Search - Surfwise: The Amazing True Odyssey of the Paskowitz Family on DVD

Surfwise: The Amazing True Odyssey of the Paskowitz Family
Surfwise The Amazing True Odyssey of the Paskowitz Family
Actors: Juliette Paskowitz, David Paskowitz, Jonathan Paskowitz, Abraham Paskowitz, Israel Paskowitz
Director: Doug Pray
Genres: Indie & Art House, Documentary
R     2008     1hr 33min

Legendary surfer, Dorian "Doc" Paskowitz, abandoned a successful medical practice to withdraw from the lifestyle of mainstream America. But unlike other American searchers such as Thoreau and Kerouac, Paskowitz took his w...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: Juliette Paskowitz, David Paskowitz, Jonathan Paskowitz, Abraham Paskowitz, Israel Paskowitz
Director: Doug Pray
Creators: Jonathan Paskowitz, Doug Pray, Amir Feingold, Dana Merwin, Graydon Carter, Jason Kliot, Joana Vicente
Genres: Indie & Art House, Documentary
Sub-Genres: Indie & Art House, Documentary
Studio: Magnolia
Format: DVD - Color,Widescreen - Closed-captioned,Subtitled
DVD Release Date: 07/29/2008
Release Year: 2008
Run Time: 1hr 33min
Screens: Color,Widescreen
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 0
MPAA Rating: R (Restricted)
Languages: English
Subtitles: Spanish

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Movie Reviews

Fascinating portrait of an unusual family on the fringe of s
Joe Sixpack -- | Middle America | 07/31/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)

""Surfwise" is another fascinating feature-length documentary by filmmaker Doug Pray, who has made several amusing, enlightening films on pop-culture sub-groups such as the Seattle grunge scene ("Hype") and hip-hop DJ turntabulists ("Scratch").

In this new film he paints a one-third celebratory, two-thirds tragic portrait of the Paskowitz family, a once-legendary surfing clan whose patriarch, Dorian "Doc" Paskowitz dropped out of mainstream society in the late 1950s, to follow a near-absolute rejection of modern materialism. Paskowitz and his wife traveled anywhere on a whim for over a decade, surfing up and down the Pacific, Atlantic and Gulf Coasts of North America, surfing, having lots of sex and making lots of babies. In all, the Paskowitzes had nine children, eight boys and one girl, and raised them outside the confines of "straight" life. Instead of going to school, the children surfed, and were reared according to their father's bold, yet ill-defined personal ethic.

Although Doc's decision to drop out preceded the hippie movement by almost a decade, his family's journey intersected with the 1960s hippie-era rejection of cultural norms, and with the "Me Generation" self-absorption of the '70s. But while these larger cultural shifts were widespread, the choices of the Paskowitz family were much more far-reaching and severe than most of the counterculture types of the time. With no fixed income and a total abandonment of the American work ethic, the Paskowitzes were both legendary and tragic. As the children came of age, the strains of traveling together in a small camper intensified, and the family fragmented and fell apart.

Just how much they fell apart is revealed in the film's second half, which skillfully explores the dark side of Doc's impulsive and absolutist philosophical rejectionism. Each of the (now grown-up) children reflect on the internal pressures (and joys) of their extreme lifestyle, and how completely unprepared it left them to make their own entry into adult life. Although the Paskowitzes dominated surf competitions in the early 1970s -- and got considerable media attention and corporate sponsorship -- because they were so naive about money matters, none of them held onto the money or the opportunities they made, and their professional careers largely fizzled out. Many of the children rightfully express their anger towards their parents for leaving them stranded without education or options, and the film is a fascinating reflection on the potential hazards of extreme alternative lifestyles. Although Doc Paskowitz clearly shoulders much of the blame, he remains a roguish and compelling figure. Many of his critiques of modern society are pointed and incisive, and his candid assessments of consumerism, wage slavery and sexual repression are attractive due to his bluntness and accuracy. It is a complex portrait, and doesn't offer easy answers to the viewer, but rather many disturbing points to ponder. Definitely worth checking out. (DJ Joe Sixpack, Slipcue Film Reviews)"
Terrific documentary about an unconventional family
missalix | new jersey | 07/05/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)

