Riding Giants

I grew up in San Diego in the 1960’s and surfer culture was pervasive. It was just so cool, even if you never stood on a board (I managed to lay on one in Mission Bay once). It was always an endless summer, even for non-surfers.

Because I didn’t get to see Step into Liquid last year, I wanted to make sure I saw Riding Giants. The movie is a documentary that gives the history of US surfing up to 1948 in about two minutes and then documents the slow swell of the ranks of big wave surfers in Hawaii and California until the present day. It documents  developments in the sport to include tow-in and short board/snow board style surfing in order to ride the big ones surfers cannot paddle out to catch. Included in this history is the influence of Hollywood on surfing when, due to Gidget and other films, the number of surfers grew from 5000 to a couple of million between 1959 and 1964.

I thought it was an awesome film and I stayed with it right through the credits (do not leave; stay for the credits for some excellent interviews.) I had just seen the story of Laird Hamilton on one of the TV news programs and 40 minutes or so of this film tells his story, how he developed the more recent aspects of the sport and his tremendous influence on it. I was very interested to note that through Hamilton’s influence the sport has moved from being highly individual to a 3-member team sport because of the tow-in.

This is not a comprehensive film about surfing (for example, is there really only one female big wave surfer?) Laird is one of the producers, so it is personal for him. But one might say that’s OK, and rightly so. His contribution to the sport is controversial because of the tow in, but no matter. This is a film about being one with nature, in total respect and affection.

Impressive, stunning visuals, especially when Hamilton caught the big one in Tahiti.

Took my breath away.


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