From its early Hawaiian roots to its current status as a recreational lifestyle enjoyed worldwide, bigwave surfing is given the definitive exploration by acclaimed director Stacy Peralta (Dogtown and Z-Boys).
Amanda D. (sophiesperspective) Reviewed on 2/13/2013...
As I mentioned in my review of Surf's Up, Riding Giants is a surfing documentary. A "Big Wave" surfing documentary that is. Aside for the language it is rated PG-13 for inappropriate language (and the language is not infrequent) it is a good watch.
I enjoyed the archival videos they put in the movie, and the spectacular scenery and majesty of the ocean. You think small wave surfin' is something? You haven't seen anything yet! I was astounded at the size of the waves and the different techniques that are used of necessity - and the utter dangerousness of surfing in the manner -- all of which is covered well in Riding Giants.
This is a documentary, so while it is a little dry in some parts it is still largely interesting. I certainly recommend this film (with a bleeper, of course).
""Riding Giants" is a superb documentary on the history of big wave surfing, directed and co-written by Stacy Peralta, who also made 2001's skateboarding documentary "Dogtown and Z-Boys". Peralta was a Z-Boy himself, as well as a skateboarding manufacturer and videomaker, so "Dogtown" was very much his element. But "Riding Giants" surpasses "Dogtown" with improved technical proficiency, writing, and editing. It's a dynamic account of the history of the surfing subculture, starting centuries ago, but focusing on the past 55 years, which saw surfing explode into mainstream culture and become extraordinarily athletic and increasingly daring.
"Riding Giants" has 3 parts or acts, each concentrating on one surfing innovator and the culture in which he thrived. The first act explores the world of Greg Noll, surfing's flamboyant celebrity of the 1950s and 1960s. Interviews with Noll and other surfing giants of the time, including Ricky Grigg, Mickey Munoz, and Mike Stang, take us through the genesis of the surfing lifestyle in Southern California to Hawaii's Waimea Bay, through the explosion in surfing popularity brought on by "Gidget" in 1959, up until Noll surfed "the greatest swell of the 20th century" at Makaha in December of 1969. "Riding Giants"' second act focuses on Jeff Clark and the surfers of Maverick's in Northern California. Clark tells the story of surfing Maverick's alone for 15 years before finally convincing 2 other surfers to join him in 1990. Maverick's surfers talk about the challenges of cold water, fog, and rocks and the day that Mark Foo died. The third act of "Riding Giants" profiles Laird Hamilton, a man who has been described as the "best big wave rider the world has seen", and explores the relatively new field of tow-in surfing, in which surfing becomes a partnership instead of a solitary pursuit. A tow-in by a jet ski provides surfers with the speed required to catch enormous waves -up to 80 feet- at considerable peril. Hamilton and fellow surfers Darrick Doerner, Dave Kalama, and Gerry Lopez talk about discovering the tow-in technique and surfing Peahi (Jaws).
To tell the story of surfing's history, "Riding Giants" makes use of old movie footage provided by Greg Noll, hundreds of archival photographs, interviews with surfers who were there, and the knowledge of co-writer Sam George, the editor of "Surfer" magazine. Modern footage of Waimea, Maverick's, and Peahi, some of which is quite stunning, conveys the beauty and incredible power of big waves. A digital technique that transforms a still photograph into a 3-dimensional image and allows the "camera" to pull through it has been applied to some photos of big waves with spectacular effect. In short, this is not only an informative film; it is also quite beautiful. "Riding Giants" successfully communicates the exhilaration of big wave surfers, so that even someone like me, who doesn't care much for water, can understand their passion and applaud their accomplishments. "Riding Giants" is a wonderfully entertaining look at the world of big wave surfing that everyone can enjoy. I hope to see an Oscar nomination for Stacy Peralta.
The DVD: Bonus features include a making-of documentary, a featurette on the film's premiere, 5 deleted scenes, 2 promo spots (for the soundtrack and for Quiksilver), and 2 audio commentaries. "The Making of Riding Giants" (27 minutes) starts out discussing the film's genesis and includes comments by director Stacy Peralta, the producers, Greg Noll, Laird Hamilton, and Paul George. Then it gets into details of how the film was put together: the interviews, editing, sound, and photos, as explained by Peralta and editor Paul Crowder. "Fuel TV's Blue Carpet Special" (20 minutes) is a piece about the film's Hollywood premiere at the Egyptian Theater that includes interviews and film clips. It's too long and dull. The audio commentaries are both interesting. The first commentary, by director Stacy Peralta and editor Paul Crowder, is about filmmaking. Peralta and Crowder discuss the technical aspects of putting the film together. The one fault that I find is that they frequently talk about the film's music, but we cannot hear what they're referring to, as the film's audio is turned off for this entire commentary. The second commentary, by Sam George, Greg Noll, Jeff Clark, and Laird Hamilton, is about surfing. They don't discuss making the film, but they comment on everything that they see in the film, including more details about the archival footage and commentary on nearly every surfer who appears onscreen. Aspiring documentarians will appreciate Peralta and Crowder's audio commentary. The surfers' commentary is pretty entertaining for a wide audience. Subtitles for the film are available in English and French."