"Anyone looking for a glorious ode to the surfing life should pause a moment before viewing this terrific documentary film about life in the Paskowitz family. Although surfing was the stated main focus of this highly unconventional family's life, it's not the center of the story that's revealed in the film. Kudos to the filmmakers, who peel back the layers of the story gradually until you gather the sense of the awfulness at the center. We see a life that on the face of it might appear appealing -- who hasn't at some time or other wished for a more 'authentic' life? What if we could slip the rules of the prevailing society? What if we weren't forced to be educated in institutional settings? This film and all the Paskowitz children, who thankfully are brave enough to speak of what they endured at the whims of two of the most narcissistic parents you'll ever meet, will give some answers to those questions. Abundant with archival footage that makes the past come alive, the film also gives us interviews with everyone in the family that will resonate with you for a long time after you view it. You may well be left with lots of questions after it's over, but one is very happy to see that the kids seem to have made good lives for themselves despite the bad models that were their parents. In any case, this is a film for anyone who loves good documentary filmmaking -- you don't have to know anything about surfing to appreciate this one."
Making Waves with an Unconventional Lifestyle
Kevin Quinley | Fairfax, VA | 08/08/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)

"SURFWISE is a fascinating documentary chronicling the unconventional lifestyle of "Doc" Poskowitz and his family. The latter includes spouse and some nine kids, who live a bohemian, itinerant, surf-centric lifestyle in a 24-foot camper van. No school for these kids! Nevertheless, they lived a somewhat regimented existence, one envied by kids who were more wealthy in material things.

All of the kids grew up with various "baggage" due to the unorthodox upbringing, and the father is a rather magnetic, charismatic character.

The cinematography here is great - you feel you are out in the ocean, in the surf, and can see how this aspect of nature would be seductive. SURFWISE raises questions about the tradeoffs involved in turning your back on the conventional path that society beckons you to follow - the good and bad features, the frayed nature of family ties, the family love that can (at least temporarily) transcend differences and childhood trauma.

Whether you endorse or abhor the lifestyle depicted in this documentary, SURFWISE is an excellent movie!
An Unconventional Surf-Centric Upbringing and Its Results.
mirasreviews | McLean, VA USA | 08/07/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)

""Surfwise" chronicles the story of the "first family of surfing": Dorian "Doc" Paskowitz, his wife Juliette, and the 9 children whom they raised in a 24-foot camper, traveling up and down the west coast of the United States and Mexico, following the waves and Dorian's whims for more than 2 decades. Dorian Paskowitz was a respected public health doctor and president of the American Medical Association in Hawaii, before he left it all behind in 1956 to live a peripatetic life of poverty that revolved around surfing. He isolated his family from the outside world, raised his children in his strict lifestyle regimen, and taught them to surf. Many became accomplished competitive surfers, and in 1974 the family opened the Paskowitz Surf Camp in Mission Beach, CA.

Dorian Paskowitz was 84 years old when "Surfwise" was made and still very much a passionate and controlling man, and still surfing. His children are all grown and living very different lifestyles from the one in which they were raised. Director Doug Pray tries to construct a picture of what it was like to be a Paskowitz, living the ideals of a single-minded patriarch in a crowded camper, and what its lasting effects were through archival home movies and interviews with Dorian and Juliette Paskowitz and all 9 of their children -7 boys and 1 girl- and Dorian's siblings. We also get an impression of the family's iconic stature and influence on surfing culture through interviews with "The Surfer's Journal" founder Steve Pezman and some big names in competitive surfing.

The Paskowitz children talk about the benefits and disappointments of their itinerant, impoverished lifestyle, isolated from most of American culture. They don't all have the same attitude toward it, in retrospect, some resenting that their isolation and lack of education left them unprepared for adult life. I would have thought children in such a bohemian environment would be very independent, but their father's controlling nature apparently dictated otherwise. "Surfwise" is an interesting account for fans of surfing culture, but this is, more than anything, the story of a family. It's an examination of the value of nonconformity and convention, selfishness and freedom, in the way families relate to one another and the ways in which upbringing may or may not influence the choices people make.

The DVD (Magnolia 2008): There are 4 featurettes and a feature commentary. In "Doc on Health" (5 min), Dorian Paskowitz explains his ideas on health, about which he has written a book. "A Walk on Water: Surfer's Healing" (3 ½ min) is about the surfing program for autistic children founded by Izzy Paskowitz and wife Danielle. "Dave Homcy: Surfing Cinematographer" (3 1/2 min) is footage of surfers set to music. "Outtakes and Breaks" (12 min) are interviews not in the film, including some funny ones. The feature commentary is by director Doug Pray, producer Matt Weaver, and Salvador Paskowitz. They discuss the genesis of the project, the archival footage, Dorian and his philosophy, the family dynamic, and more. Subtitles for the film are available in Spanish."