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RIDING GIANTS (PG-13) (2004)

Sony Classics

Official Site

Director: Stacy Peralta

Producers: Stacy Peralta, Agi Orsi, Jane Kachmer

Written by: Stacy Peralta and Sam George

Cast: Laird Hamilton, Greg Noll, Jeff Clark

 Rating:


You would be forgiven for thinking that Riding Giants is a documentary about the history of surfing. On the contrary, it is a documentary about the history of “big wave” surfing, which is evidently completely different from whatever other kinds of surfing there are. But if you don’t already know (or, don’t particularly care) about the various styles of surfing, or have only heard of Waimea Bay in the lyrics to “Surfin’ USA,” don’t expect Riding Giants to explain these things to you. Whether so intended or not, the audience for Riding Giants will consist almost entirely of surfing fans.

In this preaching-to-the-choir style, the film follows in the footsteps of director Stacy Peralta’s 2001 skateboard documentary Dogtown And Z-Boys, which pointed out that skateboarding itself, as well as the culture that surrounds it, is an offshoot of surfing. In essence, Riding Giants and Dogtown are the same movie: Both feature endless clips of people doing the same thing over and over, combined with voiceover and interviews declaring how something had “never been done before” or how a certain person had redefined the genre or expanded all of our possibilities.

Also like Dogtown And Z-Boys, Riding Giants imposes little shape or narrative structure on its hours of old footage. (Of which there is no rarity in this case. Surfers, it would appear, have been filming themselves for 50 years.) Though the film is organized into several parts, each of which details the discovery of a new place to find the biggest waves anyone had ever seen, the consistent pattern in this movie is merely to declare facts and impressions, rather than explaining to the audience why they might be important. Any number of developments seemed to have “changed surfing forever,” but no one ever explains how surfing was altered or why changes in surfing should be interesting or important to non-surfers. The constant litany of names in this film is at first intimidating, as I thought I might have to remember them later, then annoying, and finally funny in its ridiculousness. The result is a lot like a home movie—for those who were there or have some reason to care about the subject, it might be interesting. Everyone else might want to sneak out before the lights go down.

—Mike O’Connor

hybridCinema Ratings Guide:

Take a pal and pay full price for both tickets.

Itís worth a full-price ticket.

Itís worth a matinee ticket.

Wait for video rental.

Check out the video from the library, if you must.

While we would never encourage anyone to destroy a video...


Mike Doughty



Pink Floyd

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