago and carrying us into the 1940s and Ď50s.Then we meet
Greg Noll, the Ď50s legend who really invented the ride of the big
wave. Apparently all these people were interested in posterity because
the film is rife with color home movies of Noll and his friends surfing
in the 1950s. After Noll started surfing in Southern California, he
heard about the Hawaii North Shore and in 1957 he and his buddies flew
over. When they saw the huge waves, they were captivated. They werenít
sure the waves could be ridden, so Noll encouraged them to paddle out
into the surf at Waimea Bay and tackle it. Successful, they stayed in
Hawaii to surf. They had no money and didnít make any, so they lived
as cheaply as possible, just so they could continue surfing the giant
waves. Noll continued going to Hawaii every year until 1969 when he was
the only one who had the courage to take on the biggest swell ever to
hit Hawaii, closing out the entire North Shore. At Makaha Point Surf,
Noll took his board and went out alone. He tells how he felt when he was
floating in the middle of the broiling surf, trying to decide whether or
not to actually try it. Noll eventually returned to Southern California
where he converted his love of surfing into a business of making
discovered Maverick, at Half Moon Bay, 25 miles south of San Francisco.
Although Maverickís waves rivaled those on the North Shore, nobody
even thought about surfing them because, rather than a surferís
paradise, it was thought of only as a navigational hazard due to the big
rocks and rough seas. But in 1975, 17-year-old Clark paddled out into
the unknown. For years Clark was the only person who would surf it.
After fifteen years of riding the waves there alone, he convinced two
other big wave riders from nearby Santa Cruz to try it and finally the
word spread. On December 23, 1994 all the renowned big wave
surfers showed up, and, on a beautiful day, tragedy struck.
The final person we
meet is Laird Hamilton. When he was four years old he met Bill Hamilton
and they bonded immediately. Laird took him to meet his widowed mother
and they fell in love. This is a story that is so compelling it brings
tears to your eyes. Bill was an accomplished surfer and his adopted son
grew up to be the best of all time. Laird revolutionized surfing by
developing tow-in surfing where, instead of paddling and catching a
wave, the surfer is towed in by a jet ski and put into the prime part of
the wave. The filmís final story is the story of Laird riding the most
storied wave of all time, with pictures of the ride.
The Gidget movie
series popularized surfing and turned it into a recreation for the
masses. Some of the big wave surfers tell of their disdain for what the
Hollywood surfers shown on film.
One of the things I
liked about this picture is the many detailed personal descriptions on
how it feels to be wiped out on a big wave. When you hear how it feels
to be thrown head over heel by the raging surf after being thrown off
the board, you begin to appreciate the courage it takes to try to ride
them. But in the end they all tell of the total enjoyment of the surfing
experience, which makes the risk well worth it to them.
All these stories,
and many more are told through personal interviews and stunning
cinematography (Peter Pilifian). Directed by Stacy Peralta, the film is
replete with color home films of surfing in California and Hawaii in the
1940s and 1950s in addition to the footage shot for the film. Whether or
not youíre a surfer, and Iím not, this is a donít miss film.
July 10, 2004