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Riding Giants /

Rated: PG-13

Starring: Greg Noll, Dave Kalama, Peter Mel, Titus Kinimaka, Darrick Doerner

Directed by: Stacy Peralta

Produced by: Agi Orsi, Stacy Peralta, Jane Kachmer
Written by:
Stacy Peralta, Sam George
Sony Pictures Classics


Greg Noll in Waimea Bay, Hawaii for Sony Pictures Classics' Riding Giants

Surfers memorialize Mark Foo at Mavericks in Sony Pictures Classics' Riding Giants
Greg Noll and Laird Hamilton in Sony Pictures Classics' Riding Giants

     We’ve been through the drill a million times before; the waves, the quirky accents, the lifestyle. I loathe every bit of it; there’s nothing worse than sitting through and hour and a half of idiots not-so-elegantly gliding about ocean water. But, somehow, Riding Giants, which I attended on a whim, after glancing at glowing review after glowing review, won me over. Made by Stacy Peralta, who brought us the magnificent and stunning skateboarding flick Dogtown and Z-Boys, it represents a newer, fresher type of surfer movie. I’m in amazement at the fact that it has taken this long for a motion picture to be released that both film-buffs and water-basking dudes can enjoy, of this sort. I was losing hope on the quality of documentation of beach-dwelling folk, but Riding Giants has revitalized my interest in the genre. It may contain the convention, never-ending footage of wipeouts, drop-ins, and larger-than-life waves that is to be expected, but at least I can sink my teeth into most of its contents.

     The difference between this movie and the average surfing documentary is that Peralta embraces reality in its making. In Riding Giants, the possibility of the death of surfers when they are riding big waves is explored and analyzed. This opens up a fascinating concept. Are they really what we stereotype them to be? Could they simply just be meatheads who take a fifty/fifty chance at death because they have nothing else to live for? Or, are they seriously considering the risks involved, and making their decisions based on strong passions for their chosen lifestyle?

     Most of the clips used are derived from archival footage, but their assembly is flawless, and always captivating. Peralta talks to several people, ranging from average surfers to doctors to oceanographers, but his primary focuses are Greg Noll and Laird Hamilton. The former was the godfather of surfing back in its early days, and the latter takes the same title, currently. A variety of locations are also zeroed in on; Pipeline and Northridge consume most of the movie’s duration. And while they seem to be a little less glamorous here than in, say, Blue Crush, most of the shots serve as pure visual eye-candy, taking on entirely surreal and beautiful forms.

     The decisive ambition in Dogtown and Z-Boys, and now, Riding Giants, distinguishes Peralta as a true filmmaker, rather than a simple surf/skate enthusiast. I suppose snowboarding is the only popular extreme sport he has left to make a documentary on, but as long as his work remains creative and interesting to watch, I could care less about its subject. When all is said and done, a film that is simply well-made will usually always be able to win me over, and Riding Giants, without a doubt, is conducted superbly. It’s only sensible that I thoroughly recommend it, as a result.

-Danny, Bucket Reviews (7.17.2004)

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