Riding Giants

"Very Good"

Riding Giants Review


Unlike skate videos - often little more than advertisements for one company or another which can play on the background in skate shops or in some kid's basement, mostly unnoticed until the big bloody spill - footage of surfing (that other great California board-based sport) just demands the big screen, and Riding Giants is no exception. Here, Dogtown and Z-Boys director Stacy Peralta wants to show not just any surfers, but the "big wave riders." These are the most badass surfers out there, the ones who take on the monster waves that make mortal men shudder, riding down walls of water the size of apartment buildings, and if a little hyperbole gets tossed around, what's the big deal? The waves really are huge.

It begins with a peppy history of surfing, tracing its origins from ancient Polynesia to 19th century Hawaii, where missionaries secularized the sacred sport, and into the early 1900s, when Hawaiian Olympic athlete Duke Kahanamoku introduced the sport to Californians. Riding Giants really starts, though, with its look at Hawaii's North Shore in the 1940s and 1950s, where some adventurous early surf giants rode the massive waves at now-legendary places like Waimea Bay. Captured mostly through some talking head interviews with big wave legends like the engagingly vulgar Greg Noll and herky-jerky home movie footage, Peralta means for this period to look like a golden age - and he succeeds. The surfers captured here are carefree blonde rebels who couldn't care less about actually rebelling, they just want to get on the waves; the flip, fun side of the Beats, they chucked the 1950s status quo and lived a primordial existence at the end of the world, with no jobs and no money, catching fish to eat and surfing all day every day.

Anything so glorious has to end, of course, and the harbinger of doom this time is the coming of Gidget. From 1960 to 1965, surf fever popularized the sport beyond any reasonable means, theaters choked with cheap teen flicks in which perfectly coifed models stood on dry boards pretending to surf while massive waves were projected behind them. After bemoaning the loss of paradise, trampled by johnny-surf-latelys, the film has an elegiac moment, but decides to soldier on, and in so doing, loses much of its charm.

A tenuous jump is then made by Peralta, who springs into the 1990s by way of Jeff Clark, who surfed California's dangerous Half Moon Bay since the mid 1970s. The scene there blew wide open in 1990, with wetsuit-wearing surfers paddling out into the cold waters to brave sharks and the huge walls of water they could briefly and gloriously ride before risking being cut to pieces on the bay's sharp rocks. A final section on the newest phase in big wave riding - in which surfers on smaller boards are towed by jetski deeper into the ocean and detached so they can ride the previously unassailable 40-, 50-, 60-foot monsters - is not quite as inspired, simply because it seems more like an advertisement for that subsport's star (and, not coincidentally, a producer on the film), Laird Hamilton. Unlike those carefree North Shore vagabonds, the pros we see in the film's later sections are true athletes, for better and for worse, sponsored by giant companies and groomed for stardom. Admire their skill viewers undoubtedly will, but there's little emotional connection; if you've seen any of the recent crush of surf movies, like Step Into Liquid or Billabong Odyssey, you know what I mean.

There's always going to be an eye-glazing effect to documentaries of this sort, in which a small band of obsessives is paraded out to pontificate on the glories of this bay or that wave or that ride, but in the end that's no matter, because the surfing itself is nothing short of phenomenal. No matter how many times Peralta shows us a small speck of a guy barely gliding out from under a thunderous crash of whitewater, or a lost board spiraling helplessly up into the air, it can't help but thrill.

They might be giants, or they might be waves.



Riding Giants

Facts and Figures

Run time: 105 mins

In Theaters: Wednesday 21st July 2004

Box Office USA: $2.1M

Box Office Worldwide: $3.2M

Budget: $2.6M

Distributed by: Sony Pictures Classics

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 93%
Fresh: 88 Rotten: 7

IMDB: 7.9 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Producer: , , Paul Crowder, Agi Orsi

Starring: Jeff Clark as Jeff Clark, as Darrick Doerner, as Laird John Hamilton, as Dave Kalama, David H. Kalama Jr. as Dave Kalama, Brian L. Keaulana as Brian L. Keaulana, Buzzy Kerbox as Buzzy Kerbox, as Titus Kinimaka, as Gerry Lopez, Mickey Munoz as Mickey Munoz, Greg Noll as Greg Noll, Evan Slater as Evan Slater, as Kelly Slater, as Darryl Virostko

Also starring:

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Murder on the Orient Express Movie Review

Murder on the Orient Express Movie Review

The latest adaptation of Agatha Christie's 83-year-old classic whodunit, this lavish, star-studded film is old-style...

Paddington 2 Movie Review

Paddington 2 Movie Review

The first Paddington movie in 2014 is already such a beloved classic that it's hard...

A Bad Moms Christmas Movie Review

A Bad Moms Christmas Movie Review

Everyone's back from last year's undemanding adult comedy, plus some starry new cast members, for...

Brawl in Cell Block 99 Movie Review

Brawl in Cell Block 99 Movie Review

Filmmaker S. Craig Zahler brought a blast of offbeat creativity to the Western genre two...

The Death of Stalin Movie Review

The Death of Stalin Movie Review

Fans of the film In the Loop and the TV series Veep will definitely not...

Call Me By Your Name Movie Review

Call Me By Your Name Movie Review

Set in northern Italy in the summer of 1983, this internationally flavoured drama is a...

Thor: Ragnarok Movie Review

Thor: Ragnarok Movie Review

The most riotously enjoyable Marvel movie yet, this action epic benefits hugely from the decision...

Advertisement
Breathe Movie Review

Breathe Movie Review

While this biopic has the standard sumptuous production values of a British period drama, it's...

The Snowman Movie Review

The Snowman Movie Review

With a cast and crew packed with A-list talent, this film seems like it should...

The Party Movie Review

The Party Movie Review

Comedies don't get much darker than this pitch-black British movie, written and directed by Sally...

The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) Movie Review

The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) Movie Review

Noah Baumbach (Frances Ha) is on his way to becoming the new Woody Allen, which...

6 Below Movie Review

6 Below Movie Review

Based on an astonishing true survival story, this film is subtitled "Miracle on the Mountain",...

Mother Movie Review

Mother Movie Review

Darren Aronofsky doesn't make fluffy movies, and has only had one genuine misfire (2014's Noah)....

Blade Runner 2049 Movie Review

Blade Runner 2049 Movie Review

It's been 35 years since Ridley Scott's 1982 sci-fi classic, which was set in 2019....

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.