Story of surfers who risk their lives for their obsession
Linda Linguvic | New York City | 02/19/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Here in New York City I'm surrounded by tall buildings and a cold and snowy winter. It's a perfect time for a surfing film and Riding Giants, the 2004 entry into list the ever-growing documentaries about the sport, is one of the best. By now I take the spectacular cinematography that is possible today for granted. But I just cannot get enough of the real-life stories of the surfers who risk their lives for their obsession.
For example, there is Jeff Clark. For fifteen years he surfed all by himself in frigid water off the rocky coast of California just north of San Francisco. When other surfers finally discovered these waves, the best of them rushed there with photographers at the ready. The cameras were running when a well know and experienced surfer, Mark Foo, drowned. And then there is Laird Hamilton. He's enjoying his fame and fortune now. But we first meet him in the late sixties, a little boy of 4 years old, who loved to body surf. One of the surfers took an interest in the little boy, and wound up marrying his single mother. Little Laird grew up in the world of surfing and has recently made a fortune when he developed a business for jet skis and a towing boats Formerly, it would take hours for a surfer to get out to the big waves. But now this is done in a matter of minutes and it's changed the sport entirely.
The film is a documentary about surfing from the 1950s on. I've seen other films on this subject but it seems there is always new and fresh material. This time it is includes some vintage home movies about group of young men who defined convention, and went off to live on the beach and do nothing but surf all day. We watch them surfing and playfully living their free and fun life. Many of them are still alive with happy memories of that time. And some of them continued to surf, becoming legends in the sport.
In addition the great cinematography, there are also drawings. In one section of the film the surfers talk about what it feels like to be buried under a mountain of waves. Naturally there are no photos to illustrate this. But the drawings really gave me a feeling of what it must be like.
This is a fine film. I loved every minute of it. But, I honestly had a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach as I watched these surfers having so much pleasure in the surf when I thought about the recent tsunami tragedy. In spite of this, I still cannot help but recommend this film."
The best surfing doc since The Endless Summer...
Cubist | United States | 01/07/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"While the Billabong Odyssey tried to recreate The Endless Summer for the big wave surfing set, Riding Giants is much more ambitious. Fresh from the success of his documentary on `70s skateboarding, Dogtown and the Z Boys, Stacy Peralta takes the next logical step and tackles the history of big wave surfing. What makes these men and women ride such huge waves and run the risk, in some cases, of almost certain death? This doc attempts to answer that question.
Peralta breaks things down into three acts, each one dominated by three legends of the sport from different eras. Greg Noll is a renowned surfer who rode the biggest wave ever. Jeff Clark tamed the wild surf 20 miles from San Francisco known as Mavericks. Laird Hamilton, the greatest big wave surfer of his generation, pioneered a new method for riding big waves further from the shore than had been previous attempted.
There is an audio commentary by Stacy Peralta and his editor Paul Crowder. They talk at length about the film was put together in terms of editing. This is an engaging, informative track.
Surfing fans are in for a real treat with the second commentary track that features surfers, Sam George, Greg Noll, Jeff Clark and Laird Hamilton. It's great to hear these guys, especially Noll, tell old stories and cut loose with surf lingo. They joke and have fun watching the movie. It is also interesting to hear them talk about the technique of various surfers.
"The Making of Riding Giants" is a 28-minute look at how Peralta made this doc. Peralta even talks about how he did his research and organized his doc.
"Fuel TV's Blue Carpet Special" is a 20-minute look at the premiere of the film at the Egyptian Theater with stars like John Cusack in attendance.
Also included are five deleted scenes that include plenty of surfing sequences that were cut for time and a slightly different ending that would have utilized a Coldplay song.
There are also promos for the soundtrack and surf gear company Quiksilver.
Riding Giants presents an engaging look at the history of big wave surfing and the men and women who seek the ultimate wave: one that is bigger and larger than anyone has experienced before. This is a fantastic documentary, quite possibly the best one on surfing since The Endless Summer. It is easy for the newcomer to understand and enjoy and yet it also treats its subject with respect as well."
J. Ferguson | Los Angeles, CA | 12/01/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"My boyfriend, who is a surfer, brought me to see Riding Giants, and I had no idea what to expect. It turned out to be the best surf film I have ever seen, one of the best documentaries I have ever seen, and possibly one of the best films I have ever seen. The cinimatography is beautiful, and the story that is told is extremely entertaining. Even though I am not a surfer, I loved this film and totally reccomend it. Whether you are a surfer or not, you have to see Riding Giants."
Giants Riding Giants
Elliot Malach | Galveston, Tx | 05/28/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is only one of three surf movies I actually paid to see in a theater before buying the DVD. I watch it at least twice a year. The "brief history of surfing" is absolutely hysterical. If you had to describe the surfing culture to someone who didn't surf, this is what you'd show them. Greg Noll makes the movie. His language and candor is a refreshing change from modern day professionals."