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.
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...