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Riding Giants Reviews

While not quite as exuberant as his previous feature documentary, DOGTOWN AND Z-BOYS, skater-turned-filmmaker Stacy Peralta brings the same level of respect and enthusiasm to the subject of surfing. After a lighting-fast, whiplash inducing introductory montage — 1000 years of surfing history in just under two minutes — Peralta gets down to the subject at hand: Big wave surfing, the roots of which Peralta and the legion of legendary surfers he interviews trace back to the unspoiled beaches of 1950s Hawaii. For a troupe of intrepid daredevils — mainland Americans, mostly — surfing was not just a sport, but an entire way of life. Forever pushing the boundaries of what was possible without getting themselves killed, guys like the legendary Greg "The Bull" Noll and his friends eventually paddled away from the already sizeable breaks at Makaha and into the North Shore's notorious Waimea Bay where, in 1942, maverick surfer Dick Cross disappeared for good under a fast moving storm swell. Undaunted by the bad mojo, Noll and his friends surfed and survived, triggering the search for the biggest, baddest waves on the planet. Peralta follows the action to a remote spot in northern California where massive waves break a half mile from a dangerously rocky shore, and finally, to the South Pacific, where big-wave surfing superstar Laird Hamilton takes on a wave of mind-boggling size and power. Peralta includes amazing archival footage to demonstrate just how far surfing in general permeated American popular culture, but also narrows his focus to follow the evolution of the surfboard itself, and innovations like using motor boats and jet skis to tow surfers out to were the big boys break. Shot by a number of expert cinematographers, Peralta's original footage — often rendered in 3-D — is simply stunning; the sight of surfers teetering on the crest of Tsunami-sized waves is the very definition of extreme sports. But while the entire film is a thrill, the best part comes early on, with Peralta's evocative look at the of post-WWII surfer life on Hawaii's then-isolated North Shore, where surfers slept in tents and lived off the land and sea while spending their days riding waves. It's the very definition of endless summer, and the mystique stills casts a wicked spell.